Interviewing Ryan Case to preview Balagula Theatre’s production of 1984, we stumbled on a fun fact: Playing Winston in the dystopian story is the second time Ryan has played a role most memorably committed to film by BAFTA and Golden Globe-award winning Englishman John Hurt.
The other instance was 2012 when he played the title role in Caligula. Yes, it was Clockwork Orange star and amazeballs AT&T pitchman Malcolm McDowell that starred in the infamous 1979 movie, Caligula. But it was Hurt’s performance in the 1976 BBC series I, Claudius that seared the the crazed libertine Roman emperor into our collective consciousness.
If you are an actor looking for footsteps to walk in, you could do far worse than Hurt.
Hurt’s lone Oscar nomination for best actor was for his enduring performance as John Merrick in 1981’s The Elephant Man, an award he lost to another iconic performance: Robert De Niro’s turn in Raging Bull. He won the BAFTA for Elephant Man, as well as best supporting actor in Midnight Express (1979) and The Naked Civil Servant (1976), in which he played author Quentin Crisp, a person he returned to in the 2009 film Englishman in New York.
Other distinctive characters in the Hurt canon include Raskolnikov in a BBC version of Crime and Punishment (1979) the manipulative CIA agent in The Osterman Weekend (1983), Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and numerous Shakespearean roles on stage and screen.
Ryan, of course, has a distinguished resume of performances too including the title role in Actors Guild of Lexington’s production of Bat Boy — The Musical, Vincent Van Gogh in AGL’s Vincent in Brixton and Simon Zealots in the Lexington Shakespeare Festival’s Jesus Christ Superstar, to name a few. He’s also developed an extensive directing resume as co-artistic director of Balagula Theatre with Natasha Williams.
And as much as he likes Hurt and his roles, Ryan wouldn’t want to follow his path too far, thus he somehow find himself as Kane, the unwitting gestational host of the title character in Alien (1979).
“Yeah,” he says, “I don’t want to wind up with an alien popping out of my stomach.”
- Read more: Candace Chaney’s rave review of 1984.