Fuck. That was my initial reaction to today’s sad news.
I never met Philip Seymour Hoffman. Unless you float in the circles of film and Broadway, it’s unlikely you did either. We won’t get the chance now. I always wanted to meet him though; he was always in my dream acting casts. No matter whether it was a comedy, drama or horror, Philip Seymour Hoffman was always good. It’s not right to talk about him in the past tense. It seems unfair to him and us. There was so much more in store.
Hoffman was born in Fairport, New York on the 23 July 1967 to mother Marilyn, a family court judge and lawyer, and father Gordon, a former Xerox executive. His parents divorced in 1976. From the outset, Hoffman’s greatest desire was to act. He attended the 1984 Theatre School at the NY State Summer School of Arts, as well as earning a BFA in drama in 1989 from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In fact, at NYU he was a founding member of the theatre company the Bullstoi Ensemble, with Bennett Miller – the director who steered him towards Oscar glory in Capote.
His big break was as a defendant in a rape case in Law & Order in 1991. From there, Hoffman soared. He delivered comedy with the Coens in The Big Lebowski, he delivered quiet rage via PTA in The Master, he delivered wit in Capote, he produced one of the best villains in recent years in MI:3 and he even provided a touch of class in the latest Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The pattern is obvious – Philip Seymour Hoffman could deliver in any role in any genre every time. Any time you saw Hoffman’s name attached to a project or on top of a poster, your expectations instantly rose in a feature.
Take a look at Hoffman’s IMDB page right now. Are there any flaws? The films themselves may not be all gems, but he was always on top form. For example, Along Came Polly is pretty weak but he was truly hilarious. So the point goes, the film wasn’t great but he was. The critics of Broadway and film knew it too. He had achieved 72 award wins in just his 23 years of career. His last Oscar nomination came just last year for his blistering turn in The Master – Hoffman’s best work wasn’t behind him, it was ahead.
Sadly, it is now behind him. His battle with drug addiction – centrally heroin – finally defeated him in his West Village, Manhattan apartment on 2 February 2014. I don’t care if there was a needle sticking out of his arms or whatever other useless details the press release or discover. The fact is a great actor has passed. The best actor of his generation by miles. He was never the pin up boy for GQ magazine but every time you saw him before, you could believe the art of acting was alive and well. The art of acting was not simply a pay cheque opportunity, it was stage for which a person may enter another form and enthrall an audience all over again. That’s what an actor should be able to do. He just wanted to act and by God, the man could act.
He will be sorely missed.