John le Carre on Philip Seymour Hoffman: ‘He Was Burning Himself Out Before Your Eyes’

The author recalls his encounter with the late actor on the set of “A Most Wanted Man” in a NY Times essay

Philip Seymour Hoffman - A Most Wanted Man trailer

Philip Seymour Hoffman “was burning himself out before your eyes,” author John le Carre said, recalling a visit with the late actor on the set of the upcoming film adaptation of his book “A Man Most Wanted.”

“Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing,” wrote le Carre in a poignant essay published Sunday in the New York Times. Hoiffman died of a drug overdose at the age of 46 in February.

“The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death,” added le Carre, who also wrote the novel “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

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“Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t.

“Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it,” he said.

Le Carre and Hoffman were together while shooting the film in Germany two years ago. In it, Hoffman plays the role of Günther Bachmann, a middle-aged German intelligence officer on the skids.

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“It’s hard now to write with detachment about Philip’s performance as a desperate middle-aged man going amok, or the way he fashioned the arc of his character’s self-destruction,” LeCarre said.

“A Man Most Wanted” is directed by Anton Corbin (“The American”) and co-stars Rachel McAdams, Daniel Bruhl and Willem Dafoe. Roadside Attractions is distributing.