It will not be the first, nor will it be the last time that we hear of yet another acting talent taken from us in such untimely and tragic circumstances. With the cinematic world still reeling from the tragic passing of James Gandolfini and Paul Walker in 2013, it now has to deal with the loss of acting stalwart, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who sadly died of a suspected heroin overdose on February 2nd at his Greenwich Village home in New York.
We should not forget just how big a talent Hoffman was, and the huge inspirational legacy he leaves to aspiring actors. He wasn’t stereo-typically good looking by Hollywood standards , but by the mid 2000’s he transformed the ideology of a leading man by going against the traditional sense of the role, and that is something that cannot go unnoticed in the history the film business, especially when it took him to the pinnacle of the acting accolades with an Oscar win in 2005 for his role in Capote.
Born in Rochester, New York in 1967, Hoffman went on to graduate from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a B.F.A. degree in Drama in 1989. His feature film career began in 1991 with indie production, Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole. From there he went on to play a number of diverse and dysfunctional characters that always managed to leave an imprint, even though they weren’t necessarily the main supporting roles. These parts included the awkward ‘Scotty J’ in the 1997 film, Boogie Nights, to ‘Brandt’ in cult classic, The Big Lebowski. He eventually moved on to more serious supporting roles in The Talented Mr Ripley, Red Dragon, and as the psychotic villain in Mission Impossible III, again highlighting his diversification as an actor. His portrayal as ‘Lester Bangs’ in Almost Famous was acknowledged as being played with “guile and gusto” by The New York Times. Further music orientated roles was as ‘The Count’ in The Boat That Rocked, where Hoffman was the lovable American DJ amongst British DJ’s onboard an illegal Radio Station in The North Sea, which transformed pop culture in the 1960s. Both roles were sure to strike an affinity with music lovers.
His work from the mid 2000’s saw him move into the more dramatic roles where his ability was rewarded in 2005 when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of US author, ‘Truman Capote’ in the biographical film, Capote. This in turn won him a further twenty two other awards. Since then he had been nominated three times for Best Supporting Actor in Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Doubt (2008) and The Master (2012). He also won three Tony Awards for his theatrical work, and his film director debut came in 2010 with the New York-set Jack Goes Boating, in which he also starred in. More recently, Hoffman had become part of the Hunger Games franchise, where the majority of his own scenes for the movie’s next installment had already been completed before he died. In total he had appeared in fifty one feature films between 1991 and 2014, and had won several awards along the way.
It was well documented that Hoffman had his troubles with a long running battle against drugs, and he had checked himself into rehab for ten days back in May 2012 after twenty three years of sobriety. It’s a shame that in this day and age we still see big Hollywood stars seemingly struggle with addictions that eventually lead to their premature death. Heath Ledger, who incidentally beat Hoffman to the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2008, is another high profile case to suffer a similar fate from drug abuse back in 2008.
Friends and family of Hoffman paid their respects at the funeral in New York City on 7th February, which also saw several fellow actors attend such as; Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Joaquin Phoenix and Ethan Hawke, amongst other key figures in the film business. A tribute to Hoffman was also seen on Broadway as the lights at the theatre marquees were dimmed as a mark of respect, as well as a candlelight vigil that was held outside The Labyrinth Theater Company. A larger memorial service is being planned for later in February.
It’s staggering just how many feature films Hoffman actually starred in, and it makes for impressive reading as he seemed to be an actor that went largely unnoticed and worked under the radar of the film media. However, he has to be up there with the very best and the more noticeable household names, an acting talent who surely would have gone on to better and greater things considering his age and the way his career was shaping up. Hoffman is survived by his three children and partner Mimi O’Donnell, and is an actor that will be sorely missed.