Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead this morning in NYC’s Greenwich Village, of an apparent drug overdose. A New York native and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, the 46-year-old Hoffman had entered rehab for drug and alcohol addiction right after graduating in 1989, and after nearly 15 years of sobriety, had re-entered a facility last May after briefly relapsing. The versatile and prolific actor, owner of an Oscar for his lead performance in Capote (2006), had most recently been seen by many as Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and was in the process of filming the two-part follow-up installment The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. It had recently been announced the Amy Adams was signed on to appear in his second directorial effort, Ezekiel Moss.
When I watched the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis last Christmas, filmed in his neighborhood, I half expected Seymour Hoffman to turn up, so good that he had been in a small but key role in The Big Lebowski (1998). His first big screen appearance had been in Steve Martin’s Leap of Faith (1992), a highly appropriate screen debut. Here are some other key roles:
Scotty J., Boogie Nights (1997) – having already established himself as a solid and unique supporting actor, as well as having established a working relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson in his previous directorial debut Hard Eight (1996), this was the role that took Seymour Hoffman to the next level, his slovenly yearning for Mark Wahlberg’s porn actor heading in all sorts of perverse directions, almost creating a new genre in itself, recently manifested in Joaquin Phoenix’ performance in Spike Jonze’s Oscar-contender Her.
Allan, Happiness (1998) – as Lara Flynn Boyle’s rejected ‘caller’ in Todd Solondz’ iconically dark film, PHS expands on his zone in Boogie Nights, taking it closer to the ‘mainstream.’ He would move further in this direction acting next to De Niro in the next year’s Flawless.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and Almost Famous (2000) – two key supporting roles, the first showing he could also play more of a ‘straight’ man, and the other and early portrayal of a ‘real’ character, rock journalist Lester Bangs.
Capote (2006) – a tour-de-force biographical performance, that established him among Hollywood’s new elite.
Synecdoche, New York (2008) – his performance in Charlie Kaufman’s ambitious spectacle about the blurring of fantasy and reality, and the difficulties of surviving as a creator, was perhaps a premonition?
Moneyball (2011) – his performance as former Oakland A’s manager Art Howe is almost literally ‘out of left field’ for PHS, showing just how versatile, yet real, he could be.
The Master (2012) – PHS back with PTA, and his performance opposite co-star Joaquin Phoenix, essentially portraying Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard, is devastating, in retrospect on many levels.
May you finally rest in piece, Philip Seymour…
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