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RIP Bob Hoskins

Yesterday news came out about the very sad passing of Bob Hoskins, a well-loved and respected British actor with a huge range of films under his belt, with his lead role as detective Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit listed as one of his major successes.

What makes me really sad, however, is the film snobs who feel it necessary to point out that if you remember him for his Roger Rabbit role, you’re doing the man a great disservice by not remembering him from an older British drama.

It makes me sad because there is a whole generation of kids whose biggest exposure to Hoskins’ work was Roger Rabbit, his role as Smee in Hook and…okay, fine, I guess Super Mario Bros, but let’s not use that as an example ever again. The point is, that many of this generation, and I count myself among them, aren’t all that aware of his less popular work. I’ve seen The Long Good Friday cited as another major example of his work, but while the name sounds familiar, I don’t know too much about it.

But what exactly is wrong with remembering him from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I am here to state exactly what Roger Rabbit means to me and why Bob Hoskins was an integral part of all of that, and why I am incredibly sad about his passing as a result.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a technical marvel, both for its time but even today where the effects still hold up perfectly. While there have certainly been attempts to combine animation and live action before (e.g. Mary Poppins) and after (e.g. Space Jam), but none have ever really matched the skill and quality on display in that movie.

But while great animation and effects are one thing, the whole production would have come crashing down if there weren’t some fantastic actors on set, and Hoskins was definitely fantastic in that movie. The man put in a brilliant performance as a grizzled alcoholic detective, but he also made his disdain for Toons as believable as someone who loves casual racism. But, of course, there’s another aspect to his performance, an aspect that none of his other roles could possibly match.

Hoskins spent much of that movie talking to walls and bits of scenery, acting as if they were living things who could respond to him. He worked with nothing and made it convincing that he really was talking to cartoon characters. It takes immense skill to do that. Without his work in making this believable, the movie wouldn’t have worked at all, but it did, and it was thanks to Hoskins’ expert efforts here that my childhood self fell in love with the movie.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the movie that very much cemented my love of both animation and mystery thrillers. It’s the movie that taught me the conventions of film noir before I had ever seen any real noir. It’s the movie that taught me that anything is possible in fiction if you’re willing to work for it, and put the effort into making it believable for the audience. Essentially, it’s the movie that got me into the craft of making movies, had me doodling comics for much of my childhood, going to university to study film production, and quite possibly is a big part of the reason I am writing a detective novel. Roger Rabbit is an important movie to me.

It’s the movie that both terrified (damn you, Judge Doom) and delighted me as a child, and as my last rewatch of the movie (when I reviewed it as one of my first movies on SvTM) proved, it’s a movie that still delights me and makes me smile, and without a doubt is up there with some of my all-time favourites.

So, to those who wish to discredit those of who wish to remember Bob Hoskins through a childhood favourite as opposed to something more “serious”, remember this: it doesn’t matter that I choose to remember him for dancing to Merry Go Round Broke Down and kicking a cartoon weasel in the crotch, what matters is that I remember him, and that I remember being entertained by him. Isn’t that how all performers wish to be remembered?

RIP Bob Hoskins. You had a long, prosperous career, but you will always be Eddie Valiant to me. And that’s high praise as far as I’m concerned.

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