John Hurt

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This article is about the English actor. For the American musician, see Mississippi John Hurt.
Sir John Hurt
CBE
John Hurt by Walterlan Papetti.jpg
Hurt in January 2015
Born John Vincent Hurt
(1940-01-22)22 January 1940
Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England, UK
Died 25 January 2017(2017-01-25) (aged 77)
Cromer, Norfolk, England, UK
Cause of death Pancreatic cancer
Education Lincoln School
Alma mater Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupation Actor
Years active 1961–2017
Spouse(s)
  • Annette Robertson
    (m. 1962; div. 1964)
  • Donna Peacock
    (m. 1984; div. 1990)
  • Joan Dalton
    (m. 1990; div. 1996)
  • Anwen Rees-Myers
    (m. 2005; his death 2017)
Children 2
Parent(s) Arnould Herbert Hurt
Phyllis Hurt

Sir John Vincent Hurt, CBE (22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017) was an English actor whose screen and stage career spanned more than 50 years. Hurt was regarded as one of Britain's finest actors;[1] director David Lynch described him as "simply the greatest actor in the world".[2]

Hurt initially came to prominence for his role as Richard Rich in the film A Man for All Seasons (1966), and gained BAFTA Award nominations for his portrayals of Timothy Evans in 10 Rillington Place (1971) and Quentin Crisp in television film The Naked Civil Servant (1975) – winning his first BAFTA for the latter. He was also visible as Caligula in BBC TV series I, Claudius (1976). Hurt's performance in prison drama Midnight Express (1978) brought him international renown, and earned Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards, along with an Academy Award nomination. His BAFTA-nominated portrayal of astronaut Kane, in science-fiction horror Alien (1979), yielded a scene which has been named by a number of publications as one of the most memorable in cinematic history;[3] Hurt re-enacted the scene as a cameo appearance in science fiction parody Spaceballs (1987).

Hurt earned his third competitive BAFTA, along with his second Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, as Joseph Merrick in David Lynch's biopic The Elephant Man (1980). Other significant roles during the 1980s include Bob Champion in biopic Champions (1984), Mr. Braddock in the Stephen Frears drama The Hit (1984), Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), and Stephen Ward in the drama depicting the Profumo affair, Scandal (1989). Hurt was again BAFTA-nominated for his work in Irish drama The Field (1990), and played the primary villain, James Graham, in the epic adventure Rob Roy (1995). His later films include the Harry Potter film series (2001–11), the Hellboy films (2004 and 2008), supernatural thriller The Skeleton Key (2005), western The Proposition (2005), political thriller V for Vendetta (2006), sci-fi adventure Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), and the Cold War espionage film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011). Hurt reprised his role as Quentin Crisp in TV film An Englishman in New York (2009), which brought his seventh BAFTA nomination, and also portrayed the War Doctor in BBC TV series Doctor Who in 2013.[4][5] His last performance will be in Darkest Hour (2017), as former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

Recognised for his distinctive rich voice,[6] Hurt also enjoyed a successful voice acting career in films such as Watership Down (1978), the animated The Lord of the Rings (1978), The Plague Dogs (1982), The Black Cauldron (1985) and Dogville (2003), as well as the BBC TV series Merlin (2008–2012). In 2012, he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement BAFTA Award, in recognition of his "outstanding contribution to cinema".[7] He was knighted in 2015 for his services to drama.

Early life[edit]

Hurt was born on 22 January 1940 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire,[8][9] the son of Phyllis (née Massey; 1907-1975), an amateur actress and engineer, and Arnould Herbert Hurt (1904-1999), a mathematician who became a Church of England clergyman and served as vicar of Shirebrook, Derbyshire.[10][11] Hurt's father was also Vicar of St John's parish in Sunderland, County Durham. In 1937, he moved his family to Derbyshire, where he became Perpetual Curate of Holy Trinity Church. When Hurt was five, his father became the vicar of St Stephen's Church in Woodville, Derbyshire, and remained there until 1952. Hurt had a strict upbringing; the family lived opposite a cinema, but he was not allowed to see films there. He was also not permitted to mix with local children because his parents saw them as "too common".[12]

