British Actor Bob Hoskins Dies at 71

Hoskins retired from acting in 2012 following a diagnosis with Parkinson's disease in 2011.

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" star Bob Hoskins died Monday due to pneumonia, the British actor's publicist Clair Dobbs confirmed to NBC News. He was 71.

"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob. Bob died peacefully at hospital last night surrounded by family, following a bout of pneumonia," a statement from Hoskins' wife and four children read. "We ask that you respect our privacy during this time and thank you for your messages of love and support."

A character actor who could shift seemlessly from quiet menace to low-key charm, Hoskins first gained fame thanks to his turn in the 1980 British gangster classic "The Long Good Friday." Hoskins specialized in soft-hearted tough guys such as the protective ex-con in Neil Jordan's 1986 film "Mona Lisa." Hoskins earned a best-actor Academy Award nomination for his performance in the film.

Helen Mirren, who starred alongside Hoskins in "The Long Good Friday," called him "a great actor and an even greater man. Funny, loyal, instinctive, hard-working, with that inimitable energy that seemed like a spectacular firework rocket just as it takes off."

"I personally will miss him very much, London will miss one of her best and most loving sons, and Britain will miss a man to be proud of," Mirren said.

5 of Bob Hoskins' Most Memorable Performances

Born in 1942 in eastern England, where his mother had moved to escape wartime bombing, Hoskins was raised in a working-class part of north London. He left school at 15, worked at odd jobs and claimed he got his break as an actor by accident — while watching a friend audition, he was handed a script and asked to read.

"I got the lead in the play," Hoskins told the BBC in 1988. "I've never been out of work since."

Hoskins initially worked in theater, but began getting television and film roles in the 1970s. He came to attention in Britain as star of "Pennies from Heaven," Dennis Potter's 1978 TV miniseries about a Depression-era salesman whose imagination sprouts elaborate musical numbers. It was later turned into a movie starring Steve Martin.

His profile in Hollywood soared when he starred in the part-animated 1988 hit "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," in which he played a detective investigating cartoon crime. He went on to appear as the pirate Smee in Steven Spielberg's Peter Pan movie "Hook" (1991), and was FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in "Nixon" (1995) opposite Anthony Hopkins.

He had other notable roles in "Brazil" (1985), "Mermaids" (1990)  and "Super Mario Bros" (1993). He was most recentlly seen onscreen in "Outside Bet" (2012), and as a dwarf in "Snow White & the Huntsman" (2012).

Hoskins retired from acting in 2012 following a diagnosis with Parkinson's disease in 2011.

Reaction to his passing was swift and heartfelt with many co-stars and admirers taking to social media:

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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