RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman – reminiscing on the many great performances of the talented actor

RIP_PhilipSeymourHoffman

I was planning on finishing up my Monthly Roundup post the afternoon I heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s passing at a young age of 46.

It’s one of those times where I’ll always remember where I was when I heard about something. I was in line at a Target check out when I fired up my Twitter app and saw the news. I didn’t get a chance to find out how he died, so I presume it was a heart attack or something, it never occurred to me that it was substance abuse related, though I knew he struggled with prescription drugs addiction and went to rehab last year. Of course later in the day I found out the cause of death… that he has died from an apparent drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment. Undoubtedly, my shock turned to grief. Yes I know he’s just an actor whom I don’t know personally, but I still can’t help feeling saddened by this. He also died the exact same age as my late mother (who also have three children), though the circumstances were entirely different, they both were gone way too soon :(

SeymourHoffman_CapoteI have to admit I don’t know much about his life as an actor or otherwise. Apparently Hoffman is a pretty busy guy, completing 40 films in the span of a relatively short 17-year-long career as well as working as a creative co-artistic director of LAByrinth Theater Company. On top of winning a Best Actor Oscar for Capote, he was also nominated for two Tony awards for his stage work in True West and Long Day’s Journey into Night.

This quote from the NY Times gives us a glimpse to how he approaches his craft as an actor:

“In my mid-20s, an actor told me, ‘Acting ain’t no puzzle,’ ” Hoffman said, after returning to his seat. “I thought: ‘Ain’t no puzzle?!?’ You must be bad!” He laughed. “You must be really bad, because it is a puzzle. Creating anything is hard. It’s a cliché thing to say, but every time you start a job, you just don’t know anything. I mean, I can break something down, but ultimately I don’t know anything when I start work on a new movie. You start stabbing out, and you make a mistake, and it’s not right, and then you try again and again. The key is you have to commit. And that’s hard because you have to find what it is you are committing to.”

Seems that he often ‘lost himself’ in a role…

“…I’d finish a scene, walk right off the set, go in the bathroom, close the door and just take some breaths to regain my composure. In the end, I’m grateful to feel something so deeply, and I’m also grateful that it’s over … And that’s my life.”

There are many essential PSH films I still need to see. In fact, I’ve only seen a paltry 9 films from his stellar resume, but I feel compelled to write this tribute to him as he’s always been very impressive in everything I’ve seen him in. Starting with Scent of A Woman where he played an unethical classmate of Chris O’Donnell, out-acting the protagonist effortlessly. Through a series of supporting roles, he’s always memorable no matter how small his role is. I equate him to someone like Stanley Tucci, Paul Giamatti or Chris Cooper in that he always makes the best of whatever role given to him AND his performance is usually one of the best (if not the best) part about the film. In the Ides of March for example, his portrayal of a grizzled campaign manager is one of my favorite parts of an otherwise so-so political drama. Even in popcorn action films like Mission Impossible III, he still gives a compelling performance as the ominous villain. He’s threatening without turning his character into a caricature. He seems to be drawn to antihero/flawed type of characters, whilst somehow make them sympathetic and intriguing, i.e. A Late Quartet as an adulterous married man.

PSH_IdesofMarchALateQuartet

The latest performance I saw him in was in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and I said in my review that his Plutarch is my favorite character. I couldn’t wait to see more of him in the final film of the franchise as his character arc is easily the most interesting. Alas they might have to re-cast his role unless they’re done filming his scenes.

I hope to catch up on more of his films such as Magnolia, Capote, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Jack Goes Boating, etc. For sure I’ll watch the yet-to-be-released John le Carré spy thriller A Most Wanted Man where Hoffman played a German civil-rights lawyer, complete with a German accent. I couldn’t find a trailer, but here’s a clip:

My heart goes out to his longtime partner, costume designer Mimi O’Donnell and their three children. Rest in peace Mr. Hoffman. You will be sorely missed.


What are some of your favorite performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman?

69 thoughts on “RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman – reminiscing on the many great performances of the talented actor

  1. Great write up, Ruth!

    My favorite Hoffman performance is The Master, followed closely by Boogie Nights. Capote would come in third. But he was good in everything (even Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and other flicks that weren’t all that great). He really was a great actor.

    • Hi Josh (I’m going to call you that from now on if that’s ok), it was great chatting with you today! All the films you mentioned are all on my to-watch list for some time. I definitely will put a priority on seeing those real soon.

      • That is just fine. ;-)

        And I agree. It was fun – I just wish we’d had more time (we scheduled the dog training class after you and I arranged our original Saturday meeting but before we rescheduled for Sunday. When we rescheduled it, I forgot all about it. Very sorry). The next time we et together, I’ll try to have a larger block of time.

        Finally, I look forward to reading your thoughts when you post them. (For what it’s worth, I think Boogie Nights is the best of them – not specifically for Hoffman, but I’m general.)