At the age of eight, Hurt was sent to the Anglican St Michael's Preparatory School in Otford, Kent, where he eventually developed his passion for acting. He decided he wanted to become an actor, and his first role was that of a girl in a school production of The Blue Bird by Maurice Maeterlinck. He has stated that while he was a pupil at the school, he was abused by Donald Cormack (now deceased), then Senior Master of the school and later Headmaster until his retirement in 1981.[13] Hurt said that Cormack would remove his two false front teeth and put his tongue in the boys' mouths, and would rub their faces with his stubble, and that the experience affected him hugely.[14]

Hurt's father moved to St. Aiden's Church in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, and Hurt (then aged 12) became a boarder at Lincoln School (then a grammar school) in Lincoln, because he had failed the entrance examination for admission to his brother's school. Hurt often went with his mother to Cleethorpes Repertory Theatre, but his parents disliked his acting ambitions and encouraged him to become an art teacher instead. His headmaster, Mr Franklin, laughed when Hurt told him he wanted to be an actor, telling him that he "wouldn't stand a chance in the profession".[12]

Aged 17, Hurt enrolled in Grimsby Art School (now the East Coast School of Art and Design), where he studied art. In 1959, he won a scholarship allowing him to study for an Art Teacher's Diploma (ATD) at Saint Martin's School of Art in London.[15] Despite the scholarship, paying his tuition fees and living expenses was difficult, so he persuaded some of his friends to pose naked and sold the portraits. In 1960, he won a scholarship to RADA, where he trained for two years.[14]

Career[edit]

Hurt's first film was The Wild and the Willing (1962), but his first major role was as Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons (1966).[16] He played Timothy Evans, who was hanged for murders committed by his landlord John Christie, in 10 Rillington Place (1971), earning him his first BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His portrayal of Quentin Crisp in the TV play The Naked Civil Servant (1975) gave him prominence and earned him the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor.[16] The following year, Hurt won further acclaim for his bravura performance as the Roman emperor Caligula in the BBC drama serial, I, Claudius. In a much later documentary about the series, I Claudius: A Television Epic (2002), Hurt revealed that he had originally declined the role when it was first offered to him, but that series director Herbert Wise had invited him to a special pre-production party, hoping Hurt would change his mind, and that he was so impressed by meeting the rest of the cast and crew that he reversed his decision and took the role.[17]

Hurt appeared in the 1978 Midnight Express, for which he won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (the latter of which he lost to Christopher Walken for his performance in The Deer Hunter).[17] Around the same time, he lent his voice to Ralph Bakshi's animated film adaptation of Lord of the Rings, playing the role of Aragorn. Hurt voiced Hazel, the heroic rabbit leader of his warren in the film adaptation of Watership Down (both 1978) and later played the major villain, General Woundwort, in the animated television series version.[18] As the deformed John Merrick in The Elephant Man (1980), he won another BAFTA and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actor.[16]

His other roles in the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s included Kane, the first victim of the title creature in the film Alien (1979, a role which he reprised as a parody in Spaceballs); would-be art school radical Scrawdyke in Little Malcolm (1974); and also had a starring role in Sam Peckinpah's critically panned but moderately successful final film, The Osterman Weekend (1983). Also in this period, he starred as the Fool opposite Laurence Olivier's King in King Lear (1983). Hurt also appeared as Raskolnikov in a BBC television adaptation of Crime and Punishment (1979).[19]

Hurt voiced Snitter in the The Plague Dogs, played Winston Smith in the film adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) and starred in Disney's The Black Cauldron (1985), voicing the film's main antagonist, the Horned King. Hurt provided the voiceover for AIDS: Iceberg / Tombstone,[20] a 1986 public information film warning of the dangers of AIDS, and played the title role, the on-screen narrator, in Jim Henson's television series The StoryTeller (1988). He had a supporting role as "Bird" O'Donnell in Jim Sheridan's film The Field (1990), which garnered him another BAFTA nomination and was cast as the reclusive tycoon S.R. Hadden in Contact (1997).[18] During this time, Hurt provided narration on the British musical group Art of Noise's concept album The Seduction of Claude Debussy and narrated a four-part TV series The Universe (1999).

