In 1962, Hurt's father left his parish in Cleethorpes to become headmaster of St Michael's College in the Central American country of British Honduras. In that same year, John Hurt first performed on the London stage and married actress Annette Robertson. The marriage ended in 1964. In 1967 he began his longest relationship, with French model Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot, sister of fashion photographer Jean-Claude Volpeliere-Pierrot. The couple had planned to get married after fifteen years, when events took a tragic turn on 26 January 1983: Hurt and Volpeliere-Pierrot went horse riding early in the morning near their house in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire. Volpeliere-Pierrot was thrown off her horse and suffered a tragic fall. She went into a coma and died later that day.
Hurt married Texan actress and old friend Donna Peacock at a local Register Office on 6 September 1984. The couple moved to Kenya. They divorced in early January 1990.
On 24 January 1990, Hurt married American production assistant Joan Dalton, whom he had met while filming Scandal. With her he had two sons: Sasha John Vincent Hurt (born 6 February 1990) and Nick Hurt (born 5 February 1993), who are currently residing in County Waterford, Ireland. Nick has gone to acting school in England and wishes to follow in his father's footsteps. This marriage ended in 1996 and was followed with a seven-year relationship with Dublin-born presenter and writer Sarah Owens. The couple moved to County Wicklow, where they settled close to their friends, director John Boorman, and Claddagh Records founder and Guinness heir The Hon Garech de Brún. In July 2002 the couple separated. In March 2005, Hurt married his fourth wife, advertising film producer Anwen Rees Meyers.
In 2004, Hurt was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
In January 2002, Hurt received an honorary degree from the University of Derby and in January 2006 received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Hull.
In 2007, Hurt took part in the BBC genealogical television series Who Do You Think You Are?, which investigated part of his family history. Prior to participating in the programme, Hurt had harboured a love of Ireland and was enamoured of a 'deeply beguiling' family legend that suggested his great-grandmother had been the illegitimate daughter of Irish nobleman, the Marquess of Sligo. The genealogical evidence uncovered seemed to contradict the family legend, rendering the 'suggestion' doubtful. Coincidentally, the search revealed that his great-grandmother had previously lived in Grimsby at a location within a mile of the art college at which Hurt had once enrolled.
Since 2006, John Hurt has been a patron of Project Harar, a UK-based charity working in Ethiopia for children with facial disfigurements.
Since 2009, he has been patron of QUAD. On 25 September 2009, Hurt visited QUAD and took part in a Q&A directly preceding a screening of the film The Night Train as part of the festivities, celebrating the first birthday at QUAD (opened on 26 September 2008). The day after, 26 September, John Hurt was guest of honour at Derby County vs Bristol City and went on the pitch at Pride Park at half time to oversee a prize draw.
In 2012 he was appointed the first Provost of Norwich University College of the Arts.
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