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The Big Hurt: Legendary actor shines in ‘Broadcast News’

PHOTO PROVIDED The poster for “Broadcast News” is pictured.

When I heard about the passing of actor William Hurt a few weeks back, I started thinking about all of the great films that he’s been a part of.

From “Body Heat” to “The Big Chill,” Hurt has quite the resume. I scrolled through the library of films before settling in to watch the 1987 hit “Broadcast News.”

In it, Hurt plays pretty boy broadcaster Tom Grunick. He looks good, reads the teleprompter well and knows just enough to get by. He meets Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) a phenomenal television news producer at a conference and the two develop a connection. The third wheel in the story is news reporter Aaron Altman (wonderfully played by Albert Brooks). Aaron is a brilliant reporter, but simply doesn’t have the looks or charisma to get an anchor job.

James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment”) was the brains behind “Broadcast News” and he does a fantastic job pushing all the right buttons. There are plenty of newsroom scenes to keep us engaged, but the sort of Tom-Jane-Aaron love triangle stuff adds a human element to the story. This isn’t “All the President’s Men” or “Network” and Brooks realizes that. I will stop short of calling it a romantic comedy, because it’s much more than that.

Although Jane is attracted to Tom, she detests what he represents. After the conference, it appears the two will never cross paths again until — surprise — Tom is hired by Jane’s network. All of a sudden, they are working side by side on a daily basis. Aaron is jealous of Tom because he not only has the job he covets, he is clearly a front-runner for Jane’s heart.

The film focuses on the three main characters, though there are some outstanding supporting performances. Jack Nicholson plays Bill Rorish, an old-school anchorman who is the face of the network. Joan Cusack has a small role as Blair Litton, Jane’s right-hand assistant.

Hurt really shows off his acting chops as the ultimate talking head. His hair looks good, knows just how to dress and he delivers the news in style, something that appeals to the network higher ups. We watch him rise through the ranks, even though he doesn’t have the IQ or experience to anchor the evening news.

Although it’s set in the late 80s, “Broadcast News” still holds up today. Sure, the technology has changed. You’ll laugh at the size of the cameras, televisions and phones. We see the broadcasters editing tape and wearing outrageously large headphones, but in the end, the storyline matters and “Broadcast News” has a pretty good one.

“Broadcast News” made several year-end top 10 lists and earned seven Academy Award nominations. Hurt, Hunter and Brooks all earned nominations as did Brooks. However, it was shut out on Oscar night, going 0-for-7.

It never takes itself too seriously and does just enough to make us care about the characters. Although Hurt recently passed away, Hunter (“Succession”) and Brooks (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) are still acting and playing key roles in hit television shows.

“Broadcast News” is rated R for adult language and adult themes. It is available on HBO Max, Spectrum TV, The Roku Channel, Apple TV, Prime Video and Redbox.

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Chris Morelli is the news editor of The Express.

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