I'm sad to read that the actor Bob Hoskins died of pneumonia at the relatively early age of 71. He's always had a special place in my entertainment pantheon for his role as the hard-bitten detective in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". I watched it during a very difficult time in South Africa's internecine violence, and it gave me and many others lots of laughs. We needed them very badly.
His acting in that film was exceptional because he was more often than not acting to himself, on an otherwise blank and featureless set. The cartoon effects and background were added later. To illustrate, here's an excerpt from the movie accompanied by shots of the actual scene being shot. You can see how Hoskins has to make up his reactions on the basis of the script, with no visual cues whatsoever to help him. I suggest watching it in full-screen mode.
That took real talent, IMHO, particularly in an era before CGI and digital manipulation.
His gifts weren't restricted to comedy. Playing a hard-boiled criminal in 'The Long Good Friday' gave him his breakthrough role. He became at home in movies on both sides of the Atlantic, one of relatively few actors to succeed in both Britain and America.
The story I most enjoyed about him concerns 'The Untouchables'.
Brian De Palma sent Hoskins the script for his Prohibition-era gangster film and asked if he'd like to play Al Capone – but only if Robert De Niro wasn't available. He was, so Hoskins promptly forgot about it until a cheque for $200,000 arrived in the post, along with a thank-you note from De Palma. Hoskins picked up the phone and told the director: "If you've got any more films you don't want me to be in, I'm available."