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Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967 – 2014)

February 3, 2014

I had planned to post about Pete Seeger today, and I will soon.  But I was genuinely moved yesterday by the sudden death of Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent heroin overdose.  Celebrity deaths rarely affect me.  Hoffman’s did.  The humanity he could infuse into even the smallest of roles was astonishing.  And it never seemed forced.

He was an arrogant rich kid in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a boisterous middle-class one in Twister, and a pathetic poor one in Boogie Nights.   He’s been a political operative, a nurse, a religious leader, a pirate DJ, a recovering alcoholic and a writer for Rolling Stone.  After establishing himself as a standout supporting actor, Hoffman — a large man — morphed into diminutive Truman Capote and won an Oscar for best actor of 2005.

He could make unappealing characters accessible, even fascinating.  As a sleazy journalist in Red Dragon, he delivered a knockout scene in which he reacted in abject horror to off-screen mutilations.  As a creep in Happiness and a gambling addict in Owning Mahoney, Hoffman didn’t make them sympathetic, but rather showed us why they did what they did.

His range was incredible.  He was convincing as down-to-earth Oakland A’s manager Art Howe in Moneyball, and just as persuasive as a pre-op trangendering drag queen in Flawless.

Jude and I marked Hoffman’s death by watching The Big Lebowski last night.  He played Brandt, the sycophantic assistant to a rich man.  (Think Smithers on The Simpsons.)  Soon we’ll catch him in 2012’s The Master, for which he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

  1. Gordon permalink
    February 3, 2014 1:20 pm

    Well, it’s come to this. I just left a USA Today summary of his passing to check out your blog. Your’s is much better. The truth is most of us don’t remember all the movies we saw him in because he disappeared into the character he created. You just don’t think about it being the same guy being Capote, being Art Howe, being The Master. And then there’s the Hunger Games.

    • February 5, 2014 5:58 pm

      Thanks, Gordie. I have yet to catch either Hunger Games. I wonder how the franchise will work around his death.

      • Gordon permalink
        February 10, 2014 2:53 pm

        I just noted in a news article that Hunger Games 2 has reached the $450 million mark, which I think makes it top grosser of the year. Ironic that most of the public likely will have experienced his acting in this role. But maybe food too in that they might just check out some of the others now.

  2. February 3, 2014 2:31 pm

    I was shocked last night when I turned on the computer and saw that he had suddenly died. It is such a shame. I agree with Gordon because I don’t remember everything that I seen him in, but totally loved all of his characters. He will be greatly missed. Such a shame that he had struggled with alcohol and drug abuse.

    • February 5, 2014 6:00 pm

      Hey, Beth. The thing that has struck me most about his death is how he appealed to so many people. His performances were so deeply personal that I felt like he was speaking only to me.

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