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Hoffman – a legend passes

Paul Peterson

Paul Peterson

I don’t do a lot of obituaries but there are times when we lose someone of great stature and it deserves to be noted.
Academy award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died on February 2 of an apparent heroin overdose.
When his body was recovered there was a syringe in his arm. Death was instantaneous. At present four people have been charged and charges are pending on a fifth.
Hoffman leaves behind three children and a partner of many years.
He had a history of alcohol and drug abuse and heroin was his drug of choice – but claimed he had been clean and sober from the age of 22 years on. Recently there had been a relapse and his partner had asked him to move out of the family home to get help for the sake of the family.

People were obviously shocked and upset.
It’s a terrible loss and anyone who is a film fan realizes what a talent this man was. I would like to focus on his talent and remind everyone that substance abuse cuts an indiscriminate path.
The first film I remember Hoffman in was Patch Adams. He played the roommate who had to work and study and resented Patch for his natural talents.
In fact, he was already established as a supporting actor.
He was the weaselly kid in Scent of A Woman,
He had a whole slew of roles in serious legendary films – Hard 8, The Big Lebowski, Happiness, Boogie Nights.
Not starring roles but impactful characters and tremendous performances. He really was a chameleon who disappeared in to the roles.
Without a doubt he never considered them bit parts.

Philip Seymour Hoffman IMBD_

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Click to see his IMBD filmography)

I could fill the entire column with his roles but at some point you have to summarize. He was Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, a really fine film that gets overlooked a lot. He was great in Magnolia, again a supporting actor performance but worthy of a nod at the Oscars.
There have been only two films I couldn’t watch to completion. One was The Cable Guy because it’s the worst film in the history of ever. The other was Owning Mahoney, a starring role for him as a banker caught in the downward spiral of a gambling addiction . It was so compelling and so moving I couldn’t watch the end because it was so destructive. That’s good acting.
Read his filmography on IMDB and it’s a Top 50 list of indie excellence.

His first breakout role earned him an Academy Award as the titular star of Capote.
It was a complete transformation.
He was Truman Capote and he captured the essence of that man. Made him human and interesting and flawed. I was already a fan of Hoffman’s and not Capote’s but this role made Capote interesting to me. That’s huge.
It also made me realize that Hoffman was in the same category as Meryl Streep who I consider the greatest actor of our generation. Tell me who’s better. Watch the two of them in Doubt and tell me that isn’t a highwater mark for acting.
I also admired him for his immersion in the role and then a full retreat to his private life. No preaching or teaching or Pennesque visits to Iraq.
Just great roles and incredible performances. He played flawed characters with incredible humanity and made a great bad guy. Check out Mission Impossible lll for over the top evil or The Master for Machevellian darkness.
I wondered if I should title this column ‘A legend passes because he’s so young’.
Is James Dean a legend?
Buddy Holly?
Jimi Hendrix?
Look at the work. It all comes down to the body of work and his is a slam dunk.
Johnny Depp has become famous for always playing Johnny Depp.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is famous for playing every character as they are. It’s a compelling legacy.
I was a huge fan and we lost a great talent.
I will miss the movies he didn’t get to make.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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  1. Mark #1 says:

    My favourite movie he was in was 25th Hour with Ed Norton. I think it was Spike Lee’s last good film.

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