Inside William Hurt's Relationship With Marlee Matlin

The following article includes allegations of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

In yet another huge loss to the acting world, William Hurt has died at age 71. As reported by Deadline and other outlets, the actor's son Will posted, "It is with great sadness that the Hurt family mourns the passing of William Hurt, beloved father and Oscar winning actor, on March 13, 2022, one week before his 72nd birthday." Although Will stated his father died of "natural causes," Hurt had previously been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer that had metastasized to his bones. In 2018, Hurt appeared at a press conference to promote a new alternative cancer treatment called Side Effect-Free Chemotherapy, according to KPIX

Hurt was best known for his Oscar-winning role as an imprisoned gay man in "Kiss of the Spider Woman," as well as "Children of a Lesser God," "Body Heat," "The Big Chill," "Broadcast News," and five Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, including "Captain America: Civil War," "Avengers: Endgame," and, most recently, "Black Widow," according to People

Off-screen, Hurt's personal life was complicated. He was married twice, and was once involved with professional ballet dancer Sandra Jennings, with whom he had a son. But Hurt's most famous — and problematic — relationship was with fellow actor Marlee Matlin. The two starred in the 1986 film "Children of a Lesser God," as a teacher and a janitor at a school for the deaf who fall in love, according to IMDb. Life imitated art when Hurt and Matlin, 16 years his junior, entered into a two-year relationship. As Matlin has recalled, however, their romance was anything but ideal.

William Hurt had an abusive relationship with Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin made history in 1987 as the youngest person and the first deaf performer to win an Academy Award for Best Actress, according to Biography. It should have been a joyous time, but as the "CODA" actor recalled in her 2009 memoir, "I'll Scream Later," the night was ruined by her then-boyfriend, William Hurt. As reported by Daily Beast, Matlin said that, in their limo, Hurt coldly asked her, "What makes you think you deserve it? There are hundreds of actors who have worked for years for the recognition you just got handed to you." In a 2021 Daily Beast interview, Matlin noted that she would have "slugged him" if the incident had happened today. 

Over the course of their two years together, Matlin alleged that Hurt was physically abusive, leaving her with bruises and a split lip. She said that Hurt came home drunk one night, started arguing with her, tore off her clothes, and sexually assaulted her. When her memoir was published and the allegations began making headlines, Hurt attempted damage control in an interview with E! News: "My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused."

Matlin has yet to comment on Hurt's death, but in the Daily Beast interview, she said that she has moved on from the pain of that relationship. She added, "I know how important it is to stand up for yourself, and I've passed along that message to my daughter."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).