Actor bounced easily between playing weak and strong men, in indie films and blockbusters
Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Oscar-winning actor who played broken men and intellectual bullies with equal aplomb, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment Sunday, according to multiple media reports. He was 46.
Several outlets cited a police source who said Hoffman was found with a syringe in his arm. Last year, the actor reportedly underwent a 10-day detox for heroin and prescription drug abuse. He gave up drinking and drugs in the early 1990s, before becoming famous for his roles in films like “Boogie Nights,” “The Master,” and “Capote,” the 2005 film for which he won his Oscar.
In 2006, he told “60 Minutes” he nearly succumbed to substance abuse after graduating from New York University’s drama school, but got sober in rehab.
“It was anything (drugs and alcohol) I could get my hands on…I liked it all,” he told “60 Minutes” as the time.
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The New York Police Department is investigating with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine exact cause of death. He was found in his West Village apartment.
Reached by TheWrap, a police spokesman said there would be no confirmation of the identity of the deceased pending notification of the family.
After small film and television roles, Hoffman broke out in a series of Paul Thomas Anderson films, beginning with Anderson's debut, “Hard Eight,” in 1996. The next year, he played a portly gay men who pines after Mark Wahlberg's porn star, Dirk Diggler, in “Boogie Nights.” The next year he appeared in Todd Solondz's “Happiness” as a man who makes obscene phone calls to a neighbor. And in 1999's “Magnolia,” he played a kindly nurse who in one scene had to order pornographic magazines over the phone.
In another scene, he helps reunite his dying patient with his estranged son, played by Tom Cruise. His character calls a total stranger who might be able to unite them, acknowledging that it feels like a scene in a movie.
“I know that I might sound ridiculous, like this is the scene in the movie where the guy's trying to get a hold of the long-lost son, you know — but this is that scene,” he says in “Magnolia.” “This is that scene. And I think they have those scenes in movies because they're true. Because they really happen. And you've got to believe me: This is really happening.”
It felt like it really was.
Hoffman's soft face and features could conjure the sense of being wounded, or the scowling resentment of a man refocusing his injuries toward revenge. He turned on the nasty for films like “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” in which he played a snobby WASP abroad, and “Mission Impossible III,” in which he served as the cold, brutish nemesis to Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt.
In his role as Truman Capote, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar in 2005, he played a man in a postition of weakness — a effete homosexual in ramrod straight, rural Kansas –who used his supreme intellect to manipulate everyone around him. The role perfectly combined all of his strengths.
He struck a similar balance in 2012's “The Master,” his last collaboration with Anderson. He played an L. Ron Hubbard-like author who brilliantly controlled his followers while desperately protecting his new religion from allegations that it was all bull. One moment, he charmed a room. The next, he sat behind bars. His empire expanded across the world, even as his closest followers came to see through his lies.
His unimpeachable acting soon made him a sought-after actor when a blockbuster needed an injection of indie earthiness. He was easily the most memorable villain in the “Mission Impossible” films, and a creepy presence in the “Hunger Games” and its sequel, “Catching Fire.” It was unclear at the time of his death whether he had shot any scenes for “Mockingjay,” the next film in the series.
Hoffman was to highlight his comedic talents in a new Showtime comedy-drama, “Happyish,” about an ad man trying to adjust to life in the age of branding and micro-messaging. In a preview shown to critics last month, he played a man so overwhelmed by the selling out all around him that he fought to keep the Keebler elves from being replaced in an ad campaign — forgetting that they, too, exist to sell cookies.
Showtime had filmed only a pilot for the series, raising doubts about whether it will ever be seen by the public.
Born in Fairport, N.Y., to a judge and civil rights activist and a Xerox executive, he attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. After graduating, he checked into rehab, and soon after began his remarkable run of roles. He returned to his upstate New York roots in 2008's “Synecdoche, New York.”
His long list of other acclaimed roles included turns in “Before the Devil Knows You're Dead,” “Punch-Drunk Love,”"Almost Famous,” “25th Hour,” “The Savages,” “Doubt,” and “Moneyball.” He also directed and starred in 2010's “Jack Goes Boating.”
He is survived by his partner, Mimi O'Donnell, and three children.
Watch Hoffman in “that scene” from “Magnolia”: