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Sir John Hurt continues to inspire great cinema in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 06:30 09 November 2019

John Hurt at Cinema City in Norwich for a screening of The Elephant Man in 2013. 
Photo: Bill Smith

John Hurt at Cinema City in Norwich for a screening of The Elephant Man in 2013. Photo: Bill Smith

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The legacy of Sir John Hurt will live on in a new film charity to be launched tomorrow, Sunday November 10

Sir John Hurt fell in love with Norfolk. Now his legacy will help thousands of film lovers.

The Sir John Hurt Film Trust is to be launched by his widow, Anwen, Lady Hunt, tomorrow, Sunday November 10, at the UK cinema premiere of a film starring Sir John.

"He was passionate about films, passionate about education and, in the last 10 years of his life, passionate about Norfolk so to bring all of these things together, he would have been thrilled," said Anwen.

"Life without John is very different and I miss him constantly but I have had huge support from my friends and from the people of

John Hurt in SnowpiercerJohn Hurt in Snowpiercer

Norfolk. It's been a great comfort for me to be involved in setting up the Sir John Hurt Film Trust which I believe is a fitting tribute

to John's memory and I hope that it will ensure that his legacy both as a wonderful actor and as great champion of education

continues to the next generations."

The charity aims to promote great cinema across the county, screening films in cinemas, theatres and pop-up community venues, working with schools, and taking on the Norfolk at the Pictures project which researches cinema history, and the Making Memories workshops for people with dementia and their families and carers.

Lady Hurt, wife of the late actor Sir John Hurt. Pictured with their dog Pilchard.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYLady Hurt, wife of the late actor Sir John Hurt. Pictured with their dog Pilchard. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Local film-makers will be able to get involved, with a young film makers club and a University of the Third Age group planned, plus film-making workshops and courses and direct support for aspiring film-makers.

The trustees of the new charity are also hoping to promote Norfolk as a location for film-making, building on the county's wealth of talent and locations.

Anwen said: "John was a great champion of independent cinema, particularly British independent cinema." Fellow trustee Andy Newman added: "It's great for Norfolk to have his name on it because it still carries a lot of weight. The Trust is about widening the appeal of great cinema and getting it out there. And the arts generally and film in particular can contribute to society. The dementia project is a good example. It's not about cinema, it's about making lives better."

The Sir John Hurt Film Trust will be based in the John Hurt Centre at Cinema City in Norwich. It will act as custodian of the building, which dates back to the 14th century, on behalf of Norwich City Council. Funding will include rent from Picturehouse, which runs Cinema City's screens, bar and restaurant.

The gala launch includes the first British cinema screening of Snowpiercer - a film featuring Sir John which was made six years ago but never released in Britain, following a dispute about cuts between distributor Harvey Weinstein and director Bong Joon-ho.

The dystopian sci-fi film is set on a train carrying the last of the world's population, split along class lines with the poor living in terrible conditions at the back, until they rebel against the elite in the front. Sir John plays the spiritual leader of the people at the back of the train.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between celebrated film critic Mark Kermode and Anwen, Lady Hurt.

Sir John, who died in 2017, was one of the greatest actors of his time, starring in scores of films including The Elephant Man, Alien, the Harry Potter films, The Naked Civil Service, I, Claudius, and A Man for all Seasons.

He was described by David Lynch, who directed him in The Elephant Man, as "Simply the greatest actor in the world."

In his final film, That Good Night, he played a terminally ill screenwriter while he was himself undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. He died before seeing the final cut of the movie.

Anwen and John married two years after a chance meeting in a restaurant and love-at-first-sight romance. Only it wasn't quite their first encounter. "We had danced together, years before," said Anwen. "I remembered it of course, I was dancing with John Hurt!

"He didn't remember it, and it was simply him holding his hand out to me to join a conga line, rather than a smoochy dance!"

She is a film producer and casting director. Here in Norfolk she worked with Holt-based Capriol on films including In Love with Alma Cogan and ChickLit - including casting her husband in supporting roles. She is currently casting a rom-com for Mandie Fletcher, whose films include the Absolutely Fabulous Movie.

John became chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) and got involved in organisations including Sheringham Little Theatre, Cinema City and Holt Festival.

After his death Anwen vowed not to be submerged by grief and loss. Instead she took on much of his public and charitable work. She is now pro-chancellor of the NUA and artistic director of Holt Festival,

"We just fell in love with Norfolk," said Anwen. "There's so much going on here, there's so much culture here. Norfolk is a real creative hub."

The Sir John Hurt Film Trust will be based at Cinema City, Norwich, and work across the county. sirjohnhurtfilmtrust.org.uk

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