Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

All of these years, I’ve had a nickname for Philip Seymour Hoffman, it was See More Hoffman, a moniker he’d earned because whenever I’d see him in any film, it was clear his presence was always needed more. Hoffman was one of my favorite actors, someone who constantly elevated whatever film he was in.

He was a true a thespian, whose filmography spanned comedies, dramas and a range of characters, who were everyday men and other times dastardly villains with a few complex shades, in between. Hoffman always dug deeper, a true empath whose discernible gift to capture and break down every aspect of a character, will remain in a league all its own.

Hoffman had been a remarkable asset to every film he took part of, whether as Chris O’Donnell’s classmate in “Scent of a Woman” or the comedic relief in “Twister”, a veritable bright spot, in an otherwise not-so-great movie.

In 1997’s “Boogie Nights”, Paul Thomas Anderson would usher him into a breakthrough role as Scotty, a boom operator in the porn business, who possessed an unrequited love for Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). Hoffman was vulnerable and sincere, a standout in a truly great ensemble. 

The next year, he would light it up in the Coen Brother’s cult film, “The Big Lebowski” as the assistant to the Big Lebowski. A litany of memorable roles would follow, a humorous turn in the underrated “State and Main”, one of the more honest, behind-the-scenes Hollywood flicks.

Then it was back to drama with a startlingly haunting turn in “Cold Mountain” and in complete juxtaposition, a hilarious role as the friend of Ben Stiller, in “Along Came Polly”. He was the sole funny factor that made a disappointing movie, shine.

His landmark and Oscar winning role in “Capote” would bring him into mainstream recognition, as one of the best actors in the business. His spot-on interpretation of Capote, down to his voice and walk was on point. Hoffman had become untraceable. Finding shades of previous incarnations in his characterizations was impossible to do.

Leveraging his golden statue, work would deservedly pick-up. He followed up his Oscar win, as the menacing villain in “Mission: Impossible III”, yet another film he was the highlight of. After spending a few years in independent productions such as “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead”, “Doubt” and “Synecdoche, New York” he returned to more mainstream work.

In 2011, he starred back to back in “The Ides of March” and “Moneyball”, blessing both films with strong supporting performances. 

It was 2012’s “The Master” where Hoffman stunned as cult leader, Lancaster Dodd. Reteaming with “Boogie Nights” director Paul Thomas Anderson, Hoffman again brought his unique screen sensibility to the forefront with profound reserve and enigmatic charm. He was disarming and approachable, in a performance that transcended, in a quiet manner of speaking and of being.

He disappeared and it was one of those performances that after watching, you knew wouldn’t come around again, any time soon. The film’s bizarre nature was anchored on a terrestrial plane that only Hoffman could’ve secured.

The last movie I’d watched, in which he starred, was last year’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and it was a welcomed reminder of his expertise and a rare moment for wider audiences to See More Hoffman. As I tried to become engrossed in the plight of the film, it was his performance that managed to finally draw me in.

In the sea of over the top effects; a subtle human performance ebbed out of the darkness, a reminder of his immense skill. His gravitas was a rare virtue filled with self-assured poise, the perfect mix of warmth and sinister diabolism that kept viewers on constant alert. 

This year, I was already anticipating his upcoming works, “A Most Wanted Man” and “God’s Pocket” amongst the list of the year’s must-sees, having just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and an upcoming series on Showtime, “Happyish”.

Last Friday his second directorial effort was announced, “Ezekiel Moss” starring frequent on-screen collaborator Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. It was an elating announcement that I quickly made note of and then Sunday it all changed. 

Hoffman reportedly lost his life to the disease known as addiction, losing a battle he had won for nearly 25 years. Last year, his private struggle made front page news as he entered rehab. A fraction of time, in a grand scheme of fighting has resulted in a tremendous loss that is simply tragic. There are no other words to describe it. He deserves to be remembered for all he shared with people. 

Hoffman never engaged in celebrity. He lived a quiet personal life with his partner Mimi Russell and their 3 children. My heart goes out to them most of all. For the public, he will forever remain a part of film’s eternal fabric.

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