• Actor Bob Hoskins attends the Moet British Independent Film Awards at Old Billingsgate Market on December 5, 2010 in London. (Getty)
Bob Hoskins, who rose to fame in British gangster movies and went on to have a long career as a Hollywood character actor, died at the age of 71.
1 May 2014 - 2:33 AM  UPDATED 1 May 2014 - 8:04 AM

British actor Bob Hoskins, the gruff star of films including Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Long Good Friday, has died at the age of 71, following a bout of pneumonia.

The short, stocky Londoner, who rose to fame in British gangster movies in the 1980s and went on to have a long career as a Hollywood character actor, died in hospital on Tuesday night.

Hoskins, who was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for playing a petty criminal in Mona Lisa in 1986, retired in 2012 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Hollywood stars, including Samuel L. Jackson and James Woods, led tributes from the world of film, while his family spoke of their grief.

"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob," said a statement from his wife Linda and the couple's two children Rosa and Jack, as well as Hoskins's two children from his first marriage, Alex and Sarah.

"Bob died peacefully at hospital last night surrounded by family, following a bout of pneumonia," they said.

"We ask that you respect our privacy during this time and thank you for your messages of love and support."

Born in Suffolk in eastern England after his mother was evacuated from London during World War II, Hoskins left school at the age of 15 and worked in a series of odd jobs, including in a circus and as a lorry driver.

He claimed he only got into acting by accident, after being mistakenly called to try out for a play while waiting for a friend to finish his audition.

Hoskins began working in TV and broke through into film with his portrayal of a doomed London gangster in The Long Good Friday in 1980, which won him a Bafta nomination.

Despite his diminutive stature, he was a powerful presence on screen, exuding seething, barely-concealed anger.

But he also had a comic touch, and one of his best known roles was as the detective trying to work out Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the eponymous cartoon hero, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1989.

Although Hoskins was known for his distinctive Cockney accent, he renounced it for an American drawl when the work required, including in Oliver Stone's biopic Nixon, in which he played former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover.

He claimed he was on standby to play Al Capone in Brian De Palma's Oscar-winning 1987 thriller The Untouchables before Robert De Niro agreed to the role and said the director later sent him a cheque.

More recent success came with a Globe nomination in 2006 for Mrs Henderson Presents with Judi Dench, while other hits included his role as the sailor Smee in Steven Spielberg's Hook and Mermaids with Cher and Winona Ryder.

Hoskins was highly prolific and many of his films sank without a trace, a fact some critics attributed to his claim never to prepare for a new job.

For many Britons he was just as well known for starring in adverts in the 1990s for British Telecom, now BT, in which he cheerily declared: "It's good to talk."

But there was an outpouring of affection on Twitter following news of his death.

Samuel L. Jackson was one of the first to pay tribute, saying he was "truly saddened" at his death. "A truly gigantic talent & a gentleman. R.I.P," the film star said on Twitter.

James Woods, who starred with Hoskins in Nixon in 1995, tweeted: "Oh man, what a terrible loss. A great guy and a superb artist."

Britain's new culture minister, Sajid Javid, said Hoskins's work "brought so much pleasure to so many".

Hoskins' last acting role was one of the seven dwarves in the film Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Twilight actress Kristen Stewart.