After the sudden announcement of his death, Sophie Seddon remembers the talented, Academy-Award winning actor.
During the late hours of Sunday 2nd of February, whilst many were eagerly anticipating the start of the Super Bowl, tragedy struck with the sudden announcement of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death when he was found in his New York apartment at 11:15am EST. He was pronounced dead at the scene on the police’s arrival. As of yet, there is no official cause of death as police are still currently trying to piece together his final hours.
Seymour Hoffman is mostly recognised as a successful and respected supporting actor, who worked with many noted directors. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2005 for his portrayal of Truman Capote, based upon the book, In Cold Blood. He received an enormous list of accolades for his outstanding performance. Hoffman went to extreme lengths for the role, losing 60% of his body weight. He was rewarded for his efforts when he won the Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Award for the film. He was also an inspired theatre performer, taking part in many shows on Broadway, and being nominated for three Tony awards. He also directed several theatre productions and a film of his own.
Born in Fairport, New York where he grew up with two sisters and a brother, his parents divorced when he was nine. His mother took sole care of her children, which Hoffman stated later was an inspiration to him. He began acting when he attended the New York State Summer School of the Arts. He then continued onto The Circle in the Square Theatre in Manhattan, furthering his skills. In 1989, he received an honours degree from New York University in drama, and was one of the founding members of the Bullstio Ensemble there.
His first professional role was an episode of Law & Order, but his big break came with his film debut, Scent of a Woman, which Hoffman credited as kick-starting his career. From then onwards, Seymour Hoffman acted in many highly critically acclaimed films, with some earlier ones including Boogie Nights and The Big Lebowski. The latter threw him into the indie flick business, after his impressive performance of the Big Lebowski’s P.A, Brandt. He played this comedic role to precision. He also featured in Love Liza, Punch Drunk Love, Owning Mahowny, Cold Mountain and Along Came Polly. One particular film, The Talented Mr Ripley, didn’t see Hoffman in a major role, and yet the role he played, that of Freddie Miles, was one of the more interesting characters.
Versatile is certainly a word to describe Philip Seymour Hoffman. His most recent roles are what many remember him for, as they consist of many complex, dysfunctional and charming characters. In 2006, he played the villain, Owen Davain in Mission Impossible III. Hoffman was a welcome delight to the production. He brought a dignified and sinister presence to another guns-blazing, thriller/action film. Then came two stunning performances, the first in Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, and the second in the much overlooked Synecdoche: New York. In the first, he played a finance executive, trying to fund his drug habit. Hoffman was brilliant. In the latter film, he played a theatre director given a chance to fund an insane and eccentric 24/7 theatre project.
He also featured in Charlie Wilson’s War, and the religious drama Doubt, which saw Hoffman play a corrupt priest, which was a fabulous turn from the actor, acting alongside an equally brilliant Meryl Streep. More familiarly to British audiences is his role in The Boat That Rocked. Though a box office flop, Seymour Hoffman’s role was a charming and witty one, filled with grit and great heart.
More recent films include Moneyball and The Ides of March, and The Master, bringing more film nominations. The Master saw Hoffman in a sensational performance as cult leader Lancaster Dodd, in collaborate again once more with director Paul Thomas Anderson, who he also worked with on Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love. Hoffman made his career from such richly destructive characters.
His most recent film was the huge box office success The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as the enigmatic Plutarch Heavensbee. Many critics have passed this off when speaking of his death because it wasn’t his ‘finest work’. But it was in this role that he was introduced to a younger generation, who will remember him for his final film. He will be a great loss to the saga, and it will now be interesting to see what happens for the future Mockingjay productions. Perhaps it would be a fitting tribute to the actor if the final films were dedicated to him.
As well as being a talented film actor, he was also renowned for his success on the stage. He received high critical acclaim for his role as Willy Loman in the 2012 production of Death of a Salesman. He was also the artistic director for many theatre productions, one of these included Jack Goes Boating, which he later made into a film as his directorial debut, as well as featuring in it himself.
His presence was electric, adding to the quality of a production. But despite all this success and a seemingly brilliant, satisfying career, he sadly re-entered rehab in May 2013, after 23 years of sobriety. He had already attended a rehab clinic after graduating at the age of 22. He admitted taking prescription pills, and then becoming addicted to heroin with his ongoing struggles frequently being in the tabloids over the years.
It is sad to think that a man with such enormous talent could not defeat the difficulties of addiction, succumbing again after 23 years. Though not the first to die in such circumstances, it is a very sad loss to the world of theatre and film that such a remarkable talent has slipped away, with more to give.
He never played the leading roles like those of Leonardo DiCaprio or George Clooney, and was always the underdog to Matt Damon and Jude Law. He wasn’t considered a heartthrob. He shunned the limelight, and never played the big Hollywood star. But his ability to make a production shine was his talent, no matter what the topic. He didn’t just portray characters, he made them real.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was not only an exceptional actor, but was a father to three children, and is survived by his partner, Mimi O’Donnell.
Philip Seymour Hoffman: July 23rd, 1967- February 2nd, 2014.