On the brink of greatness with Curse of the Spider Woman, William Hurt struggled to get free of his web.
By Jack Kroll, Mar 14, 2022
This article originally appeared in the October 1986 issue of Esquire. You can find every Esquire story ever published at Esquire Classic.
“Look, I’m not a talented man,” says William Hurt. “You know it and I know it.”
“I don’t know it,” I say.
“Well, you should know it,” says Hurt.“You’re not a talented man?” I press him.“Well, I’m not that talented a man,” he says.“Well then, what are you?” I ask.“I’m a focused man,” he says.
We are sitting in an Italian restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side, and Bill Hurt is engaged in one of his favorite pastimes—putting himself down. Few who have seen him act would agree with his estimate of his ability. And as for being “focused,” well, that’s the last word many people would use to describe Hurt.
The actor is a walking paradox: the owner of one of the cleanest, clearest, least self-indulgent acting styles in the business, Hurt is legendary for the far-out, labyrinthine, metaphysical flights of fancy that have driven interviewers on several continents into a state of mumbling meemies. WILLIAM HURT: ACTOR WITH THE ATOM BRAIN! blazed a headline in one English magazine.
Another interviewer succinctly summed up the experience of listening to Hurt: “He sounds like a man who has just smoked his first joint.”