Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Image by Dan Kosmayer / Shutterstock.com
The great Philip Seymour Hoffman died this Sunday, February 2, 2014. According to the entire Internet, his death (at the age of 46) was caused by an apparent drug overdose, following a long struggle with drug abuse. The incredible actor, director, and all around creative genius, will be greatly, greatly missed. His characters have been an absolutely integral piece of the cinema industry, and there may not be an actor of his caliber to grace the screen for a long while.
Hoffman began to impress audiences with films such as Boogie Nights and The Big Lebowski (Brandt is still the best character in that flick), but I was first introduced to him in Almost Famous, in which he played the music journalist Lester Bangs. In Cameron Crowe’s most awesome film, Hoffman was big and boisterous, as well as the true heart of the story. Since then, he’s portrayed all kinds of characters, from rock and roll pirates to writer Truman Capote.
At the time of his death, he was slated to star in the two Mockingjay films as Plutarch Heavensbee, and probably many other fantastic projects to which he would have given his signature performance. His last film to grant him critical acclaim was The Master, the praise coming from his role as Lancaster Dodd.
Hoffman has always been one of the more inspiring actors in Hollywood, committing to every single character with explosive and subtle acting choices. His chops have made every single film he’s been in a treat to watch; even disasters such as Mission Impossible III were kinda rad because of his involvement. Also, he performed to perfection a good number of roles on the stage. For instance, he was Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in 2012 (I would have loved to see that). The film and theater communities have lost a giant.
For those of you not acquainted with the actor’s body of work, I’d say start near the beginning and enjoy the ride. The Coen Brothers made one of their best casting choices ever when they gave him the small role of Brandt in The Big Lebowski. Sure, it wasn’t that big of a role, but his performance stands out to this day. As well, in Almost Famous, he tied the whole film together with his volcanic portrayal of Lester Bangs, a role that he got to revisit (at least in spirit) in The Boat That Rocked (on the whole, not a great film, but worth watching for his antics as The Count). And oh my god Capote.
Hoffman really made a mark in the realm of character acting. Very few had (or have) the range he had. Synecdoche, New York featured him as a suffering artist with endless neuroses, and then there was the villainous Owen Davian (it may be apparent that I still have some Hoffman to catch up on myself).
It is with a heavy heart that we wish PSH a swell journey into the afterlife, but it is with joy that we celebrate an actor that set the bar higher than almost any other performer of his time. There isn’t a single role in the Hoffman canon that doesn’t prove his commitment to the art, and his absolute mastery of the form will continue to inspire. His struggle with drugs should remind everyone of their very real dangers. If Hoffman enjoys the immortality afforded to those who have given their hearts and souls to timeless media, one piece of that story should be a cautionary chapter, one that we confronted with Heath Ledger’s death, and that of many others.
Rock on, Philip Seymour Hoffman, the words of your amazing characters shall ring true forever. “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool” (Almost Famous). Amen, PSH, amen.