John Hurt was born on 22 January 1940 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, to Phyllis, an amateur actress, and Arnold Herbert Hurt, a clergyman. His family moved to Cleethorpes, in Lincolnshire, a few years later, and Hurt was enrolled in a nearby school, where, by his own admission, he could be "distinctly lazy."
He captained the school cricket, rugby and football teams and also took part in school plays. By the time he was 15 he knew he wanted to be an actor.
At his parents' request, he agreed to study for an art teacher's diploma, and attended art school for four years.
But a chance meeting with two "wild Australian girls" in London persuaded him to apply to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Rada - where, to his surprise, he was offered a full scholarship.
Despite his success, Hurt, never aimed to be in the limelight. "The star thing never appealed to me," he once said.
Before turning to television, Hurt had performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and made his film debut in 1962's Wild and the Willing.
His rise to television fame was rapid, when he became an overnight sensation playing the outrageous Quentin Crisp in the 1975 series The Naked Civil Servant.
Speaking about the part, Hurt said: "At the time it was a huge gamble. Some people told me not to do it, because after I had done it I would probably never work again."
Hurt furthered his reputation with numerous performances, including the warped Caligula in the BBC series I, Claudius and Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984.
He won Oscar nominations for his starring roles in Midnight Express in 1978 and The Elephant Man (1980), for which he spent seven hours every day in the make-up chair.
More recently, Hurt won critical acclaim in the BBC series The Alan Clark Diaries, where he played the former Conservative minister who became notorious for his preference for the good life.
Other film credits include Rob Roy and Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, and, more recently, Captain Corelli's Mandolin and the part of Mr Ollivander in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Hurt was made a Commander of the The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in June 2004.
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