Bob Hoskins, 71, British actor and star of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’

Mr. Hoskins was cast as the pulp-fictional, cartoon-hating detective Eddie Valiant in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Mr. Hoskins was cast as the pulp-fictional, cartoon-hating detective Eddie Valiant in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

NEW YORK — Bob Hoskins, the bullet-shaped British film star who brought a singular mix of charm, menace, and Cockney accent to a variety of roles, including the bemused, live-action hero of the largely animated “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” has died at 71.

Publicist Clair Dobbs released a statement by his family Wednesday saying that he had died in a hospital, where he had been treated for pneumonia. A much-honored, Oscar-nominated actor, Mr. Hoskins had announced his retirement in August 2012 after learning that he had Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Hoskins, who had virtually stumbled into acting, found early acclaim as the kind of ruthless British gangster he played in 1980 in his startling breakthrough feature, “The Long Good Friday,” and later in Neil Jordan’s 1986 film “Mona Lisa,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor.


But his filmography also included more playful roles. He was the pirate Smee in two variations of “Peter Pan” — Steven Spielberg’s 1991 “Hook” and the 2011 British TV production “Neverland.” He played Cher’s unlikely love match in “Mermaids” (1990). And he voiced Old Fezziwig in the 2009 animated version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Robert Zemeckis.

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It was Zemeckis who cast Mr. Hoskins as the pulp-fictional, cartoon-hating detective Eddie Valiant in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” in which Mr. Hoskins shared the screen with animated characters, including the voluptuous Jessica Rabbit, whose voice was provided by Kathleen Turner.

In a 2009 interview with Nigel Farndale for The Telegraph of London, Mr. Hoskins said his doctor had advised him to take five months off after finishing the film.

“I think I went a bit mad while working on that,” he said. “Lost my mind. The voice of the rabbit was there just behind the camera all the time. You had to know where the rabbit would be at every angle. Then there was Jessica Rabbit and all these weasels. The trouble was, I had learnt how to hallucinate.”

Mr. Hoskins received a number of prestigious acting awards over his four-decade career, including the Bafta, Golden Globe, and Cannes Film Festival prize as best actor for “Mona Lisa,” in which he played a former convict hired by a crime boss to act as chauffeur and unlikely bodyguard for a high-priced call girl (Cathy Tyson).


He also received an International Emmy Award for “The Street” (2006); the Canadian Genie award for the director Atom Egoyan’s “Felicia’s Journey” (1999), based on the William Trevor novel; and a Screen Actor’s Guild nomination as part of the cast of Oliver Stone’s 1995 “Nixon,” in which he played J. Edgar Hoover.

Robert William Hoskins was born in the historic Suffolk town of Bury St. Edmunds, to which his mother, Elsie Lillian, had been evacuated during heavy bombing in World War II. An only child, he was reared in London, where his father, Robert, was a bookkeeper and his mother was a cook at a nursery school.

Leaving school at 15, he worked as a porter, truck driver, and window cleaner. He took a course in accounting but dropped out.

Then, in 1968, he accompanied a friend to an acting audition where he was mistaken for a candidate and was asked to read for a part. He was offered the lead.

As soon as he started acting, he said, he knew it was for him.


Mr. Hoskins would find success on television, in Dennis Potter’s 1978 BBC mini-series “Pennies From Heaven”; onstage, playing Nathan Detroit in the wildly successful 1982 Richard Eyre-directed revival of “Guys and Dolls” at London’s National Theatre; and in film, in “Mona Lisa” as well as Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” (1985) and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Cotton Club” (1984), in which he played British-born gangster Owney Madden.

In the mid-1990s, however, came projects that he considered the low points of his career. In one, he replaced Danny DeVito in “Super Mario Bros.,” a 1993 film he dismissed as “a nightmare.”

Another disappointment was “The Secret Agent,” Christopher Hampton’s 1996 adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel. Mr. Hoskins blamed 20th Century Fox for not supporting the film, which drew poor reviews.

“I was very proud of it,” he said in a 1998 interview with the British newspaper The Independent. “Conrad is merciless. He don’t give you any sympathy for any of the characters. It’s very slow, it’s very laborious, but very good. Fox killed it stone dead. I think they thought they were getting a Victorian James Bond. But if you look at Conrad and you look at me, you know different.”

He starred in “TwentyFourSeven,” a 1997 film directed by Shane Meadows. In the film, he played Alan Darcy, a loner who organizes idle, working-class kids into a boxing club.

It was a role Mr. Hoskins called “a wonderful study in loneliness.”

“To play a character as tough as this and yet to portray this socially crippled character was the biggest challenge I’ve had in years,” he added. “I’ll tell you this. This film is more important to me than anything I’ve ever done.”

He leaves his wife, the former Linda Banwell; their children, Rosa and Jack; and two children, Alex and Sarah, from his first marriage, to Jane Livesey.