        • Thanks for taking the time, Josh! I really appreciate it, not a problem at all about the dog training thing. Yes we’ll do another meet up soon & I’ll bring more movies for you to check out :D

          Yeah I will definitely watch as many as I can and perhaps do a Top 10. I can’t do that right now as I’ve missed so many essential work that he did.

  2. Great post, Ruth. These are such sad news. I can’t even begin to list my favorite PSH performances. He was one of my favorite actors and one of few I can say were excellent in every single role. He will be missed. Definitely gone too soon.

  3. It’s really sad to see someone passed way at such a young age. I too first saw him in Scent of A Woman, he wasn’t as memorable to me in that movie. But a couple of years later I saw him in the remake of The Getaway and I thought he’s more memorable in the film even though his role was small. I thought he was hilarious in Along Came Polly, he’s one of those actors who can do both comedic and serious role. He’ll sorely be missed.

    • I remember Hoffman in Scent of A Woman as his character was so unlikable, but of course Pacino was the most memorable one in that film. I didn’t know he did a comedic role in Along Came Polly, boy I REALLY have to see that pronto!

      • I think you’ll enjoy Along Came Polly, it’s a harmless romantic comedy, I called it a PG version of There’s Something About Marry. I totally forgot he’s also in Twister, he was the annoying guy on Helen Hunt’s team. I remember I used to always get him mixed up with Jack Black back in the 90s since they appeared in movies as the annoying guy in a team or some douche bag character. He definitely grew out of that kind of role as he got older.

  4. Almost Famous is my favorite performance from him as he brought Lester Bangs to life. Not just in that man’s passion for music but also his acceptance in the fact that he was uncool. He was just a talent that will never be replicated as I’m just sad that he’s gone. I even made a list of his best performances last year.

    • Ah, yet another performance of his I’ve missed. Seems that he has quite a musical talent as he played a cellist in A Late Quartet and looks so believable that I’d think he actually knows how to play it.

  5. I was also very shocked to hear the news, like you I was in the middle of doing something else and checked twitter and saw what had happened. It’s a terrible loss for cinema.
    I last saw him in The Hunger Games as well, he was so great in that film. His scenes with Southerland were far and away some of the best in the film. I read an article that said he had seven days of filming left on the franchise. As far as I know they haven’t decided what to do in the wake of his death. I would probably also say my favorite performance of his is Dodd in The Master, completely mesmerizing.
    Lovely tribute Ruth.

    • It really made me gasp pretty loud when I read it… I was literally shaking a bit I almost dropped my iPhone. He really was one of the best things about The Hunger Games 2 and I REALLY wanted to see more of his role in the final film. I wonder if they’d do what the filmmaker did with Oliver Reed’s role when he died in the middle of filming. In any case, it’s such a waste to see him gone so quickly.

      • Ya know, I never questioned his acting. It was usually his movies that I wasn’t crazy about. But even if the film didn’t impress me, his performances always did. Very good actor.

        • Exactly Keith. That’s a sign of greatness when we can still like an actor’s performance even in so-so or even bad films. Hoffman usually elevates everything he’s in.

  6. Yeah, this is truly a great and shocking loss. I haven’t been hit so hard by an actor’s death for some time now. Phillip Seymour Hoffman truly was a man who elevated every movie he was in, and will surely be missed. :(

  7. Speechless. Just sad to think that we will not be seeing great talented work from him again… I liked Capote and Almost Famous. Twister also…

  8. Great tribute post. I’m stunned, in particular the way he passed away as I didn’t know he was previously in rehab. On the Capote DVD featurette, Seymour explained his approach to the role which was really insightful and impressive. A tragic loss.

    • I had heard here and there that he has trouble with prescription drugs but didn’t know to what degree his dependence was to them. I’ll be sure to watch the featurette when I see that film, he’s so dedicated to his craft.

  9. Lovely piece Ruth. Really sad news, he was genuinely one of my favourite actors. He blew me away in everything I saw him in. Really glad you flagged up A Late Quartet, I thought he was phenomenal in that, a really underrated film and performance.

  10. Terrible news Ruth, still sinking in really. Considering how many great performances he gave us in just over 20 years as a prominent actor it’s sad to think about the performances we could have seen in the next 30 or so. A great loss.

    • You said it best there, he would’ve had so many more fantastic performances as he’s really at the top of his game in his career. I love that he’s able to balance big films with indie ones and ALWAYS deliver a bang-on performance.

  11. I was shocked when I read it last night as well. Such a huge loss to the world of movies.

    btw, the last sentence of your post has a small typo (three is there twice)

  12. I’ve always been a fan of Hoffman and it’s sad to see go. His best performance in my opinion is in The Master and my favorite movie with him in it is Magnolia.

  13. He definitely will be missed. I haven’t seen all of his films, but I don’t ever recall seeing him not being great in a role. One of the most intense actors ever!

    • “…I don’t ever recall seeing him not being great in a role” That’s exactly how I feel about him too, Asrap. He’s intense but seems so effortless in portraying any kind of role.

