It has now been five years to the day (February 2, 2014) of the passing of Seymour Hoffman. What I wrote about this outstanding actor just after the death follows.
With sadness, the acting profession lost a major player last week in the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, 46 years of age. His drug overdose shocked the movie industry. It will be our loss, the movie going public that is. We can only wonder what great performances we would have been treated to in the years that would have come. Hoffman was an actor first, not a movie star looking for the next off screen camera shoot. Though the second Hoffman in the line of Hoffman actors, he had such a diverse list of roles that it became obvious that Seymour could have challenged Dustin in a final look at these two at the end of their careers. He was that good, and his abilities to transcend himself into a character was on par with De Niro, Day-Lewis, Duvall, and the other Hoffman. Likable, funny, horrific, and just plain Jack, he was one of a kind, the real deal, an actor that others will be measured too.
My first recollection of Hoffman was in his work in one of my most favorite movies “Scent of a Woman”. Hoffman was perfect in that supporting role. He displayed the right emotions of a spoiled young man. From that first experience with his work in that movie, other minor and major roles followed, each in its own way, showing us a range that not many have. My list of my favorite PSH film performances are as follows:
5. Capote – his only Oscar win, a spot on portrait of the man. Not a personal favorite movie of mine, but the role of a lifetime for anyone that could pull it off. (Toby Jones, another fine actor pulled a Capote one year later and was equally good in the movie Infamous) Without question, he was Capote in the flesh in this movie.
4. The Talented Mr. Ripley – Stealing every scene with the likes of Cate Blanchette, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law, Hoffman simply outclassed this group of superior actors. As a top critic said: Hoffman is similarly superb and exact in his portrait of a bright but boorish snob.
3. Before the Devil Knows Your Dead – Some rate this as a top 5 performance and I agree. A much finer film that Capote, a movie that you want to revisit. A personal choice for me. Putting Director Sidney Lumet together with Hoffman, Finney, Hawke, Tomei in a crime drama (Dog Day Afternoon……) is just wonderful. Critic Mike Scott: Hoffman plays Andy as slick and stylish, a smooth operator living in a chrome-and-glass world. Inside of him, however, resides a scared and resentful little boy. Hoffman portrays both sides of Andy brilliantly. In one scene he gently and confidently bullies little brother Hank into participating in his twisted plan. He’s just as convincing as he wallows in self-doubt, using terms only an accountant would use: “I’m not the sum of my parts. All of my parts don’t add up to one me.
2. 25th Hour – Not the major character in the movie, Hoffman’s performance is, as many critics agree, his best. It’s as good as my #1 choice and so when all things are pretty much equal, I’ll just make a quick decision and let it be. Spike Lee is a favorite director of mine, not that I seek out everything he does, but this movie hits the nail on the head about New York City, the subject matter, and the real emotions of its characters. Shot just after 9 11 it stays close to the book but adds the tragedy of the recent past. As Jeffery M. Anderson says: He’s weakness and romance, there to juxtapose the hardness and confidence and cynicism of the other characters. His costume is perfect: shabby schoolteacher tie and cheap coat (which he leaves on, even in a nightclub), glasses and a Yankees hat. Yet these attributes are so well-played that Jacob doesn’t seem weak or pathetic. He just seems human. I met Hoffman twice over the years, and I liked him immensely, but I have to say that I feel I got to know Jacob far better than I got to know the real man. That’s great acting, and it’s the pinnacle (so far) of a truly great career. http://news.moviefone.com/2010/01/18/their-best-role-philip-seymour-hoffman/
1. Doubt – Most will not agree, but the role, playing off Adams and Streep, remind us how great an all venue actor this man is. Stage, TV, movies, I for one, didn’t give him his due when I named by ten best living actors. I missed the boat on Hoffman. His greatness, as much as it will be missed on the big screen, will be missed just as much or more on Broadway. Shanley’s play (2004) became the movie and the four (add Viola Davis) world class actors were in top form. When you hold your ground toe to toe with Streep you are there. “And yet the few personalities who were at the center of this Pulitzer Prize winner remain there. Chief among them are Meryl Streep, as the formidable “dragon” who runs her parochial school like a prison, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the cheerful priest who preaches unconditional love. On paper, they are constructs: symbols of the old church and the new, penance and forgiveness. On the screen, they are blazingly alive.
That’s due to the actors, of course, two of our finest. Hoffman gets the showier part, perhaps — building up, over the course of the film, to an explosion of crimson-faced anger. But the inflexible Streep is every bit his equal — holding her rosary as tightly as a club, peering through her glasses as if she had finally trapped sin under a microscope.” http://www.nj.com/entertainment/tv/index.ssf/2008/12/doubt_successfully_expands_upo.html
Since this blog header says “FILM” I will only say that the world loses in this death. Let us remember that bad things happen when you play with fire. As the years past and we re-examine his work, the critics will add to what they think about this artist and his work.
In summary, it was a sad past week. God damn heroin and let’s pray that Mr. Hoffman’s soul is in a good place. From all reports from is friends he was a good man. May his children understand.
Feature photo found at: http://drymartino.com/dry-martino-everyone-will-forget-phillip-seymour-hoffman/
Portrait painting found at: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/philip-seymour-hoffman-paul-meijering.html
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