Phillip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014
The news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death rocked America this weekend. Hoffman was discovered dead in his downtown Manhattan apartment, Sunday morning after failing to pick up his children from his estranged partner and he did no show up for a meeting with a friend as well. Allegedly he was found with a needle still in his arm and mostly likely died of a heroine overdose. This overdose is just one of dozens that have rocked the East Coast in the last few months. Many of these were caused by heroine being cut with another deadly narcotic.
Faced with the tragic death of a great talent, it is difficult to not comment on drug addiction in America, or the drug culture of Hollywood versus the drug culture of the rest of America. The tragedy will and should fuel worldwide discussion. However, during this discussion let’s not judge Philip Seymour Hoffman. There were many disturbing and vicious posts on news media websites this weekend practically “saying he got what he deserved” and “no one cares about some actor dying.” Enough Said.
Instead let’s us celebrate the magnificent and singular talent of one of the greatest actors working today. His uncanny turn as Truman Capote is so brilliant and believable that I cannot remember what the real Capote looked or sounded like in archival footage. Hoffman was a chameleon, without vanity. He often played small parts in big movies and even small parts in small movies, and he was often the best thing in an otherwise bad movie. I recall seeing “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and thinking he was much more interesting than Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon. I kept thinking why doesn’t this guy have a bigger part?
He was able to play anything and anyone and often I would see him in a movie and not recognize him right away. This ability to blend in so easily came from humility, and his attention to craft instead of stardom or celebrity. Lumpy, frumpy, often disheveled, bearded and bespectacled, it is clear that Hoffman became famous because he was an actor and not a handsome celebrity. Because of his everydayness and his desire to not be noticed he was able to be versatile and disappear into his roles. I can’t recall the last time I saw Hoffman on a talk show and I work in television.
In the future his reputation will continue to soar as the films of the last twenty years are viewed over and over again. Hoffman is one of those actors that you cannot honestly compare to any other actor working today. There will not be any call for “Get me a Phillip Seymour Hoffman type.”
Tuesday, February 9, 2016, Watertown, NY