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Stage & Studio: William Hurt on acting and life

A year after the Oscar-winning actor's death at his Portland home, Stage & Studio brings back Dave Paull's in-depth radio interview with Hurt from 2011.

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William Hurt at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Stage & Studio focuses on an interview with Oscar-winning actor William Hurt, who died in Portland on March 13, 2022. He was 71.  A prolific actor both on stage and screen, he settled in Portland because he liked it here, especially with the arts community and its closeness to nature. Hurt was also an avid golfer and took up bicycling when he lived here.

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Hear past shows on Stage & Studio website. Music by Clark Salisbury. 

Hurt was also close friends with veteran actor and director Allen Nause, who was the long-running artistic director of Artists Repertory Theatre. The two actors started out together as “spear carriers” in 1975 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Many years later, they were still friends, and in 2011 Hurt appeared onstage with Nause in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land at Artists Rep. In the old Artists Rep space, it was an intimate and immediate performance, in close proximity to Hurt and his fellow performers.

William Hurt and Tim True in “No Man’s Land” at Artists Rep. Photo by Owen Carey Photography.

Bob Hicks wrote of Hurt’s performance: “Hurt seems to approach language as essentially rhythmic and musical, and he uses it and his assertive body language to establish not the facts but the essence of a character: He plays the language like a jazz improviser, like John Coltrane redefining a song.”

Shortly before the play opened, Portland journalist and broadcaster Dave Paull interviewed Hurt thanks to Artists Rep’s then-publicist, Nicole Lane. Paull delved into a deep and personal conversation with Hurt. He reached out to Dmae Lo Roberts to share this interview on Stage & Studio for the for the one-year anniversary of William Hurt’s passing.

Featured in more than 60 films, including Children of a Lesser God, The Big Chill, Broadcast News and Body Heat, Hurt won the Oscar in 1985 for his role in Kiss of the Spider Woman. But his first love was theater, which led him back onstage to regional theaters, including doing four plays in Portland at Artists Rep, among them Long Day’s Journey Into Night. In this interview he speaks fondly of theater and what it meant to him throughout his life.

Dave Paull brings out this love and his commitment to the craft in this insightful conversation recorded in the studio at KINK FM by engineer Alan Archer and first broadcast in 2011.

William Hurt died from complications of prostate cancer at his home in Northwest Portland on March 13, 2022. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote that Hurt was “one of the two or three best actors in American movies.”

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More about the interviewer:

Dave Paull.

Dave Paull reported the news for radio stations in Portland and Seattle. He was hired by King Broadcasting and managed the news department at 62 KGW Radio in Portland as news director. Career highlights as a reporter and newscaster include covering major events in the Northwest, as well as initiating interviews with people from all walks of life. And there may have been a karaoke incident or two at station parties.

Concerned that local theater history was being lost, Dave researched and wrote an article published by the Clark County Historical Society about the woman who founded the Slocum House Theatre, which closed after a 46-year run in Vancouver, Washington.

During his retirement years Dave has been researching, writing, and performing in short video documentaries. His entry The Yaphet Kotto Story was a winner at the NewsFest International Film Festival in 2022. He contributes feature stories to FM News 101 KXL in Portland.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on StagenStudio.com, which continues at ArtsWatch.

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4 Responses

  1. The posting related to William Hurt and the Oregon theatrical community was informative as well as enlightening. I used to see Mr. Hurt and two of his sons in the Hudson Valley area in which they resided. It is good to know that William enjoyed his final days in a theatrically rich community

  2. Mr Hurt’s death was a sad event, if death can be called and event, to our community. And many of the people who befriended him. I knew him and his boys who lived in our community and with whom I have occasional greetings still. I was a pastor of a small local congregation that the boys care takers brought them to church. On the day that I met William i noticed him sitting with the boys on a pew near the back of the church. At the end of the service I introduced myself as pastor J and we shook hands as he said great to meet you , I’m William. He attend several more times when in the area. On that Sunday of meeting him I still did not know anything about him. When I got in the car my wife said, “I saw you talking with William Hurt. “ I said he didn’t tell me his last name. She said , William Hurt the actor. Now I had heard the last name but had never watched any of his films. After that I watched all that I could find on television. William and I were not close friends but when ever we saw him he visited no differently that any friend that I had. My last visit was in a local restaurant where he and his two young boys were having a meal as were me and my wife. I shall never forget the man that became my distant friend, acquaintance no because we became occasional friends in deed.

  3. Visiting Portland from Geneva, Switzerland, I was lucky enough to be able to actually attend the “No Man’s Land” performance at the Artists Rep and everyone was stunning. One of the best plays seen in my life.
    William Hurt was such a great actor.

  4. We were going to see the play Long Day’s Journey Into Night, starring William Hurt as James Tyrone. And there he was as we approached the theatre, walking meditatively on the sidewalk. Hurt’s gaze was downward, in concentration, as if to say ‘do not disturb.’ After seeing the arduous story of the Tyrone family’s turmoil, we again saw William Hurt outside the stage door, but this time he said hello. He was affable and wanted to hear our reactions to the show. Hurt sized us up and said “you seem to be grounded.” I took that to mean we weren’t movie star groupies, even though he was a star in movies and we were excited to meet him. He was relaxed and shared in a brief chat. That’s all I remember, until he and I had a much longer conversation some time later about his devotion to theatre and acting.

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