if you need proof that we seldom get to define our own legacies, just look at the Google rankings above. The Bob Hoskins movie we all probably rate the highest takes third place to a video game adaptation he hated, and a Peter Pan sequel most audiences did (though to be fair, he was Smee twice; the second time in a TV miniseries). Also his turn as Odin in Son of the Mask is up there. Really?
But that’s because even when the movie was bad, he never phoned it in. And in the case of Mario, I’d argue that while it was a bad adaptation, it was a better movie than he ever gave it credit for
The first time I ever heard Hoskins’ name was when my mother saw Phil Collins on TV promoting his movie Buster, and she wondered aloud what Bob Hoskins was doing making a music video. The first movie I saw him in was probably Brazil; I was aware of Mona Lisa but too young to appreciate it beyond the title song getting rereleased and becoming a second-time-around hit in the UK.
By the time Who Framed Roger Rabbit? hit, I was aware that he was an English guy doing a solid American accent, and I know I saw that film multiple times in the theater. When it came time to cast the Super Mario Bros. movie, everyone thought they wanted Danny DeVito, but I was totally in favor of them going with Bob, who is still in my mind the right choice. It was far from the only iconic character he portrayed: the man was Nikita Khrushchev, Manuel Noriega, Winston Churchill, J. Edgar Hoover, Sancho Panza, Pope John XXIII, Benito Mussolini…if film history had gone another way, he would have been Wolverine years before Hugh Jackman’s prime.
I like to joke that Snow White and the Huntsman was so bad it persuaded him to retire, and really, it was terrible, but again, even when playing a dwarf in service to Kristen Stewart, he gave it 100%. Pneumonia at 71 seems an awfully soon and preventable way to go, but I suspect his retirement masked a deterioration he didn’t want anybody to see publicly, and this was a double-whammy of sorts – even a guy who played himself in Spice World didn’t want the world to see him do a less than fully committed job. He’s the sort of guy you’d wish would go on into super old age like Michael Caine, but that can never be now; nonetheless his existing body of work is one most would be extremely proud of.
For Roger Rabbit, Hoskins said he had to learn how to hallucinate. I’m going to do the same and imagine I still see him here.