The death of Bob Hoskins on Tuesday has brought to mind not just the many films and television shows in which he starred, but specifically the surprising amount of work he did that is connected to our sense of nostalgia. Not only films that bring us back to a certain time in history that we can’t ever go back to, but movies that were part of our childhood 0r associated with a fond time in our lives. Its actually amazing how often Hoskins turns up in movies like that, particularly for the generation of us born in the 80s. So here is a look at some of Bob Hoskins most memorable and beloved movies.
6. Super Mario Bros. (1993)
This is the most 90s thing ever. It is terrible, it is silly, it has a smooth sports pop soundtrack, and it is nothing like the video game. Of course, all these things is what makes it awesomely hate-watchable in a completely loving way. Its a lot like those live action versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, except in quality its more like the third one than the first. Hoskins, of course, plays Mario Mario, our favorite Brooklyn plumber who gets transported to another dimension with his brother Luigi (John Leguizamo) and gets pulled into undertaking a mission to save the Princess and the world as we know it. If you can’t watch it for any of these reasons, just know that Dennis Hopper plays King Koopa and you just may have found your entertainment for the night.
5. Brazil (1985)
There’s nothing quite like the strange, ironic, and futuristic worlds created by Terry Gilliam in his films, and Brazil is perhaps the epitome of the Gilliam style. While Jonathan Pryce’s daydreaming bureaucrat Sam Lowry is definitely the hero of the story – which was co-written by Gilliam with Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown – the retro-futuristic world is populated by eccentric and compelling characters, including Hoskins very own Spoor. In a very Monty Pythonesque sequence, Hoskins shows up with his partner from the Central Services to fix Lowry’s air conditioning. As it happens, Lowry is hiding the renegade repair man Robert De Niro in his apartment and mires the repairmen in bureaucratic paperwork to prevent their ingress. Hoskin’s Spoor is the stereotypical greasy repairman – arrogant, condescending, and pushy, and ultimately seriously put out by letting petty technicalities keep him from doing his job.
4. Pennies From Heaven (1978)
You may remember the Steve Martin version of this story three years later, featuring a fantastically sexy tap-dance strip performance by Christopher Walken. This is the BBC mini-series adaptation of that same plot, and while the production values are a little lower, the premise is ultimately best suited for British television screens. Hoskins plays Arthur Parker, the main protagonist played by Steve Martin in the American film version. Martin, as is his forte, plays the part a little dumber and more obtuse, while Hoskins is a little more suave and takes genuine joy in his musical flights of fancy. And after all, Arthur is actually a pretty reprehensible character in a lot of ways and there’s something much more forgiving in Hoskins portrayal than in Martin’s. Both adaptations, however, are supremely worth your time.
3. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
This one is pretty obvious. Hoskins gets to play to two of his greatest types here – the hardboiled noir detective and the zany song and dance man. He’s a terrific, dry and sardonic counter-balance to the abstract craziness of Toontown and the manic energy of Roger Rabbit. You also get Christopher Lloyd playing to his penchant for over-the-top theatricality, which is fabulous to watch. And every single time I watch this movie, I am struck by how completely adult it is. I keep forgetting that Roger Rabbit is not a children’s movie – just a movie for people who were once children. There’s a lot in it to appreciate not only about the nature of cartoons, the nostalgia of childhood, and the loss of that joyous innocence in adulthood, but pure delight in the meta and popular history.
2. The Favour, the Watch, and the Very Big Fish (1991)
This one is weird, convoluted, funny, and very very European. Hoskins plays a mild manner photographer who gets swept up in a farcical story of a conwoman (Natasha Richardson) and her over-emotional would be lover (Jeff Goldblum). While that might not sound like the craziest premise, it does lead to a romantic triangle, a chase, and Goldblum becoming a real life Jesus figure. Hoskins is extremely British in this movie – polite, well mannered, conventional, and often self-conscious. As the story moves forward, however, these civilized character traits start to break down as he becomes more desperate.
1. Hook (1991)
When news broke of Bob Hoskins’ death, everyone I knew who found out would tell me that Smee had died. For a certain generation of people, Bob Hoskins will forever be the crafty, boot-licking, treacherous, and self-interested first mate to Captain James Hook (brilliantly played by Dustin Hoffman, of all people!). The one thing I will remember more than anything from that movie, and which perfectly encapsulates Smee’s character, is when it looked as if Hook was about to lose, he took the opportunity to raid the Captain’s treasure chest and went jangling down the gangplank with his booty to potential safety. When it came down to brass tacks, Smee was in it for himself, and all his brown-nosing and order-taking was merely another aspect of his incredible instinct for self-preservation above all else.