British film star loving life in Norfolk as cinema celebrates 35 years

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

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

One of Britain's top film stars has been in Norwich to help Cinema City celebrate 35 years since its doors were first opened.

Audience at Cinema City in Norwich for a screening of The Elephant Man, starring John Hurt.Photo: Bi

Audience at Cinema City in Norwich for a screening of The Elephant Man, starring John Hurt.Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Twice Oscar nominated actor John Hurt was the focus of attention for a special screening of one of his most famous films, The Elephant Man, last night.

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

Mr Hurt introduced a sold-out screening of the film at 5.30pm and then took part in a question and answer session afterwards.

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His glittering career has seen him star in films on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Alien, Midnight Express, V for Vendetta and more recently Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy.

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

Four years ago Mr Hurt, now 73, and his wife, Anwen, moved to Norfolk and have previously spoken to the EDP about enjoying the quiet life at their home near Cromer.


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But the film star is now becoming something of a Norfolk institution.

In February he was installed as chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts and in March he was announced as a patron of Cinema City.

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'It's all grown very organically, I've never pushed any of it but I'm told that is how it is done here,' Mr Hurt said with a smile.

'But I'm enjoying it, being chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts and so on.'

The screening was part of a series of events and special screenings to mark 35 years of Cienma City, including a film quiz in the St Andrews Street cinema's bar last night.

Mr Hurt said: 'Thirty-five years is a good length of time in the history of film when you consider that really that is the last century and a little of this one. So a little over 110 years and for Cinema City to have been here for 35 years of that is very good.'

The event also raised funds for Cinema City's media education programme, Cinema Plus.

Managed by the Norfolk and Norwich Film Theatre Ltd charitable trust, the programme is a member of the national Media Education Networking Group and Mr Hurt is a big fan of the programme's work.

'I'm very much behind it because without educating the audience, you don't have a film industry, frankly,' Mr Hurt continued.

'I don't mean school knowledge but the audience having the freedom to understand about film and the language of cinema.

'You want the audience to enjoy it and really relish it and wish for more to be part of your own voice.

'We have lived under the shadow of America for too long and we have plenty to say. As things go on we have had more and more to say and that's where having an educated audience is needed, which is where Cinema City comes in.'

Mr Hurt's next project will see him film alongside US star Dwayne Johnson, better known to some as wrestler The Rock, who will play the lead role in Hercules: The Thracian Wars, which is due for release in the summer of 2014.

The film will also reunite him with an old friend, Ian McShane, with whom he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

Mr Hurt has also chosen a series of films which have influenced and inspired him, which will be screened at Cinema City throughout this year.

This will start with the 1945 version of Oliver Twist starring Alec Guinness as Fagan on Sunday May 5 and continue through until one of his own films, Midnight Express, on Sunday, October 20.

Mr Hurt added: 'These are all films which have meant something to me at a particular time in my life. Oliver Twist was when I was very young and was really my first awareness of Alec Guinness and Kind Hearts and Coronets (May 26) is Alec Guinness at his most extraordinary.'

An exclusive charcoal drawing of The Elephant Man sketched by Mr Hurt is also being auctioned in aid of Cinema Plus, as is a signed blu-ray copy of the film.

The auction starts tomorrow, for more information go to www.cinemaplus.org.uk

david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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