Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014

Image: Wolf Gang.
Image: Wolf Gang.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was, simply, a genius. Without a doubt one of the greatest actors
Hollywood has ever seen, the giant of both stage and screen passed away on Sunday after a
long struggle with addiction. It’s a tragedy for many reasons: we’ve lost an icon, his children have
lost a father and the disease of addiction has taken yet another victim too soon.
Whenever a celebrity passes away – and too many of them fall too young to addiction – there’s a
worldwide sense of sadness, loss and often disbelief. With Hoffman’s sudden death, many felt
the loss almost personally. This was truly shocking news – made all the more shocking by the
unbelievable coincidence of a ‘Twitter death hoax’ just 24 hours before the Academy Award
winner’s demise.

Such was Hoffman’s skill that each of his eclectic crew of characters truly seemed like real
people: he made the audience feel every raw emotion no matter how briefly he graced the
screen. For the last 24-hours writers, fellow actors, filmmakers and those who know him have
written extraordinarily emotional pieces about the kind of man he was; a kind, sincere, funny man
who had a haunting sense of loneliness that he carried from the film-screen to his real life. But for
his audience, Hoffman will be remembered for his many outstanding roles in a career that lasted
less than 25 years.

A quick glance at Hoffman’s filmography reveals many of the best and most-affecting films of the
past 20 years, and his characters are quite honestly some of the most memorable. Scotty from
Boogie Nights was awkward, cringe-worthy and completely pathetic. You couldn’t help feeling
sorry for Jacob, the teacher who lusts after his student in 25th Hour. Hoffman’s cameo as Lester
Bangs in Almost Famous became one of the best scenes of the entire film. As Caden Cotard in
Synecdoche, New York Hoffman was defiant, confused, pathetic, admirable and identifiable all at
once. His astonishing performance as an addict in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is all the
more affecting now.

A three-time Academy Award-nominee, for Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Doubt (2008) and The
Master (2012), Hoffman won the Best Actor Oscar on his first nomination in 2005 for a mesmeric
turn as Truman Capote in Capote. Today this award seems all the more poignant as both
Hoffman and fellow nominee Heath Ledger have passed away in similar tragic circumstances. In
the months prior to his death, Hoffman had promoted 2 films at Sundance, starred in a pilot of a
sitcom that was picked up by Showtime and was almost finished shooting his scenes for The
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.

Ultimately, of course, he was a man. He was a father to 3 young children and was well-loved by
his family and friends. In his Oscar acceptance speech he paid tribute to his mother, who
“brought up 4 kids alone” – something Hoffman’s partner Mimi O’Donnell now faces. Hoffman’s
family, friends and the acting world lost a true great on Sunday, and someone who will be
impossible to replace.

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