News

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman

Sometimes when an actor dies, it’s easy to point to one particular performance and say, “She’ll always be remembered best for her role as ____.”

That won’t happen with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead Sunday of an apparent drug overdose in his New York apartment. There are simply too many highlights in the 46-year-old actor’s career, and I think it would be wrong to elevate his Oscar-winning performance for “Capote” to the top. It’s no secret that actors often don’t win awards for their best work, and I prefer many of Hoffman’s performances (several of which come from Paul Thomas Anderson films) to that one. Such as:

-- His eerie, menacing religious leader in “The Master”
-- One of the best-ever performances in an animated film as a socially anxious lonely heart in “Mary and Max”
-- His restless, spiraling theater director in “Synecdoche, New York”
-- His kind, determined nurse in “Magnolia”
-- Perfecting both cool and uncool as real-life rock critic Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous”
-- His delicious, memorable villain in “Mission: Impossible III”

Surely you have additions of your own; I could go on (“Happiness,” “25th Hour,” “The Big Lebowski” …). So I will:

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Hoffman on screen as an uneasy boom mic operator in “Boogie Nights”—I can still see Scotty (Hoffman) sitting in his car, telling himself, “I’m a [bleeping] idiot” after trying to kiss Dirk (Mark Wahlberg). I still remember how perfectly he oozed suspicion in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” as Freddie, who knows Tom (Matt Damon) can’t be trusted.  This seems like an appropriate time to marvel again that when I interviewed Hoffman in 2010 about his directorial debut “Jack Goes Boating,” he told me that there was no performance he felt fully happy with.

“Every film I would watch, it would be a roller-coaster ride of emotions,” he said. “’That was bad!’ Or ‘That’s pretty good.’ Or ‘I remember that being good; now I don’t like it.’”

That self-criticism and humility (“I think talent,” he said, “and I’m not just saying this, is about putting the work in”) isn’t necessarily rare. Many people in Hollywood don’t want to watch themselves and only see flaws when they do. But Hoffman, who made one interesting choice after another, was always so eminently believable in a wide variety of roles and so easily respected as an actor who just seemed to get it that I wanted to reassure him that he’s the only one who sees the cracks. Not that he was too broken up about them. I remember being pleasantly surprised that in the interview setting he wasn’t as serious and closed-off as I thought he might be. “I think I ate about 10 billion hot dogs at a place [called] Portillo’s,” he said about the time he spent in Chicago while directing "The Long Red Road" at the Goodman Theatre. “Like A LOT. I ate there way more than I think I should have, but I couldn’t help it."

“I think I put ketchup on in hiding,” he added. “Back in my room or something.”

Hoffman had so many different ways to let movie fans understand—or make them wonder about—his characters' secrets. I’ll miss the dependability and the mystery.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Q&A: Philip Seymour Hoffman
    Q&A: Philip Seymour Hoffman

    The Oscar-winning actor stars in and directs "Jack Goes Boating" and tries not to be average

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead at age 46: police
    Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead at age 46: police

    NEW YORK -- Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the leading actors of his generation and winner of an Academy Award for his title role in the film "Capote," was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Sunday in what a New York police source described as an apparent drug overdose.

  • How the internet deals with celebrity death in 12 steps
    How the internet deals with celebrity death in 12 steps

    It sucks to admit, but celebrities have been known to die from time to time. Americans collectively lose their shit when circumstances like this occur, like we forget that the Reaper is coming for me, you, yo momma and your cousin too. As we become more and more acclimated with living our lives...

  • 'Furious 7': At this point, you know, whatever
    'Furious 7': At this point, you know, whatever

    Muscular, perpetually mumbling bowling pin Dominic Toretto (Human Aggro Crag Vin Diesel) doesn’t just prefer Corona, the beach-branded standard of Mexican beer-flavored water. He won’t even consider trying a Belgian Trappist ale, widely regarded as being among the world’s...

  • '5 to 7' is hot and bothered
    '5 to 7' is hot and bothered

    Not long after hordes of viewers hungry for some good, clean (dirty) spanking action flocked to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a smaller, better movie comes along that actually contains, you know, passion between its characters.

  • 'While We're Young' is hilariously wise
    'While We're Young' is hilariously wise

    That’s so old-fashioned, Cornelia (Naomi Watts) remarks warmly when 20-somethings Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) say that they’re married. Then they add that their wedding took place in a water tower to the sounds of a mariachi band. And there was a slip...

  • Where do Emanuel, Garcia stand on the issues?
    Where do Emanuel, Garcia stand on the issues?

    Chicago's April 7 runoff election is looming, and there are plenty of people undecided about whether they'll hand Mayor Rahm Emanuel another term or go with the new guy—Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. So we've rounded up the top issues and where the candidates stand to...

  • McDonald's raising its minimum wage, but some say it's not enough
    McDonald's raising its minimum wage, but some say it's not enough

    McDonald's plans to raise starting wages by $1 above the local minimum at select restaurants, just one of the changes on tap as the world's largest fast-food chain tries to win back customers and fend off a union-backed effort to raise pay throughout the industry.

Comments
Loading