Actor William Hurt spent his last few weeks in excruciating pain as he refused to take opiates and break his decades-long sobriety, a source close to the Oscar-winning actor has revealed.
He only eventually agreed to hospice care when the pain got too much to bear, the close friend told DailyMail.com exclusively.
‘His death was not so much tragic as a gift,’ the source said. ‘He was experiencing so much pain and suffering, and he went out peacefully.
Hurt won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as Luis Molina in the 1985 movie Kiss of the Spider Woman
One of the last pictures of William Hurt was with his youngest son Will that Will posted to Facebook following his death
‘He was totally against taking opiates because he had been sober for decades,’ the source said.
‘That’s why he sought out alternative treatments. And he had been doing really well for so long. He even did a couple of movies in between all of this.
‘But the cancer just got the best of him. He succumbed to getting morphine just in the last week.’
Hurt announced he was suffering from prostate cancer which had metastasized to his bones in May 2018. He said at the time it was terminal.
But he battled bravely on before finally succumbing on March 13. He was one week shy of his 72nd birthday.
He died, surrounded by his family, in his modest four-bedroom home in Portland, Oregon, where he had lived since 2015.
‘We’ve talked a lot in the last year, and he was still his same self,’ the source said.
‘When he was on his deathbed, he was a little confused, but he was still really sharp, right up to the end.’
Hurt first announced he had prostate cancer in 2018 when researchers at Berkeley unveiled a new chemotherapy said to be without side effects. Here he speaks to an LA TV station at the event
By 2019 Hurt was walking with the aid of a cane. He is pictured on the set of his penultimate movie Black Widow in Macon, Georgia
William Hurt died, a week shy of his 72nd birthday, at his modest four-bedroom house in Portland, Oregon, where he had lived since 2015
His son Alex told DailyMail.com there will not be a funeral. ‘That’s what he wanted.
‘My dad wanted to keep things private.’
Hurt won his Best Actor Oscar for his starring role in 1985’s Kiss of the Spider Woman. He was then nominated for the next two years for Children of a Lesser God and Broadcast News. He also starred in movies including The Big Chill, Body Heat and Into the Wild.
In a statement to DailyMail on the day of Hurt’s death, Alex Hurt, the oldest of his four children, said: ‘This morning, early and still dark, my father passed peacefully in the comfort of his home, held by the love of his children and surrounded in the rich green of the Northwest that he cherished.
‘The world knew him as an incredible artistic force, a vessel for his many characters, a shapeshifter with an unbending willingness to seek out truth in story, a hunger to peel back what has been forgotten in our humanity, and a passion for the ways that art can validate our living experiences.
Sandrine Bonnaire, the mother of Hurt’s daughter Jeanne was with him at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012
Hurt was accompanied by second wife Heidi Henderson at the Golden Globes in January 2012. He was nominated for his role as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in the HBO movie Too Big to Fail
Sandra Jennings, the mother of two of William Hurt’s sons accompanied him to the Oscars in 1982
‘The world knew him as an artist who dove deep and who will be celebrated and remembered for his talents and tenacity,’ Alex continued.
‘His children and his grandchildren will remember him for his vibrant curiosity, for his storytelling, his playfulness, his wildness, his unmatched sense of light and dark both, and his sea-crashing love.
His marriage to Mary Beth Hurt did not produce any children
The star’s son Will said in a statement on Sunday: ‘It is with great sadness that the Hurt family mourns the passing of William Hurt, beloved father and Oscar winning actor,’ adding, ‘He died peacefully, among family, of natural causes.’
Hurt had four children, Alex, now 39, Sam, 32, Will, 31 and Jeanne, 28. Alex was from his relationship with Sandra Jennings, Will and Sam from his six-year marriage to Heidi Henderson and Jeanne from his relationship with French actress Sandrine Bonnaire.
His first marriage to actress Mary Beth Hurt lasted from 1971-1981 but 10did not produce children.
He also had a two-year relationship with Mary Matlin, his co-star in Children of a Lesser God. Her allegations that he raped and abused her have resurfaced since the actor’s death.
‘There was a tribute to him on CBS yesterday morning, and it was so beautiful,’ the source said, ‘and then they had to go f**k it up by talking about Mary Matlin and the abuse she wrote about in her book.’
‘He was not so kind at times,’ the source acknowledged.
‘It was complicated. I think he had demons. He had real demons, and that’s what made him such a wonderful actor. But as a human being, he was challenged. And he really did try.
Hurt in his iconic role as news anchor Tom Grunick in the classic 1987 movie Broadcast News. He was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars but beaten out by Michael Douglas’s portrayal of Gordon Gecko in Wall Street
Hurt won his Oscar playing the role of Luis Molina opposite the late Raul Julia in Kiss of the Spider Woman
His third Oscar nomination came for Children of a Lesser God. Co-star Marlee Matlin won the Academy Award for best actress and started a relationship with him which ended in accusations of rape and abuse
‘I know he loved his children. I know that.’
During their conversations in recent times, Hurt talked a lot about his time as an actor.
‘I think he wanted to be remembered for his work, and that he was an artist,’ the friend said. ‘He resented media conglomerates because of their making actors feel like prostitutes.
‘One particular movie he was really upset about was The Doctor,’ the source added, about the 1991 movie in which he played a successful surgeon suddenly struck down by cancer.
‘He used to rant and rail that they would never give enough time to rehearse because everything was about the money and getting things done quickly and on time.
‘He needed time to rehearse, to learn about the other actors he was working with,’ the friend said. ‘That was very important to him.’
Hurt starred with Christine Lahti in The Doctor in 1991. According to a source he complained about not having enough time to rehearse. ‘That was very important to him,’ the source said
Hurt and Kathleen Turner steamed up the screens in 1981’s Body Heat
Hallmark’s The Flamingo Rising was a 2001 film about a feud between a funeral parlor owner and a man who wanted to build a drive-in theater opposite. Hurt starred alongside Elizabeth McGovern
Hurt (center) was in the made-for-TV 1976 movie Verna, USO Girl which filmed in Germany
‘He didn’t want to be remembered as some lackey, somebody who sold their soul to make a buck,’ the source continued.
‘He once turned down a million dollar offer to do a voiceover for a Mercedes commercial. People thought he was arrogant to do that.
‘But that wasn’t what he was about. He was about the craft.’
Hurt spoke about his cancer in 2018 when researchers at Berkeley unveiled a new chemotherapy said to be without side effects.
He said no-one could know what it feels like to be told you have cancer until it happens.
He didn’t want to be remembered as some lackey, somebody who sold their soul to make a buck
Speaking to the doctors, he said: ‘I didn’t want to hear the word chemo out of your mouth.
I had fought tooth and nail for five years to change my life so that word didn’t happen to me.
‘But here it was and I was really upset.’
Speaking about acting with People in 1985, Hurt described himself as ‘a character actor in a leading-man’s body.
‘I want more mask than, say, Spencer Tracy did. But I don’t “pretend” to be somebody else. Acting isn’t schizoid like that. Acting is about telling the truth. And it’s an adventure. It isn’t about what I know before I do it. It’s about what I can discover while it’s happening.’
He fought to keep his personal life private.
He told The New York Times in 1989, ‘It’s not right that my privacy is invaded to the extent that it is. I’m a very private man, and I have the right to be.
‘I never said that because I was an actor you can have my privacy, you can steal my soul. You can’t.’