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Filmism.net Dispatch August 21, 2012

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Some very high profile deaths in Hollywood in the last few days overshadowed some quieter artist news last week that's sad in its own way.

Before Tony Scott shockingly leaped to his death from an LA bridge and we said goodbye to Phyllis Diller (aged 95), Bob Hoskins announced his retirement from acting last week. The 69-year-old star revealed he's been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and is leaving acting.

It was funny that another famous Hollywood Parkinson's sufferer (Michael J Fox), announced a return to TV this week, but losing Hoskins will certainly be sad for my generation (Gen X) because of the enduring, timeless classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).

Ironically Hoskins was never interested in kids' movies. When he appeared in Super Mario Bros five years later he told the media he only did it because he needed to pay off a house he was building. It's said both he and co-star John Leguizamo were so aware of how bad the movie would be they got drunk together at every opportunity to blot the experience out.

But without Eddie Valiant, a whole generation of movie fans might never have been exposed to the many gems of Hoskins' career. If you haven't seen them, go and watch Snow White and the Huntsman, Hollywoodland, Last Orders, Unleashed, Mermaids and his many other classics.

Speaking of actors, I watched The Rum Diary awhile back and something I'd never realised about star Johnny Depp struck me. Even though he has a reputation for being an oddball, it's surprising how often he plays the straight man in some oddball situations, like he did here.

The real crazy in the movie was Giovanni Ribisi's character, a scruffy malcontent who makes killer hooch, keeps chickens in his apartment and listens to LP of speeches by Hitler. As reporter Paul Kemp, Depp was very much a pillar in the centre of the narrative for all the outrageous shenanigans of 1960s Puerto Rico to bounce off.

Sure, he plays the wacko in plenty of movies. Tim Burton always slathers him in make-up and wigs and gives him a toffee accent, and it's hard to forget the way be fleshed Captain Jack Sparrow out so successfully off the page. But in Corpse Bride, Blow, Finding Neverland, Donnie Brasco, What's Eating Gilbert Grape and many others, Depp played very straight characters in extreme situations, the classic audience stand-in to and show us an incredible world.

And just because it feels like about two weeks or so since I talked about anything to do with Star Wars, here's my definitive review of the movie that made the movies in the second half of the 20th century.

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