This is written by Tawfik Zone Contributor Heather Nichols
April 29th was a sad day as Hollywood lost one time Oscar Nominee Bob Hoskins. Still he achieved countless awards throughout his career and played some of the most iconic characters from my childhood. I normally don’t do a memoriam piece for a celebrity that dies (the last time I did anything besides a Facebook status mention was in 2006 when I created a whole presentation on Steve Irwin after his death for a Sociology class). As a child of the 90s both Irwin and now Hoskins were a large part of those formative years and I feel I owe it to them to say something about that.
The first two roles most people of my generation think when it comes to Hoskins are 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit and 1993’s Super Mario Bros. Eddie Valiant was my gateway into film noir, I just didn’t know it yet. I used to be on the fence about film noir when I started as a film student, I had seen a really badly acted one in a class and almost dismissed the genre entirely. Then I saw Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity and for some reason Roger Rabbit came to mind so I decided to revisit the film as an adult.
I couldn’t believe my parents let me watch that as a kid. To be fair it was playing on rerun when they would go out and my grandparents were “watching” me. I used to change the channel before the villain Judge Doom would make his appearance and that scene with the shoe, which was just as upsetting to me as Artax, the horse from The Neverending Story sinking into the swamp of sadness. Despite the fact a lot of that movie went over my head, I would still watch it, and I think that’s credited to Hoskins’ performance. To a child he seems like a grumpy guy who just doesn’t like cartoons, but as an adult you realize there’s much more substance to the story. I could go on all day about how wonderful a movie this is but it’s actually only my second favorite role he’s been in. No Mario isn’t number one, but we’ll talk about that one too.
A lot of 20-somethings have mixed feelings when it comes to the Super Mario Brother’s movie (it isn’t noted for being a great film). The film might be the sole reason why we haven’t seen another live action adaptation attempt from Nintendo but it was also one of the first, if not the first, attempt to translate a child’s game into a full length feature film. Considering that your source material is about a little Italian plumber trying to rescue his girlfriend from a giant turtle-demon, it is no surprise that the movie was confusing and weird. Still, Hoskins shines in this role. In fact he’s downright brilliant and the only thing that kept this movie from falling horribly on its ass. You believed Hoskins as Mario and you still rooted for him in spite of the badly designed bad guy, over the top bad dialogue, and plot lines that had more holes then Swiss cheese.
My favorite role of Hoskins might come as a surprise, partly because it’s an underrated film which tends to be the case with a lot of children’s films that aren’t produced by Disney. With a voice acting cast featuring not only Bob Hoskins but also Kevin Bacon, Bridget Fonda, Jim Cummings and Phil Collins I am talking about the Steven Spielberg-produced 1995 classic, Balto. Anyone who knows me knows how big of an animation buff I am, but they also know I’m a stickler when it comes to voice acting work.
For example, my biggest issue with Kung Fu Panda was the fact that they weren’t utilizing voice actors for a lot of the roles. I didn’t have a huge issue with Jack Black as Po, but casting Jackie Chan in a voice over role? He had to be dubbed by a voice impersonator for his own cartoon show!
But I digress. Voice acting is different than acting for live-action and this was a task I felt Hoskins absolutely nailed. In the film he plays Boris the goose who is a surrogate father figure to both Balto and a pair of polar bears. If you’ve seen this film you’ll be able to hear the voice in your head, for some reason he has a Russian-esque accent though the film is set in Alaska, but it works. It makes you feel that Boris has been around and is qualified to be the role model figure in this film.
He also doesn’t come off as annoying which is also what set this apart from a Disney film. Actually none of the characters in this film are annoying. The polar bears are comic relief because they don’t realize they can swim, but they’re not annoying. This film is awesome and I highly recommend it to the whole family as there’s something for everyone. But getting back to Hoskins the reason I like this role slightly more than his in Roger Rabbit is it shows his versatility to be able to both act and voice act and just the character itself. Eddie Valiant wasn’t as accessible to me as a child but Boris was like an adult that’s always giving you advice, who’s got your back. That’s why I have a soft spot for Uncle Boris.
From playing one of the best Smees in a Peter Pan adaptation, to his minor parts on television shows like Fraiser and even to his brief cameo in Spice World Bob Hoskins was one of the best actors from my childhood and I’m sad to see him go. I’m glad that he’s left a legacy in film and I hope that those movies continue to be shown for generations to come. So long Eddie.