Written by Lily Davis.
The recent loss of outstanding and respected actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has reverberated around the world.
The details of his death, which leaked into the news with astounding speed, were devastating. On February 2nd, a friend found Hoffman dead in the bathroom of his New York City apartment. He allegedly passed away from an overdose, as he was discovered with a hypodermic needle in his arm and with heroin in the apartment. Hoffman had openly admitted to heavy drug use in his younger years. However, he had been reportedly clean for over two decades. In 2013 he relapsed and admitted himself into a rehabilitation facility. Tragically, he passed away at only 46 years of age.
His long-term partner, costume designer Mimi O’Donnell, survives Hoffman. Together they had three young children. Hoffman always made an incredible effort to keep them out of the public eye, which hopefully will continue after the shocking news of his death.
His family have released a statement saying; “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone. This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving. Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers.”
This is also an incredible loss for the arts community. There has been a wealth of tributes to Hoffman flowing from Hollywood. Philip Seymour Hoffman has frequently been referred to as one of the great actors of his generation, and for good reason. He had a mesmerising screen presence, often commanding every scene he was in. He possessed a natural gift for performance, making itÂ difficult not to be captivated in even the smallest of parts.
Hoffman’s love of performance began from an early age. When he was a young boy his mother loved to take him to theatre productions. He once told the New York Times how he was especially moved by seeing All My Sons when he was 12 years of age. At 17 he was accepted into the New York Summer School of the Arts and he continued to study acting from then on. He showed a striking gift for the stage in plays such as The Skriker and Shopping and F***ing. Hoffman’s real passion was said to be the theatre, not that you could tell from the fantastic energy and concentration he brought to the screen.
He was one of the most versatile working actors. He was the true definition of a character actor, and chose his parts with great care. Hoffman often favoured those roles that possessed a unique depth and quality.
His first major film part was in 1992 when he appeared alongside Al Pacino and Chris O’Donnell in Scent Of A Woman. Personally, I first saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous (2000). His character, Lester Bangs, was utterly charming. You can imagine being the 15-year-old William Miller and becoming enchanted by Bangs’ wisdom, charisma and kindness.
Hoffman stood out in so many of his film roles. Reflecting on his career immediately brings to mind his part in Boogie Nights (1997), as the flamboyant Scotty, the stickler Brandt in the Coen Brothers’ classic The Big Lebowski (1998) and the wonders he worked with his intriguing yet repulsive character in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999). Hoffman then demonstrated his ability to portray realism with his superb performance in the dark comedy The Savages (2007).
He always truly morphed into his different personas, which illustrates the mastery he had in his craft. It was Bennett Miller’s 2005 film Capote that finally won Hoffman his Best Actor Oscar. This was undoubtedly deserved. HisÂ depiction of Truman Capote writing In Cold Blood was simply astounding. To watch Hoffman in this role was to watch him transform – it was a captivating performance. Hoffman was also nominated several times for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Master (2012), Doubt (2008) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007).
At the time of his death Hoffman was involved in filming the second part of the final Hunger Games instalment. He also had several projects scheduled for release in 2014 including; God’s Pocket, A Most Wanted Man and Happyish.
Despite landing consistent film roles, Hoffman also continued his work in theatre. After working alongside Cate Blanchett in The Talented Mr Ripley, they developed a friendship. He travelled to Australia to visit her and her husband Andrew Upton at the Sydney Theatre Company, where they invited him to work on a production of True West. In 2012 he received a Tony nomination for his performance as Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman. Throughout his career he was nominated for a Tony award a total of three times. He also worked on many theatre projects in a director’s capacity.
Philip Seymour Hoffman openly battled with self-doubt throughout his life, but his emotion only transferred into the depth of his performances. He was undoubtedly one of my favourite actors. I was always astounded by the power of his performances and he had my utmost respect. He always seemed to be a humble man of great intellect.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of loss for someone that is essentially a stranger. It’s amazing that so many people have been able to feel a strong connection with Hoffman, and so many other actors, by simply watching them on screen. There is a strange relationship that exists between audiences and the actors they love to watch so regularly. Perhaps it’s through the vulnerability of performance that we feel such a bond. Whatever the reason, this loss feels profound. I am not alone in thinking this. There have been outpourings of feelings of loss on social media platforms, which is a testament to Hoffman and his legacy.
He once said; “Acting is so difficult for me that, unless the work is of a certain stature in my mind, unless I reach the expectations I have of myself, I’m unhappy. Then it’s a miserable existence. I’m putting a piece of myself out there. If it doesn’t do anything, I feel so ashamed. I’m afraid I’ll be the kind of actor who thought he would make a difference and didn’t. Right now, though, I feel like I made a little bit of difference.”
There’s no doubt he did.
Rest in peace Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967 – 2014).