10. Stephen Ward - Scandal (1989)
I wanted to include at least one of Hurt's political performances on this list, and was originally going to opt for his main role in the BBC drama The Alan Clark Diaries
. But while that performance is a lot of fun, filled with loaded glances and lecherous narration, his performance in Scandal
is on reflection far more weighty and interesting. Scandal
tells the story of the Profumo Affair in 1963, in which John Profumo, British Secretary of State for War, had a brief affair with call-girl Christine Keeler. After it emerged that Keeler had previously had a relationship with a prominent Soviet attaché, there were concerns that Profumo could have leaked national security secrets to her. Profumo lied to the House of Commons about their relationship, and when the truth eventually came out, he resigned in disgrace and Harold Macmillan's government collapsed soon afterwards. In the film, Hurt plays Stephen Ward, the upwardly-mobile osteopath who befriends Keeler, invites her to live with him and introduces her to Profumo at a party, inadvertently putting things in motion. Hurt paints a wonderful picture of Ward as someone seemingly upstanding, respectable and friends with all the right people, but who has a seedy and manipulative underbelly. Hurt never over-eggs the seediness, letting the circumstances of his character speak for themselves, resulting in a memorable performance.