William Hurt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Macon Leary in The Accidental Tourist.
William Hurt had received three Oscar nominations in a row. He found himself nominated from 85 to 87, but he was not nominated this year despite the fact that his film was nominated for best picture. It seems the academy, as well as most everyone else just decided this was the drop off point for William Hurt as a leading man for whatever reason. After this none of his leading performances made a stamp in the awards season and he did not find himself Oscar nominated again until he was well embedded as a character actor instead. His snub here really did seem to mean more than just not being nominated for an Oscar honestly.
It is a real shame though that William Hurt was forgotten for his leading man work here as I have to say I really like Hurt as a leading man. Hurt is just has a certain screen presence that creates a great deal of likability which is most certainly true of this performance. He is very unassuming as the travel guide writer Macon Leary, and this really works very well for the part. Hurt is careful in his portrayal in he emotes just enough in his part, in that he is someone we can easily follow through his personal story as he pulls us into his character's troubles rather than pushing away with them as one easily could do.
The pressing element on Macon is the death of his son which Hurt portrays marvelously because it is something that he realizes in the subtleties of his performance. There is a depression in his performance, but Hurt is terrific becuase he shows the depression without this being left as a depressed performance. He is very moving in his rather short moments that are very underplayed by him. These scenes are effective because he brings to life the sadness in Macon from the death of his son as something that has settled within to a certain point that it leaves him not a man of constant overwhelming grief, but instead an internalized grief that leaves him in his haunted state.
One could argue this film is in a part a romantic comedy involving Macon's relationship with his recently divorced wife Sara (Kathleen Turner), and his relationship with a stalker like dog trainer Muriel (Geena Davis). Hurt though does not at all seem like the romantic leading man with his performance here. In his scenes with both Davis and Turner Hurt does not at all portray the romantic angle in really any scene with them. This actually works in favor to his character and the film as he portrays both relationships in a most unorthodox fashion. In both situations though Hurt portrays Macon as a haunted man attempting reaching to find some happiness, but is really unable to break the certain malaise that he cannot escape from.
In his relationship with Turner's Sara, Hurt is effective in portraying the distance that was caused by the death of their son as well as by her own decision to separate at the beginning of the film. When she tries to reconnect with Macon Hurt is quite good because he shows the appropriate familiarity with her that explains why he returns to her, but he is strong in his ability to create that distance that never does leave him when he is with her. The other relationship with Muriel the dog trainer is very different but Hurt handles it equally well. In the beginning Hurt is quietly amusing with how taken aback Macon is by her persistence. Even when he lives with her Hurt is consistent portraying Macon as looking for something but still not really finding it.
Hurt knows how to portray Macon's very slow change as in his scenes as he slowly opens up, Hurt portrays perhaps a happiness but not one that can ever overcome his sadness as well as in equal measure a certain confusion over what he really wants. The confusion and the sadness do not really subside in one moment but Hurt instead more powerfully shows it to be something that slowly wears away. His final moment of the film, in fact the very final shot, is just perfectly played by Hurt as he shows finally the persistence of Muriel allows him to break out of his sadness with a simple but powerful smile. This is a very strong performance by William Hurt that is a moving depiction of his character's plight, as well as more simply as a charming leading man.