William McChord Hurt (born March 20, 1950) is an American stage and film actor. He received his acting training at the Juilliard School and began acting on stage in the 1970s. Hurt made his film debut as a troubled scientist in the science-fiction feature Altered States (1980), for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year. He subsequently played a leading role, as a lawyer who succumbs to the temptations of Kathleen Turner, in the neo-noir Body Heat (1981).
In 1985, Hurt garnered critical acclaim and multiple acting awards, including an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor, for portraying a gay man in Kiss of the Spider Woman. He received another two Academy Award nominations for his lead performances in Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987). Hurt remained an active stage actor throughout the 1980s, appearing in Off-Broadway productions, including Henry V, Fifth of July, Richard II and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Hurt received his first Tony Award nomination in 1985 for the Broadway production of Hurlyburly.
After playing a diversity of character roles in the following decade, Hurt earned his fourth Academy Award nomination for his supporting performance in David Cronenberg's crime thriller A History of Violence (2005). Other notable films in recent years have included A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), The Village (2004), Syriana (2005), The Good Shepherd (2006), Mr. Brooks (2007), Into the Wild (2007), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Robin Hood (2010) and Captain America: Civil War (2016).
Hurt was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Claire Isabel (née McGill), who worked at Time, Inc., and Alfred McChord Hurt, who worked for the State Department. With his father, he lived in Lahore, Mogadishu and Khartoum. After his parents divorced, his mother married Henry Luce III (a son of publisher Henry Luce) during Hurt's childhood. Hurt graduated from Middlesex School in 1968 where he was vice president of the Dramatics Club and had the lead role in several school plays. His high school yearbook predicted: "With characteristics such as these, you might even see him on Broadway." Hurt attended Tufts University and studied theology, but turned instead to acting and joined the Juilliard School (Drama Division Group 5: 1972–1976). Two of his classmates there were the late actors Christopher Reeve and Robin Williams.
Hurt began his career in stage productions, only later acting in films. From 1977 to 1989, he was a member of the acting company at Circle Repertory Company. He won an Obie Award for his debut appearance there in Corinne Jacker's My Life, and won a 1978 Theatre World Award for his performances in Fifth of July, Ulysses in Traction, and Lulu. In 1979, Hurt played Hamlet under the direction of Marshall W. Mason opposite Lindsay Crouse and Beatrice Straight. His first major film role was in the science-fiction film Altered States where his performance as an obsessed scientist gained him wide recognition. His performance with Richard Crenna, Ted Danson and newcomer Kathleen Turner in Lawrence Kasdan's neo-noir classic Body Heat elevated Hurt to stardom, and he later also co-starred in The Big Chill (1983). He appeared in the thriller Gorky Park opposite Lee Marvin. He received the Best Male Performance Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1985. He has received three additional Oscar nominations: Best Actor for Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987; he was thus nominated for Best Actor for three consecutive years) and Best Supporting Actor for A History Of Violence (2005). Hurt also starred in Tuck Everlasting as Angus Tuck.
Often cast as an intellectual, Hurt has appeared as such in films such as Lost in Space, but has also been effective in other kinds of role, such as those in I Love You to Death and David Cronenberg's psychological drama A History of Violence (2005), where in less than 10 minutes of screen time he plays the creepy mob boss, Richie Cusack. Also in 2005, Hurt played a mysterious government operative in Stephen Gaghan's ensemble drama about the politics of big oil, Syriana.
Hurt was in the miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in a piece entitled Battleground (also notable for its complete lack of dialogue). He plays Renshaw, a hitman who receives a package from the widow of a toymaker he had killed, unaware of what is waiting inside for him. He appeared in the cast of Vanya, an adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, at the Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, Oregon.
In June 2007, Marvel Studios announced Hurt would portray the Hulk character General “Thunderbolt” Ross in 2008's The Incredible Hulk alongside Edward Norton, Liv Tyler and Tim Roth. Hurt reprised his role in Captain America: Civil War (2016).
He appeared in Sean Penn's film Into the Wild, the true story of Christopher McCandless. He appeared as President Henry Ashton in the 2008 action-thriller Vantage Point. Hurt also played Mr. Brooks's alter ego in Mr. Brooks starring Kevin Costner.
In 2009, Hurt became a series regular on the FX series Damages playing a corporate whistleblower opposite Glenn Close and Marcia Gay Harden. For his role in the series, Hurt earned a 2009 Primetime Emmy Award nomination in the "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series" category. Hurt's 2009 Sundance film The Yellow Handkerchief was released in theaters on February 26, 2010 by Samuel Goldwyn Films. He was in the Thailand-based 2011 thriller Hellgate alongside Cary Elwes and Paula Taylor, directed by John Penney.
In September 2010, Hurt played United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson in the HBO film Too Big to Fail, an adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin's book. He also starred as Captain Ahab in the 2011 television adaptation of Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick.
Hurt is fluent in French and maintains a home outside Paris. He is the step-grandson of Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine and actress-writer Clare Boothe Luce, through his mother's marriage to Henry Luce's son from his first marriage, Henry Luce III.
Hurt was married to Mary Beth Hurt from 1971 to 1982. In the 1980s, Hurt was involved in a lawsuit with Sandra Jennings, who alleged that the two shared a common-law marriage. While he was still married, Hurt and Jennings had begun a relationship in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1981. Jennings became pregnant in the spring of 1982 which precipitated Hurt's divorce from Mary Beth Hurt, after which Hurt and Jennings relocated to South Carolina, a state that recognized common-law marriages. Hurt and Jennings remained officially unmarried, later separated and Jennings sued him in New York, seeking recognition of the "marriage" under South Carolina law. The New York court, which did not recognize common-law marriage and was reluctant to recognize a common-law marriage originating in South Carolina, found in Hurt's favor that no common-law marriage existed.
Hurt dated Marlee Matlin for one year, and they cohabited for two years. In her 2009 autobiography I'll Scream Later, Matlin claimed that their relationship involved considerable drug abuse and physical abuse by Hurt. In response to the accusations aired on CNN on April 13, 2009, Hurt's agent declined to respond, but Hurt issued a statement the following day, which said: "My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused. And I know we have both grown. I wish Marlee and her family nothing but good."
During the filming of Kiss of the Spider Woman, Hurt and a friend were threatened at gunpoint but were let go several hours later.