Although Bob Hoskins first became widely known to American audiences as a detective assigned to investigate a cartoon rodent in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), the balding, burly actor had long been recognized in his native England as a performer of exceptional versatility, capable of playing characters from working-class toughs to Shakespearean villains.
Born in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, on October 26, 1942, where his mother had been sent to get away from the then-raging London Blitz, Hoskins was sent back to London with his mother when he was only two weeks old. Growing up in a solidly working-class family in post-war London, Hoskins stayed in school until he was 15, and he then abandoned formal education in favor of a string of diverse jobs. Over the course of the next ten years, he worked as a Covent Garden porter, member of the Norwegian Merchant Marines, steeplejack, plumber's assistant, banana picker, circus fire-eater, trainee accountant, and even spent time working on a kibbutz in Israel. At the age of 25, having garnered a lifetime's worth of unusual experiences, Hoskins got into acting. Hanging out at a pub one night with a friend who was auditioning for a play, he was asked to read for a part in the production. He got the part, and in the course of performing, was approached by an agent who suggested that Hoskins take up acting professionally and began arranging auditions for him. From there, Hoskins began acting onstage, working throughout the '60s, '70s, and '80s with such theatres as London's Royal Court and National Theatre and as a member of such troupes as The Royal Shakespeare Company.