Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman 2011.jpg
Hoffman at the Paris premiere of The Ides of March in October 2011
Born (1967-07-23)July 23, 1967
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Died February 2, 2014(2014-02-02) (aged 46)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Acute mixed drug intoxication
Education New York State Summer School of the Arts
Alma mater Tisch School of the Arts
Occupation
  • Actor
  • producer
  • director
Years active 1991–2014
Partner(s) Mimi O'Donnell (1999–2013)
Children 3
Relatives Gordy Hoffman (brother)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (July 23, 1967 – February 2, 2014) was an American actor, director, and producer. He was prolific in both film and theater from the early 1990s until his death in 2014 at the age of 46, after which The New York Times declared him "perhaps the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation".[1]

Hoffman studied acting at the New York State Summer School of the Arts and the Tisch School of the Arts. He began his career in a 1991 episode of Law & Order, and began to appear in films in 1992. He gained recognition for his supporting work throughout the 1990s and early 2000s in minor but seminal roles, in which he typically played losers or degenerates, including a conceited student in Scent of a Woman (1992), a hyperactive storm-chaser in Twister (1996), a 1970s pornographic film boom operator in Boogie Nights (1997), a smug assistant in The Big Lebowski (1998), a hospice nurse in Magnolia (1999), a music critic in Almost Famous (2000), a phone-sex conman in Punch-Drunk Love (2002), and an immoral preacher in Cold Mountain (2003).

In 2005, Hoffman portrayed the author Truman Capote in Capote, for which he won multiple acting awards including the Academy Award for Best Actor. His three other Oscar nominations came for his supporting work playing a brutally frank CIA officer in Charlie Wilson's War (2007), a priest accused of pedophilia in Doubt (2008), and the charismatic leader of a nascent Scientology-type movement in The Master (2012). He also received critical acclaim for roles in Owning Mahowny (2003), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), The Savages (2007), Synecdoche, New York (2008), Moneyball (2011), and The Ides of March (2011). In 2010, Hoffman directed the feature film Jack Goes Boating.

Hoffman was also an accomplished theater actor and director. He joined the LAByrinth Theater Company in 1995, and directed and performed in numerous stage productions. His performances in three Broadway plays led to Tony Award nominations: two for Best Leading Actor, in True West (2000) and Death of a Salesman (2012), and one for Best Featured Actor in Long Day's Journey into Night (2003). Hoffman struggled with drug addiction as a young adult, and relapsed in 2012 after many years of sobriety. In February 2014, he died of combined drug intoxication – an unexpected event that was widely lamented by the film and theater industries.

Early life[edit]

Hoffman was born in Rochester, New York and raised in Fairport, New York.[1] His mother, Marilyn O'Connor (née Loucks), hailed from nearby Waterloo and worked as an elementary school teacher before becoming a lawyer and eventually a judge.[2][3] His father, Gordon Stowell Hoffman, was a native of Geneva, New York and worked for the Xerox Corporation. Along with one brother, Gordon Jr., Hoffman had two sisters, Jill and Emily.[2]

Hoffman had German, English, Irish, and Dutch ancestry.[4] He was baptized as a Catholic and attended mass as a child, but did not have a heavily religious upbringing.[5] His parents divorced when he was nine, leaving the children to be raised primarily by their mother.[3] Hoffman's childhood passion was sports, particularly wrestling and baseball,[3] but at age 12 he saw a stage production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons by which he was transfixed. He recalled in 2008, "I was changed—permanently changed—by that experience. It was like a miracle to me".[6] Hoffman developed a love for the theater through his mother, who was a big fan, and they attended regularly together.[7] He remembered that productions of Quilters and Alms for the Middle Class, starring a teenage Robert Downey, Jr., were also particularly inspirational.[8] Yet it was not until a neck injury brought an end to his sporting activity at the age of 14 that he began to consider acting.[6][9] Encouraged by his mother, he joined a drama club, and initially committed to it because he was attracted to a female member.[3][6]

However, acting gradually became a passion for Hoffman: "I loved the camaraderie of it, the people, and that's when I decided it was what I wanted to do."[9] At the age of 17, he was selected to attend the 1984 New York State Summer School of the Arts in Saratoga Springs, where he met future collaborators Bennett Miller and Dan Futterman.[10] Miller later commented on Hoffman's popularity at the time: "We were attracted to the fact that he was genuinely serious about what he was doing. Even then, he was passionate."[6] Hoffman applied for several drama degrees and was accepted to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.[6] Between starting on the program and graduating from Fairport High School, he continued his training at the Circle in the Square Theatre's summer program.[1] Hoffman had positive memories of his time at NYU, where he supported himself by working as an usher. With friends, he co-founded the Bullstoi Ensemble acting troupe.[9] He received a drama degree in 1989.[3]

