Philip Seymour Hoffman Death – (1967 – 2014)
A lot of celebrities have passed away recently, but none have saddened me the way Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely demise at the age of 46 has. He was perhaps the greatest actor of our generation. Whether it was an insecure former child actor who frequently sharted or a desperate bank robber coping with the fact he killed his own mother, Hoffman played every role to perfection making these seemingly outrageous characters real and empathetic.
A B.F.A graduate of New York University’s much heralded Tisch School of the Arts, Hoffman began his acting career like all of the greats do — on stage. Winning two Tony Award nominations, Hoffman starred in many classics on Broadway including True West, The Seagull, The Merchant of Venice and Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. This next week instead of marathoning American Dad on Netflix, check out some of this actor’s finest film work.
1990 – LAW & ORDER – “The Violence in the Summer” – Season 1, Episode 14
Hoffman caught his big break by appearing on that Dick Wolf show just about every East Coast based actor appears on once in their life. He played Steven Hanauer, a cocky little sociopath who raped a girl at a Frat party. Even with his relatively short screen time, you could see the immense talent and knack for subtlety he possessed. Samuel L. Jackson also was featured in this episode as Hoffman’s lawyer.
1997 – BOOGIE NIGHTS
Paul Thomas Anderson’s first masterpiece about the San Fernando Valley porn industry in the 70s. Hoffman plays Scotty J, a whimpy latently homosexual boom mic operator that falls in love with Mark Wahlberg. A brilliant scene features Hoffman trying to impress Wahlberg with his new car, then trying to make out with him. Cinema doesn’t get more awkward than this.
1998 – HAPPINESS
Easily his creepiest role, Hoffman plays Allen, a sexually deviant and emotionally introverted office worker in Todd Solondz’s pitch black comedy Happiness. Randomly selecting numbers out of a phone book, Allen asks mundane and awkward questions to his victims while gratifying himself. What’s amazing about this performance is how pitiful he is able to make this character, even though the things he does are so unsettling and graphically portrayed.
2002 – LOVE LIZA
An excruciatingly depressing movie that is saved by an outstanding Hoffman as a web designer haunted by the random suicide of his wife, Liza. Carrying around his wife’s unopened suicide note, Hoffman travels from place to place, huffing gasoline or anything else to get him high or dead. This will be a difficult watch considering the parallels between this character and Hoffman’s struggles in real life, but any cinephile owes it to themselves to witness this monumental performance.
2005 – CAPOTE
Most will call this Hoffman’s greatest performance as the legendary writer and gossip mill Truman Capote. Hoffman looks nothing like the real Capote and yet is able to completely transform into him, nailing all of his mannerisms and vocal patterns. Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for this. It was one of the most uncomfortable acceptance speeches I’ve ever seen, but it showed how shy and gentle of a human being he was off camera.
2007 – BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD
One of Hoffman’s most underrated performances and one of legendary director Sidney Lumet’s most underrated movies, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a crime caper about consequences. Hoffman plays the older more successful brother of a middle class family, while Ethan Hawke is the younger screw-up. Both desperate for money, they stage a robbery of their parent’s jewelry store but everything goes awry when their mother is unexpectedly killed during the heist.
2007 – CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
Hoffman’s comedic tour-de-force, as Gust Avrakotos, a grizzled CIA operative who has done the job too long to give a crap anymore. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are solid in their roles, but Hoffman completely hijacks the movie in a role that won him another Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
2008 – SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
Charlie Kaufman’s surreal and viciously pessimistic directorial debut about an ambitious artist, Caden(Hoffman), trying to create the ultimate piece of live theater. Focusing on Caden’s awful luck with women and mostly his inability to relate with anyone else on a human level, Synecdoche, New York is really a story about narcissism becoming insanity.
Hoffman is absolutely riveting in one of his more understated roles, and is given support by a solid line-up of female performers including Samantha Mathis, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener and Emily Watson.
2012 – THE MASTER
Philip saved the best for last. Paul Thomas Anderson’s final collaboration with the actor earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination. He should have won.As the charismatic and manipulative cult leader Lancaster Dodd (loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard), Hoffman is electrifying as a man who thinks he knows the answers to everything. As the film progresses, you slowly start to see he is as lost as his followers. Joaquin Phoenix also stars an alcoholic drifter. The two share a scene that is perhaps the finest film acting I’ve ever seen in my life.
Philip Seymour Hoffman can never be replaced. His talent was so rare, it only comes around once in a life time. He was more than just my favorite actor, he was my idol and role model. He showed that a character actor could anchor a film even without movie star good looks. He has touched and inspired so many young actors, and his work will continue to do so for many years to come. I am utterly heart broken.