One of the top leading men of the '80s, William Hurt is notable for his intensity and effective portrayals of complex characters. Although born in Washington, D.C., Hurt had already seen much of the world by the time he was grown, as his father worked for the State Department. His early years spent in the South Pacific near Guam, Hurt moved to Manhattan with his mother after his parents divorced when he was six years old. He spent the summers with his father, vacationing in a variety of international locales, including Sudan. At the age of ten, Hurt's life again changed dramatically when he became a stepson to Henry Luce III, the heir to the Time-Life empire. His mother's second marriage indirectly led to Hurt's initial involvement with the theater: sent away to a boarding school in Massachusetts, he found comfort in acting.
After going on to Tufts University to study theology for three years at his stepfather's urging, Hurt married aspiring actress Mary Beth Supinger and followed her to London to study drama. Upon their return to the U.S., Hurt studied drama at Juilliard. By this time, under the realization that his marriage was failing, Hurt divorced his wife, got a motorcycle, and headed cross country for the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, OR, where he made his professional debut in a production of Hamlet. He later joined New York's Circle Repertory Company, and went on to receive critical acclaim for his work on the New York stage.