William Hurt

I was saddened to read of the death of actor William Hurt yesterday. Hurt, 71, died of natural causes.

During the 1980s, it seemed like William Hurt was in one great movie every year, films that included Broadcast News, The Big Chill, Children of a Lesser God, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Altered States, and Body Heat. Two of those movies, Broadcast News and The Big Chill, are among my favorites. Hurt’s portrayal of Tom Grunick, the news reporter who faked a tear on his rise to the anchor’s chair and who didn’t quite understand why other characters had a problem with that from an ethical standpoint, was at the heart of Broadcast News; Hurt’s ability to convey Grunick as a slightly dense but generally decent and likeable guy, and not someone who was trying to rise to the top at all costs, helped make that movie work. Nick, the character that Hurt played in The Big Chill, was one of the most interesting and fleshed-out characters in that film. I also liked Hurt’s performance during that same time period in Gorky Park, where he played a criminal investigator in the Soviet Union.

After the ’80s, Hurt wasn’t quite as prominent on the big screen, but his IMDb biography is incredibly long and impressive. We enjoyed his work in one of his last continuing roles, as Tom Cooperman in Goliath, where he played a disfigured and deeply troubled lawyer. In that role, as in many others, Hurt produced a believable, three-dimensional character who might have been a caricature in the hands of a lesser talent.

Rest in peace, William Hurt. You will be missed, but your acting legacy endures.

The Extended Turtle Neck Position (And Other Celebrity Tricks Of The Trade)

Every so often, we are asked to update our photos on the firm’s website.  I always thought the update requests divided people into two categories — those who like, or even love, getting their picture taken, and those who dread the thought of getting in front of the camera again and will do whatever they can to avoid it.  Now I realize there is a third category:  those who know the tricks of the trade.

I recently met with an attorney who had a page of portrait proofs on his desk.  He said he used the “extended turtle neck position” when he had the photos taken, stretching out his neck and thrusting his head toward the camera.  This technique is supposed to eliminate sagging necklines, double chins, jowls, wattles, and other unsightly neck-related features that are an unfortunate consequence of aging.  It also makes your head look slightly larger, which supposedly enhances your attractiveness.  (Some psychologists contend that people with larger heads are deemed more attractive because they look more like infants and thereby trigger instinctive protective impulses.)  He said it’s just another trick used by cunning celebrities and not typically shared with those of us in the Great Unwashed — like the scene in Broadcast News where the William Hurt anchorman character explains that, when you are on camera, you should sit on the tails of your jacket so that your shoulders fit snugly and your shoulder lines stand out in sharp relief.

If you try the turtle neck position, you’ll soon realize it’s uncomfortable.  If I did it regularly, I’d end up with a stiff neck.  I guess putting up with a stiff neck — like having a face constantly tweaked by plastic surgeons, and wearing pounds of makeup, and getting yelled at by personal trainers — is just one of the prices of celebrity.  I’d rather just stick with my wattles.