Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman

THE REEL with Ben Conniff

Ben Conniff

With the memory of Paul Walker’s tragic demise barely erased from our memories, it seems impossible for the Reaper to come knocking again so soon.

On Sunday morning, Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead inside his Greenwich Village apartment. He was 46.

Throughout his life, Hoffman struggled with drug abuse. He checked himself into rehab for a heroin addiction last May. 

This makes the fact that Hoffman’s friend and colleague, David Bar Katz, found his body with a needle in his arm and an envelope full of heroin nearby all the more abhorrent.

Did the gravity of Hoffman’s work weigh a bit too much on him?

It’s no secret that the actor has pursued some of the most ambitious roles in the history of film and the stage. 

He won an Oscar for his role in “Capote,” in which he portrayed the titular author with eccentricity and poise. For a guy with such a deep voice, Hoffman nailed Truman Capote’s nasally, high-pitched drawl.

In 2010, he starred as Willy Loman in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”. The production, directed by Mike Nichols, drew mixed reviews, but Hoffman was nominated for a Tony award.

I remember Hoffman most notably for his wide range of film work. The man was a chameleon, adding depth and complexity to every role from a brooding international terrorist in “Mission: Impossible III,” to the manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team in “Moneyball” to a charismatic cult leader in “The Master”.

Most recently, Hoffman proved a welcome addition to the “Hunger Games” franchise as Plutarch Heavensbee, the Capitol’s new Head Gamemaker. I saw on Twitter recently that Lionsgate has no plans to recast the role for the upcoming “Mockingjay” sequels. 

Part 1 is finished and will be released this coming Thanksgiving. Part 2 is currently filming in anticipation of a Thanksgiving 2015 release, but for now it is unclear if production will halt in the wake of Hoffman’s death.

He still has two other projects on the way this year – the Sundance darling “God’s Pocket” in which Hoffman will play the lead role of a man trying to cover-up the accidental death of his stepson. The other is Anton Corbijn’s international thriller “A Most Wanted Man”, about an illegal immigrant to Hamburg, Germany who gets caught up in the war on terror.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite of Hoffman’s performances because he always seems to lose himself in each character. No matter who or what he portrays, he consistently becomes his subject. He can be funny, somber, angry, laid back, morose or joyous. Few, if any actors working today can pull this off like Hoffman can, and the industry will certainly be worse off without him.