  14. So many good films he was in – the detached but grieving brother in The Savages, the caregiver in Magnolia, and his rendition of Lester Bangs in Almost Famous were so good. What a waste…

    • Hi Vince! I have to start a marathon of his films later this year. Even in seemingly *lesser* films, he’s always fantastic. I’m sure he’s stellar in the films you mentioned.

  15. Very nice tribute Ruth! I hadn’t seen a lot of Phillips’ movies either but the ones I had seen, his performance was hard to get out of my mind such as Charlie Wilson’s War and Punch Drunk Love. He is definitely missed.

    • WOW, he’s in Punch Drunk Love too? With the comments of people’s favorites, I’m even more amazed at the kind of range PSH displayed throughout his career.

  16. Lovely tribute Ruth. He was an incredible actor, surely one of the best of his generation. It’s a pity he didn’t get the chance to lead from the front (ie. Capote) but his stellar supporting turns are enough to know and love his talent. A very sad end (one that feels all too familiar).

    • Thanks Dan. I feel that had he lived longer, he would’ve had more opportunities to be more of a leading actor instead of a character/supporting one. I really think he’s got the gravitas AND amazing range to do anything as an actor.

  17. Rest in Peace PSH! One of my personal favourites. He’s been in my top five for years now along with DeNiro, Day-Lewis, Nicholson & Bridges. I’m really gutted that he’s gone and films will be duller with this great actors commitment and intensity. Great tribute, Ruth.

    • He’s one of my hubby’s personal fave as well Mark, so we both are definitely saddened by this news. You’re so right that his absence will leave quite a dent in Hollywood, his commitment to his craft is extraordinary.

      • I was affected by the passing of River Phoenix and James Gandolfini but Hoffman’s death is really one of the worst for me. I truly adored this great actor and always kept an eye on his work and career even from a very early age. Sad, sad news!

  18. I was actually reading a blog yesterday when someone posted the news of Phillip’s death in the comments. It was quite surreal, and the fact that I’m only a few years younger than him does make you stop and think.
    I must admit to not having seen much of his recent work. Like a lot of people I first became aware of him in Scent of a Woman, and looking at his filmography I also realised that he was in Twister, a film I saw in the cinema back in the day. I will remember him most for his supporting role in one of my favourite films, When a Man Loves a Woman. Which funnily enough I watched last weekend.

    Have a great week Ruth.

    • Hi Paul! Oh right he was in When A Man Loves A Woman too, boy he really did a lot of roles in a relatively short career span. Thanks for stopping by, always a treat to see you here :)

    • Yeah, I’m still sad every time I think about his passing. I hope to catch as many of his films this year, but like you said, it won’t be the same :(

    • Hi Sati! Yeah I can’t believe I haven’t seen that one, I think I’d appreciate that and all the performances. I just found out it’s available to rent on Amazon On Demand, yay!

  19. Beautiful write up Ruth! I highly recommend Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, which offers one of his most electrifying performances, but honestly…his turn in Magnolia is so tender, soft and honest. It’s easily one of my favorites from him.

    • Thanks Andrew! I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t see Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead when it was still on Netflix Streaming! I will definitely see that and Magnolia this year.

    • Hi Nov. It was all over the news here so it’s impossible not to hear about his passing. Yeah, he’s truly one of a genuine artist, an actor who cares about his craft.

  20. Excellent Ruth!

    Truly a sad passing. I don’t really get too involved in celebrities and their lives and what they get up to, etc. but this was one of the few that was truly a depressing one.

    • Yeah, it’s still so sad to hear news about him and the devastating findings from the investigation. I had no idea how addicted he was to drugs. I don’t really pay attention to celebs’ lives either, that’s why this one was so shocking :(

  21. Great write-up Ruth! It’s so sad that he’s gone. I’ve also got a number of his essential films to see, like Happiness, Owning Mahowny and Love Liza. My favorite PSH performances are Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Magnolia and Almost Famous, but I loved him in every film I’ve seen him in. :(

  22. There are so many great performances to point out here and so many fascinating characters. Honestly, I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman never put out a bad performance, which speaks of his craft and his devotion to each and every role he ever had.
    You’re right to point out that he gravitated towards flawed/antihero type characters, and this is maybe a reason why he drove himself to self-medication and abuse drugs. I’ve heard so many instances of actors who, by getting lost in their work, never quite recuperate and must resort to the kind of self-deprecating behavior that ultimately leads to tragedies like this. It reminds me so much of what happened to Heath Ledger, who had obviously gone through a tremendously difficult experience to create the incredible character of the The Joker for Christopher Nolan.

    I will end by saying that you need to definitely see him in Capote, which is easily one of my top 10 favorite male performances. I can also point out his title role in Synecdoche, which many critics believe to be his finest work. I still don’t quite get the significance of the film, but he’s awesome in it. Then there’s The Devil Knows You’re Dead, where he, once again, gives us a despicable human being, or Doubt, where he might, or might not be a monster. Also worth looking at Magnolia and Almost Famous and well…many others.

    Very nice post Ruth.

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