In the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001), he played Mr Ollivander, the wand-maker. He returned for the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, though his scenes in that film were cut. He also returned for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2. In the 2005 film V for Vendetta, he played the role of Adam Sutler, leader of the Norsefire fascist dictatorship and in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) he appeared as Harold Oxley.[21] He voiced the Great Dragon Kilgharrah, who aids the young warlock Merlin as he protects the future king Arthur, in the BBC television series Merlin (also 2008).[22]

Cynthia Nixon, Hurt and Swoosie Kurtz in 2009

More than thirty years after The Naked Civil Servant, Hurt reprised the role of Quentin Crisp in the 2009 film An Englishman in New York. This television film depicts Crisp's later years in New York.[23] Hurt also returned to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, playing the on-screen Big Brother for the Paper Zoo Theatre Company's stage adaptation of the novel in June 2009. The theatre production premiered at the National Media Museum, in Bradford and toured during 2010. Hurt said, "I think Paper Zoo thought it would be quite ironic to have the person who played Winston having risen in the party. From the Chestnut Tree Cafe, he's managed to get his wits together again, now understanding that 2 and 2 make 5, and becomes Big Brother. So it tickled my fancy, and of course I looked up Paper Zoo, and they seem to me to be the sort of company that's essential in the country as we know it, and doing a lot of really good stuff."[24]

Hurt at the London premiere of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in 2011

At the 65th British Academy Film Awards Hurt won the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema. In 2013, Hurt appeared in Doctor Who as a 'forgotten' incarnation of the Doctor, known as the War Doctor.[25] His character first appears at the conclusion of the series seven finale "The Name of the Doctor"; his origins are given in the mini-episode "The Night of the Doctor"; he regenerates in the 50th anniversary episode "The Day of the Doctor",[25] He reprised the role on audio for Big Finish Productions in a series of sets starting from December 2015.[26]

During Terry Gilliam's eight attempt at making his infamous development hell project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Hurt was set to star as Don Quixote alongside Adam Driver. However, his declining health and eventual death led to project to be cancelled yet again; he was eventually replaced by Jonathan Pryce.[27][28]

Hurt was due to appear alongside Ben Kingsley in a film entitled Broken Dream, to be directed by Neil Jordan.[29] In 2015, Hurt provided the voice of the main antagonist Sailor John in the Thomas & Friends film Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure along with Eddie Redmayne and Jamie Campbell Bower. At the time of his death he had completed filming two yet-to-be-released films: That Good Night, in which he plays a terminally ill writer, and Darkest Hour, where he will portray Neville Chamberlain.[30][better source needed]

Personal life[edit]

Hurt had an older brother, Br. Anselm (born Michael), a Roman Catholic convert who became a monk and writer at Glenstal Abbey; Hurt had contributed to his brother's books.[31] Hurt also had an adopted sister, Monica. 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. Hurt's mother died in 1975, and his father died in 1999 at the age of 95.

In 1962, Hurt 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 15 years together; however, on 26 January 1983 Hurt and Volpeliere-Pierrot went riding early in the morning near their house in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire; Volpeliere-Pierrot was thrown off her horse and injured. She went into a coma and died later that day.[32] In September 1984, Hurt married his old friend, American actress Donna Peacock, at a local Register Office. The couple moved to Kenya but divorced in January 1990.[citation needed]

At the 2009 premiere of An Englishman in New York

On 24 January 1990, Hurt married American production assistant Joan Dalton,[18] whom he had met while filming Scandal. With her, he had two sons: Alexander "Sasha" John Vincent Hurt (born 6 February 1990) and Nicholas "Nick" Hurt (born 5 February 1993). This marriage ended in 1996 and was followed by 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 Garech Browne. In July 2002, the couple separated. In March 2005, Hurt married his fourth wife, advertising film producer Anwen Rees-Meyers. He gave up smoking and drinking after his fourth marriage.[33] He lived in Cromer, Norfolk.[34]

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 Emma Stafford had been the illegitimate daughter of a Marquess of Sligo. The genealogical evidence uncovered seemed to contradict the family legend, rendering the suggestion doubtful. 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 been a student.[35]

