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.


We’re constantly on the lookout for TV shows to binge watch during the never-ending shutdown period–especially when it’s snowy and frigid outside. On recommendations of friends, we just finished the three seasons of Goliath, starring Billy Bob Thornton as an alcoholic lawyer. It’s an interesting show with some really well-drawn characters, but boy! It has got to be one of the most consistently shocking and disturbing American TV shows, ever.

Thornton plays Billy McBride, a once-successful lawyer who has crawled into a bottle after his legal work in a criminal case led to a very bad incident. McBride is a high-functioning alcoholic for the most part, though, and in each of the seasons he tackles a particular case–but it’s not really a courtroom drama show, although there are plenty of courtroom and law firm scenes. (As a lawyer, I simply adopt a willing suspension of disbelief when watching any show about the law and the workings of law firms because of the inability to portray legal work realistically, and any lawyers will need to do that with Goliath.) Much of the show involves deeply unsettling characters and situations: people with disfiguring burns, sexual predators, soullless defense contractors, people who use amputation as punishment and people with amputation fetishes, cold-blooded and crooked politicians, a brother and sister whose dysfunctional relationship involves playing suicide games, and of course Billy’s raging alcoholism and the never-ending issues it causes. It’s one sick, ongoing parade in Billy McBride’s dark little corner of the world.

It doesn’t make for bad TV, although you sometimes will want to cover your face with your hands and watch through the cracks between your fingers. Thornton is quite good as Billy McBride, but our favorite characters are his support team, which includes his daughter, his co-counsel, an escort who serves as his paralegal, and his indomitable legal secretary, who is capable of going through a storage unit of documents by herself to find helpful evidence. We particularly like Nina Arianda, who is just great as Patty Solis-Papagian, a realtor-solo practitioner who becomes Billy’s trusted co-counsel and who has to constantly tell people how to correctly pronounce her name. She’s shown at the far left in the photograph above. Patty’s wisecracks, and the glimpses we get of her family life, are hysterical and much-needed comic relief against the dark backdrop of the show.

We’re told there will be one more season of Goliath, and we’ll watch it with interest just to see what happens to Patty, Billy, and the other characters we’ve come to like. But we’re bracing ourselves already for another deep dive into the seamy, sick world that Billy inhabits.