This is a short tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the greatest actors to hit the silver screen.
I first noticed Hoffman in Almost Famous. He played the jaded rock critic Lester Bangs, who briefly mentored the lead character, William Miller, on how to conduct an interview with a fairly obscure rock band.
It was a short but endearing role in what became one of the great indie films of the new millennium.
from Almost Famous (2000)
Then I saw him in Boogie Nights.
from Boogie Nights (1997) (via blu-screens.tumblr.com)
Older than Almost Famous by three years, Paul Thomas Anderson’s breakthrough film featured Hoffman in a small supporting role, playing a gay boom operator, Scotty, who was in love with the lead character.
To me, of course, he was still ‘that guy who had played Lester Bangs.’
Little did I know of the power brewing inside this actor. It took a while for it to come to the fore.
Next came The Talented Mr. Ripley. I had already watched that film, but hadn’t placed him in it. During a second viewing, a few years later, there he was, playing Freddie Miles, the arrogant, contemptuous socialite.from The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
And just like that, Hoffman started appearing everywhere I looked, in new films as well as older ones: Scent Of A Woman, Patch Adams, Twister, When A Man Loves A Woman, The Big Lebowski, Along Came Polly. Who can forget the scene with him and Ben Stiller playing basketball?
Over the next ten years, Hoffman made his appearance in a bunch of great films, both as leading man and supporting character. He was phenomenal in either position, assuming control of the silver screen when in charge, always complementing the lead when in a supporting role.
His latest and last film with Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master, saw him take charge of the screen as Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic writer/kook, who led a cult of damaged people seeking answers in a confused, post-war America. Playing alongside an inspired Joaquin Phoenix (Freddie Quell) Hoffman helped create one of the most memorable acting duets in recent times.
But perhaps the role for which I — and many others — will remember him, the role that defined him as an actor of supreme class, was Capote.
This role not only defined Hoffman as one of the greats, but also revealed that carefully concealed part of himself that would later come to surface, after his death. The apparent effortlessness and ease with which he portrayed Capote’s wrangled soul, his haunted, tormented nature, revealed that here was not just an actor giving a great performance. Here was a man identifying with his role.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Feb 02, 2014. The apparent cause of death was a drug overdose.
The public reeled in shock and horror at his untimely death. His loss was tremendous to the field of acting and movie making, and to culture in general.
One may wonder what led Hoffman to such loneliness and alienation, what drove him back to drugs (he had been a user from an early age, a habit he had evidently not kicked, as some had believed) and self-destructive behavior.
One can never really say. Gifted people, like all people, have their demons, which they deal with in a number of ways.
Perhaps Russell Brand, recovering addict and activist, put it best. In an article for the Guardian on Feb 06, 2014, he wrote about Hoffman’s untimely death: ‘In spite of his life seeming superficially great, in spite of all the praise and accolades, in spite of all the loving friends and family, there is a predominant voice in the mind of an addict that supersedes all reason and that voice wants you dead. This voice is the unrelenting echo of an unfulfillable void.’
There is no answering what we don’t (and can never) really know. There is only dealing with the issue of drug use and the lousy laws that surround it, so that people of all kinds, be they famous like Hoffman, or unknowns, like Joe Schmoe, will never die from overdoses again.
Hoffman passed away five days ago. He was unlucky (or lucky) enough to have lived a short but memorable life. This means that even though his body is no longer with us, his spirit is, living on through his performances on the silver screen, and in our fond memories.