Illness and death[edit]

On 16 June 2015, Hurt publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer.[36] He confirmed that he would continue to work while undergoing treatment and said that both he and his medical team were "more than optimistic about a satisfactory outcome".[37] Following treatment, Hurt stated that his cancer was in remission on 12 October 2015.[38]

Hurt died at his home in Cromer, Norfolk, on 25 January 2017, three days after his 77th birthday. His death was announced two days later.[39][40]

Appointments and awards[edit]

Honours[edit]

In 2004 Hurt was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[41] He was knighted in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to drama.[42][43] On 17 July 2015, he attended an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle where he received the accolade from Queen Elizabeth II.[44]

In 2012 Hurt was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires.[45][46]

In 2014 Hurt received the Will Award, presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company, along with Stacey Keach and Dame Diana Rigg. The John Hurt Centre opened in September 2016 and is an education and exhibition space located at Cinema City, Norwich.[47]

Charity patron[edit]

Since 2003, Hurt was a patron of the Proteus Syndrome Foundation, both in the United Kingdom and in the US.[48] Proteus syndrome is the condition that Joseph Merrick, whom Hurt played (renamed as John Merrick) in The Elephant Man, is thought to have suffered from, although Merrick's exact condition is still not known with certainty.[49][50][51][52]

Since 2006, Hurt had been a patron of Project Harar, a UK-based charity working in Ethiopia for children with facial disfigurements.[53] Hurt was announced as patron of Norwich Cinema City in March 2013.[54]

University degrees and appointments[edit]

In January 2002, Hurt received an honorary degree from the University of Derby. In January 2006 he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Hull. In 2012 he was appointed the first Chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts.[55][56] On 23 January 2013 he was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts by the University of Lincoln, at Lincoln Cathedral.[57]

Filmography[edit]

