Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman: A Fearless Artist, Taken Too Soon

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman: A Fearless Artist, Taken Too Soon

Hoffman devoured the souls of his characters, never afraid to let audiences love or hate or pity them, so long as we were intrigued

Like a lot of movie fans, I first took notice of Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Boogie Nights,” where he gave a boldly pathetic turn as a groupie and hanger-on of the porn scene whose need to be liked and accepted was so naked that it was often hard to watch.

CapoteHoffmanBut once I knew his name, I eventually realized that I'd been enjoying Hoffman's work for years, in roles as different as a storm-chasing techno-geek in “Twister” and an overly anxious small-town cop in “Nobody's Fool.”

The role of movie star often requires that actors subject themselves to media scrutiny and constant visibility, to the point where they can no longer disappear on the screen. We are given a narrative about Starlet X, and before long, Starlet X can play only a limited range of roles.

But while Hoffman became a star, and won an Oscar for Best Actor for “Capote” in 2005, he also became one of this generation's great screen performers, one who never got trapped in a box. No matter how big the billing, he never stopped being a character actor.

Also read: Philip Seymour Hoffman Found Dead at 46 of Apparent Overdose

He could play masterminds (“Mission Impossible: III”) or petty crooks in over their heads (“Before the Devil Knows You're Dead”). He could be lovesick (“Jack Goes Boating,” a sweet film which will, tragically, be his sole directorial credit) or a megalomaniac (the great “Synecdoche, New York,” “The Master”).

What Hoffman always was — no matter the role, no matter if it was in a tiny indie or a Hollywood blockbuster (he most recently surfaced in the “Hunger Games” sequels) — was genuine. He might have had enough of a recognizable speech pattern to make him imitable on “Saturday Night Live,” but Hoffman devoured the souls of the characters he played, never afraid to let audiences love or hate or pity them, so long as we were intrigued and engaged.

Watch video: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams Play Spy Games in Trailer for ‘A Most Wanted Man’ (Video)

His passing at age 46 makes me sad, and perusing his IMDB page makes me sadder, if only because Hoffman had an extraordinary run as a performer. With four Oscar nominations for performances since 2006 – “The Master” (2012), “Doubt” (2008),  “Charlie Wilson's War”  (2007) and the win for “Capote” (2005),  there's no telling what else he could have accomplished as a actor on both stage and screen and as a filmmaker.

The culture weeps when drugs snuff out the lives of talented young performers like River Phoenix and John Belushi, but it's no less tragic when it happens to a middle-aged man. Hoffman packed a great deal into 22 years on the big screen, but there was room for much more.

Here's the trailer for “Capote,” which won the actor an Oscar:

  • georgiadee

    He was not “taken.” He chose to do drugs. Sad but true.

    • Yonkel

      Is it that easy to be G?

      • georgiadee

        It was a sad choice he made as a grown man. He didn't get hit by a bus, or struck by lightning, or in a car accident. He was not taken.

    • Kimberly Young Isbell

      Exactly what I was going to say!!!!

    • Maureen McGuire

      I am so sad, but had the same reaction to “take to soon” in the headline. So much talent lost to drugs by celebrities and people we have never heard of.

  • Dolores V. Sisco

    Whatever personal demons over came him, his talent will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to his family.

  • MacKenzie

    I have been through addiction and I thank God daily that I didn't have the same fate. Mr. Hoffman was a favorite of mine and I will miss his talent, he drew me into his characters and the stories he told. While yes, one chooses to try drugs at the beginning, whether to “have fun” or self medicate- there comes a tipping point, where you make no choices, where you believe you cannot survive without your drug. I mourn for those who don't choose help and those who die before it's offered.

    • VeryPosh

      Well said, it's so true, sometimes the drugs control you!

  • ethan

    Taken? Tom Sherak was taken as he died from cancer… This moron decided to end his life with drugs.

    • ikayefilms

      Addictions are hell.

  • MarciTwitches

    I love how you people apparently have your sh!t so together and ride that high horse so comfortably, with no weaknesses or struggles of your own, never having had to pay for such mistakes with your lives. He was a human being.

    • georgiadee

      If they paid for mistakes with their lives, they wouldn't be here to make comments.

  • Patrick Fitzsimmons

    I do not drink, smoke or take any illegal drugs, so yes I can get on my high horse. drugs are not a disease they are choice for 99% of people who take them. he wasted his talents and his future. I guess drugs are not as cool as he probably first thought they were. his family will pay the price of him being an idiot who like all other celebs, think they are bigger than hard drugs.

  • georgiadee

    Even if he was a great actor, he was definitely old enough to know better and made his own choice. I feel sorry for his family. I also feel sorry for the 19 year olds who aren't coming back from Afghanistan. We lose people in the military every day and no one but their immediate family seems to care.

  • amp

    Certainly Mr. Hoffman knew the risks in using drugs. I echo georgiadee's comment. He wasn't taken. He took himself across death's doorstep.