Bob Hoskins: the window-cleaner who became a household name - Bob Hoskins, known for roles in films such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Long Good Friday, has died from pneumonia at the age of 71. As a star – he was certainly that, and at 5ft 6in maybe the shortest one Britain’s ever produced – Bob Hoskins boasted the inseparable Cockney traits of being immensely companionable and someone you wouldn’t want to mess with, often at the same time. His first major film role, it’s true, gave us rather more of the latter: as Harold Shand, the indomitable antihero of John Mackenzie’s The Long Good Friday (1980), he was a fireball of raging ambition, stopping at nothing to consolidate his empire.
It was only later that a cuddlier and sadder Hoskins emerged from that blistering initial impression. If Harold felt like a character practically defined by small-man syndrome, Hoskins charged into the rest of his film career as if determined to seem less angry with every subsequent part. The key transitional film was Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa (1986) – another classic take on seedy London criminality, but one with an undisguised romanticism at its core. Hoskins’s George seems so obviously tired of the scene that he’s a much more redeemable creation: a gangster with soul.
This performance, which won Hoskins Best Actor in Cannes and an Oscar nomination, was just the boost he needed to make a go of things in Hollywood, and a busy decade followed as the pay-cheques piled up. Robert Zemeckis and co made the noble decision to cast Hoskins, instead of the mooted and much more obvious Harrison Ford or Bill Murray, as the private dick hero of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). It can’t have seemed too enviable a job, on paper – months on sound stages acting opposite a non-existent lapine co-star? But, through sheer energy and force of personality, Hoskins knocked the role of Eddie Valiant for six. It must have been gratifying beyond belief when the film was a smash hit, and this one-time window cleaner found himself installed at last as a household name.