Oscar-winning actor William Hurt dies at 71; starred in 'Body Heat' and 'Broadcast News'

William Hurt,  the Oscar-winning star of "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Broadcast News" and "Children of a Lesser God," has died. He was 71.

Hurt’s son, Will, said in a statement to The Associated Press that Hurt died Sunday of natural causes. He said Hurt died peacefully, among family. Will Hurt told The Hollywood Reporter his father died at his home in Portland, Oregon. Hurt was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer that had spread to his bones in 2018. 

Hurt, a four-time Oscar-nominated actor, was one of the most acclaimed stars and bankable leading men of the 1980s, starring as Vietnam veteran Nick Carlton in the all-star ensemble playing college friends reuniting in 1983's "The Big Chill."

Hurt earned Oscar nominations in three consecutive years – for his role as a prisoner in a Brazilian jail in 1985's "Kiss of the Spider Woman," 1986's drama "Children of a Lesser God" (alongside "CODA" star Marlee Matlin) and portraying a slick but lightweight TV anchor in 1987's "Broadcast News."

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William Hurt has died at age 71.

Hurt was also nominated for his supporting role in director David Cronenberg's 2005 thriller "A History of Violence." He played cold-hearted gangster Richie Cusack, who has about eight minutes of screen time before being killed by his heroic brother (Viggo Mortensen).

Although his first credited role was on CBS' detective series "Kojak," Hurt, a Juilliard School actor, made his film debut in 1980, as a psychopathologist studying schizophrenia and experimenting with sensory deprivation in the science-fiction thriller "Altered States."  

Hurt's true star breakout came the next year in the thriller "Body Heat," as small-town lawyer Ned Racine, who is seduced into committing murder by Kathleen Turner's Matty Walker.

In "Children of a Lesser God," it was his co-star, Matlin, who took the Oscar for her performance as a custodian at a school for the deaf. Hurt played a speech teacher. Hurt and Matlin's romance bloomed off-screen as well – but it wasn’t Hurt’s first experience with notoriety.

Hurt first married Mary Beth Hurt in 1971. During that 11-year marriage, he began a relationship with Sandra Jennings, whose pregnancy with their son precipitated Hurt’s divorce. In a high-profile court case six years later, Jennings claimed she had been Hurt’s common-law wife under South Carolina law and thus entitled to a share of his earnings. A New York court ruled in Hurt’s favor, but the actor continued to have a strained relationship with fame.

In her 2009 memoir, Matlin detailed physical abuse and drug abuse during their relationship. Hurt issued an apology, saying: "My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives."   

For a younger generation, Hurt was known for his Marvel Cinematic Universe work as Hulk nemesis Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross. He first appeared in 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" alongside Edward Norton's Bruce Banner. He reprised the role in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War" (as Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross), "Avengers: Infinity War," "Avengers: Endgame" and 2021's "Black Widow." 

Hurt starred alongside Billy Bob Thornton in Amazon's legal series "Goliath" from 2016 to 2021 as reclusive lawyer Donald Cooperman.

The actor was born in Washington, D.C., on March 20, 1950, the son of a State Department official, and is survived by four children. His acting career began on stage, and his theater career continued, including a 1984 Broadway production of "Hurly Burly," with a cast that included Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, Jerry Stiller, Sigourney Weaver and Cynthia Nixon.

Contributing: The Associated Press