One of, inarguably, the finest actors currently working and, arguably, one of the most iconic to ever grace a screen has passed away. Philip Seymour Hoffman was found in his apartment today, dead from an apparent overdose. The actor long struggled with narcotics, and it was significant news very recently that we had sought help and seemed to be on upswing.
First it must be said that mine and any thoughtful person’s hearts go out to Mimi O’Donnell, with whom Hoffman had been in relationship for nearly a decade and a half. They had three children together —Cooper Alexander, Tallulah, and Willa– and I sink when I think of what they’ll have to go through now. Their’s is the true loss today.
For us, the sadness is both in honor of a monumental body of work, and for the potential of a man who was merely 46 and still doing work as vivid as ever. While many first spotted him in Twister –where he plays the competent goof with a real sense of joy– it was Boogie Nights the following year that foreshadowed the iconic roles that were to follow. The Big Lebowski, then Happiness, then Patch Adams, then Flawless, then Magnolia with PTA again… awards and accolades rained on Hoffman early and frequently. Since then he’s never gone more than few years without gifting us with some kind of interesting, thunderous performance.
Recently. Hoffman was being introduced as a rich force for a whole new generation with his work in the Hunger Games franchise that was sure to blossom into a fun role. He was beginning to develop his skills as a director, having already released Jack Goes Boating with another project in the works. In 2012 he played Willy Loman on Broadway- the latest role in a long, equally rich theatrical career. This was a man nearing the heigh of his powers. It’s unlikely that we ever got to see the peak of the mountain.
This is sometimes the price of brilliant work however. Hoffman so often bared his sad, broken side for us, wrapped in vastly different personalities and often couched in great humor. He was showing us some thing raw though. Showing us something real that clearly ate at him. I can only hope he enjoyed more good times than bad in his struggles.
But the roles. A dozen iconic roles that any actor alive would have kill to get one of. Happiness. The Master. Capote. Almost Famous. Charlie Wilson’s War. Synecdoche, NY. He had an equal talent for making small roles iconic, whether they were housed in a great movie or not… Red Dragon, M:I3, and Moneyball immediately coming to mind. Today is one of the few where I’m pleased I have so many movies remaining to catch up with. It means I have many great Hoffman performances to discover.
I’m only going to choose one clip to share here. It’s my favorite. It’s the one that I’ve enjoyed sharing with people the most. Maybe it’s not the best –I’m sure I could pull something from the brilliant, death-and-meaning-fixated Synecdoche, NY that would be more appropriate– but it’s my favorite.
Mourn for his work lost, wish well for his loved ones, and celebrate his achievements. It’s all we can do.
I would love for you to share your favorite PSH scenes in the comments, along with any thoughts you have. (If you include a youtube link, the player should appear in your comment.)