1. He had no idea that Super Mario Brothers was a video game.
Hoskins did not have a good time playing the title role in the famously bad $48 million adaptation of the beloved Nintendo game, often describing it as his biggest disappointment. He and co-star John Leguizamo spent much of their time on set getting drunk to relieve the misery, and he was injured several times during production: “Got stabbed four times,” he said. “Electrocuted. Broke a finger. Nearly got drowned.” Adding to his frustration was the fact that Hoskins had only signed up to the film because of an early script by Porridge creators Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais. Later, after his son asked what he was working on, he discovered that he’d unwittingly agreed to play a video game character.
2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? made him hallucinate
Speaking to the Telegraph’s Nigel Farndale in 2009, Hoskins revealed that having to visualise the animated Roger Rabbit while making Robert Zemeckis’s film caused him to start “seeing” his daughter’s imaginary friend, Jeffrey. He also began seeing the weasels from the film: “I went to this one do where I got talking to a very county lady with a big hat and there was this weasel in her hat with a big pr–k!”
3. He was Hollywood’s best plumber
Not only did he play a plumber in both Brazil and Super Mario Brothers, Hoskins also wore the overalls in real life. Before becoming an actor, he worked as a plumber’s assistant, but his career was cut short after he burnt his workmate’s foot: “I was on a ladder and he was fixing a pipe up in the ceiling,” he explained. “I got a blowlamp, and set fire to his boot! That was the end of the trade for me.”
4. He was no pretty-boy
The critic Pauline Kael famously described Hoskins as “a testicle on legs”. But he was used to such jibes. As a boy, Hoskins once went missing from home. When his mother worried that he’d been kidnapped, his aunt calmed her: “Don’t fret. Even if someone’s taken him, with his looks, they’ll soon be bringing him back.”
5. Herman Munster was his hero
Cast in The Cotton Club, Hoskins was far more thrilled at the thought of acting alongside Fred Gwynne – aka, Herman Munster – than at the thought of being directed by Francis Ford Coppola: “When Francis told me he was my sidekick, I couldn’t have been more impressed if he’d said, ‘This is Marlon Brando’.”
6. He was paid $200,000 not to appear in The Untouchables
Brain De Palma sent Hoskins the script for his Prohibition-era gangster film and asked if he’d like to play Al Capone – but only if Robert De Niro wasn’t available. He was, so Hoskins promptly forgot about it until a cheque for $200,000 arrived in the post, along with a thank-you note from De Palma. Hoskins picked up the phone and told the director: “If you’ve got any more films you don’t want me to be in, I’m available.”
7. He did NOT stalk Madonna
In 1995, a “highly psychotic” man named Robert Dewey Hoskins was sentenced to 10 years in prison for breaking into Madonna’s estate and threatening to slit her throat if she didn’t marry him. Wags took to stopping Hoskins – the actor – on the street and paraphrasing his BT ads: “It’s good to stalk!”
8. He lived with Bedouins
After the ditching the accountancy career his father had planned for him, Hoskins went travelling in his early 20s. He spent six months on a kibbutz in Israel (at one point he was asked to join the army), and two years with Bedouin tribes in Syria – he looked after their camels.
9. He chose scripts with his behind
Hoskins once told Lynn Barber that he gave all his scripts “the cold bum test”. He’d take it to the loo, and if he read it for long enough to end up with a cold bum, he’d do it.
10. He had an excellent telephone manner
When Francis Ford Coppola phoned Hoskins to offer him a part in The Cotton Club, he called at midnight. Hoskins described the exchange as follows: “A voice said, ‘Hi, this is Francis Ford Coppola. ‘ ‘Yeah!? And this is Henry the Eighth, and you’ve just woken up my kid!'”