Hurt's career spanned six decades. He had roles in more than 129 films with dozens of television roles. The character he portrayed died in 40 of those productions (the counts range from 39 to 42), widely considered to be the record for an actor in mainstream TV/film.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sephton, Connor (29 January 2017). "Acclaimed British actor Sir John Hurt dies from cancer aged 77". Sky News. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  2. ^ Kreps, Daniel (27 January 2017). "John Hurt, Oscar-Nominated 'Elephant Man' Actor, Dead at 77". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  3. ^ Sources that refer to the final scene of Hurt's character in Alien as one of the most memorable in cinematic history include these:
  4. ^ Jones, Paul. "Doctor Who 50th anniversary: John Hurt to play "part of the Doctor"". Radio Times. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Tobin, Christian. "John Hurt teases 'Doctor Who' 50th anniversary special role". Digital Spy. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "John Hurt – Biography". Talk Talk. Retrieved 26 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "John Hurt 'thrilled' with Bafta lifetime achievement honour". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "John Hurt Biography: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor (1940–)". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  9. ^ England and Wales Birth records Archived 16 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 23 August 2014
  10. ^ "John Hurt Biography (1940–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  11. ^ "BBC Radio Derby". Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  12. ^ a b "The Guardian Interview: John Hurt". The Guardian. UK. 1 July 2000. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  13. ^ "History of St Michael's School". Stmichaels.kent.sch.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Sholto Byrnes (16 October 2005). "John Hurt: I was abused, too". Independent on Sunday. London. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  15. ^ Rob Sharp (19 April 2008). Central Saint Martins: The art and soul of Britain Archived 20 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. The Independent (London). Retrieved July 2013.
  16. ^ a b c Seth G. Macy (27 January 2017). "Alien and Harry Potter Actor John HurtDies". IGN. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
  17. ^ a b "Actor John Hurt Is Dead At 77". Fox. 27 January 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
  18. ^ a b c Chris Graham (28 January 2017). "Sir John Hurt, legendary British actor, dies aged 77 after battle with pancreatic cancer". Telegraph. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  19. ^ Jasper Rees (18 April 2007). "Why I'm So Furious with the BBC". Telegraph. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  20. ^ "BFI Screenonline: AIDS: Iceberg / Tombstone". Screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  21. ^ "IESB First Look: Indy IV Looks Back at the Original Trilogy" (Video). IESB. 1 May 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2008. 
  22. ^ Leigh Holmwood (23 July 2008). "Michelle Ryan and John Hurt join all-star cast for BBC1 drama Merlin". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  23. ^ "Actor Hurt to reprise Crisp role". BBC News. 29 April 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2010. 
  24. ^ "The History of John Hurt". Apeyo. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  25. ^ a b Rayner, Gordon (3 July 2013). "Doctor Who's new adversary - the Prince of Wales". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  26. ^ "Doctor Who: The War Doctor - News - Big Finish". 
  27. ^ "John Hurt says he'll star in Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote movie, if it ever happens". AV Club. 23 September 2014. 
  28. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (22 September 2015). "Terry Gilliam's 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' Delayed Again Due To John Hurt's Cancer Diagnosis". The Playlist. Retrieved 6 January 2016. 
  29. ^ "Ben Kinglsey & John Hurt for Neil Jordan – John Boorman's 'Broken Dream'". IFTN. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  30. ^ "A terminally ill writer saying his final goodbyes and a former Prime Minister as Churchill battles Hitler: John Hurt's last roles set for release from beyond the grave". Daily Mail. 
  31. ^ "Br. Alselm's cookbook". Glenstal.org. 17 October 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  32. ^ Norman, Michael (2 December 1990). "John Hurt: Always in Character". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  33. ^ "Never lose the edge - John Hurt interview". 
  34. ^ "Acting legend John Hurt talks about his upcoming BAFTA award and life living near Cromer". Johnhurt.co.uk. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  35. ^ "Who Do You Think You Are? – John Hurt". BBC Magazine. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  36. ^ "Actor John Hurt reveals cancer diagnosis: agency". Reuters. 16 June 2015. Archived from the original on 16 June 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  37. ^ "'John Hurt 'more than optimistic' as he reveals pancreatic cancer diagnosis'". The Guardian. 15 June 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015. 
  38. ^ "'John Hurt "overjoyed" and "thrilled" at cancer remission news'". DigitalSpy. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  39. ^ "Sir John Hurt: Bafta-winning actor dies aged 77". BBC News. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  40. ^ Coveney, Michael (28 January 2017). "Sir John Hurt obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  41. ^ "Actor Hurt earns his CBE". BBC News. 9 December 2004. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  42. ^ "(Supplement) no. 61092". The London Gazette. 31 December 2014. p. N2. 
  43. ^ 2015 New Year Honours List Archived 2 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  44. ^ "'Proud' John Hurt Receives Knighthood". Sky News. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  45. ^ "New faces on Sgt Pepper album cover for artist Peter Blake's 80th birthday". The Guardian. 5 October 2016. 
  46. ^ "Sir Peter Blake's new Beatles' Sgt Pepper's album cover". BBC. 9 November 2016. 
  47. ^ "The John Hurt Centre". Norfolk at the Pictures. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  48. ^ "Proteus Syndrome Foundation UK". proteus-syndrome.org.uk. 
  49. ^ Tibbles JA, Cohen MM (1986). "The Proteus syndrome: the Elephant Man diagnosed". Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 293 (6548): 683–5. doi:10.1136/bmj.293.6548.683. PMC 1341524Freely accessible. PMID 3092979. 
  50. ^ Spiring P (Jun 2001). "The improbable "Elephant Man"". Biologist (London). p. 104. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  51. ^ "Ancient DNA analysis unveils mystery of history's most horribly deformed man -- The Elephant Man". EurekAlert!. 21 July 2003. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  52. ^ Highfield, Roger (22 July 2003). "Science uncovers handsome side of the Elephant Man". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  53. ^ "John Hurt". Project Harar. 19 July 2006. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  54. ^ Sabah Meddings (29 March 2013). "John Hurt announced as new patron of Norwich's Cinema City". EDP24. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  55. ^ "Hollywood glamour marks the official renaming of Norwich University of the Arts". Nua.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  56. ^ "Hollywood legend takes up Norwich University post". ITV News. 29 June 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  57. ^ "John Hurt CBE joins honoraries at January graduation" Archived 22 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine. University of Lincoln. 21 January 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.

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