Career[edit]

Early career (1991–1995)[edit]

After graduating, Hoffman worked in off-Broadway theater and made additional money with customer service jobs.[9][8] He made his screen debut in 1991, in a Law & Order episode called "The Violence of Summer", playing a man accused of rape.[11] His first cinema role came the following year, when he was credited as "Phil Hoffman" in the independent film Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole. After this, he adopted his grandfather's name Seymour to avoid confusion with another actor of the same name.[12] This was promptly followed by an appearance in the studio production My New Gun, and a small role in the comedy Leap of Faith, starring Steve Martin.[13][14] Following these efforts, he gained attention playing a spoiled student in the Oscar-winning film Scent of a Woman (1992). Hoffman auditioned five times for his role, which The Guardian journalist Ryan Gilbey says gave him an early opportunity "to indulge his skill for making unctuousness compelling".[15] The film earned $134 million worldwide[16] and was the first to get Hoffman noticed.[17] Reflecting on Scent of a Woman, Hoffman later said "If I hadn't gotten into that film, I wouldn't be where I am today."[11] It was only at this time that he abandoned his delicatessen job to become a professional actor.[12][18]

Hoffman continued playing small roles throughout the early 1990s. After appearing in Joey Breaker and the critically panned teen zombie picture My Boyfriend's Back,[19] he had a more notable role playing John Cusack's wealthy friend in the crime comedy Money for Nothing.[20] In 1994, he portrayed an inexperienced mobster in the crime thriller The Getaway, starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger,[21] and appeared with Andy García and Meg Ryan in the romantic drama When a Man Loves a Woman. He then played a police deputy who gets punched by Paul Newman – one of Hoffman's acting idols – in the critically acclaimed Nobody's Fool.[11][22][23]

Still considering stage work an important part of his career,[17][24] Hoffman joined the LAByrinth Theater Company of New York City in 1995.[20] It was an association that lasted the remainder of his life; along with appearing in multiple productions, he later became co-artistic director of the theater company with John Ortiz and directed various plays over the years.[24][25][26] Hoffman's only film appearance of 1995 was in the 22-minute short comedy The Fifteen Minute Hamlet, which satirized the film industry in an Elizabethan setting. He played the characters of Bernardo, Horatio, and Laertes alongside Austin Pendleton's Hamlet.[27]

A rising actor (1996–1999)[edit]

Based on his work in Scent of a Woman, Hoffman was cast by writer–director Paul Thomas Anderson to appear in his debut feature Hard Eight (1996).[15] He had only a brief role in the crime thriller, playing a cocksure young craps player, but it began the most important collaboration of Hoffman's career.[15][a] Before cementing his creative partnership with Anderson, Hoffman starred in one of the year's biggest blockbusters,[28] Twister, playing a grubby, hyperactive storm chaser alongside Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. According to a People magazine survey of Twitter and Facebook users, Twister is the film that Hoffman is most popularly associated with.[29] He then reunited with Anderson for the director's second feature, Boogie Nights, about the Golden Age of Pornography. The ensemble-piece starred Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds; Hoffman played a pathetic boom operator who attempts to seduce Wahlberg's character.[b] The film earned critical acclaim and grew into a cult classic,[11][30] while it has been cited as the role in which Hoffman first showed his full ability. Rolling Stone journalist David Fear commented on the "naked emotional neediness" he projected, adding "you can't take your eyes off him".[20][31] In 2012, Hoffman expressed his appreciation for Anderson when he called the director "incomparable".[32]

"That wasn’t easy. It’s hard to sit in your boxers and jerk off in front of people for three hours. I was pretty heavy, and I was afraid that people would laugh at me. Todd said they might laugh, but they won’t laugh at you. He saw what we were working for, which was the pathos of the moment. Sometimes, acting is a really private thing that you do for the world.”

—Hoffman on his role in Happiness (1998).[6]

Continuing with this momentum, Hoffman appeared in five films in 1998. He had supporting roles in the crime thriller Montana and the romantic comedy Next Stop Wonderland, both of which were commercial failures,[33] before working with the Coen brothers in their dark comedy The Big Lebowski. Hoffman had long been a fan of the directors and was excited to act for them: "I wasn't thinking about the success, but more about being part of something that would be well done and that funny", he later said.[34] Working alongside Jeff Bridges and John Goodman, Hoffman played Brandt, the smug personal assistant of the titular character. Although it was only a small role, Hoffman claimed it was one that he was most recognized for, in a film that has achieved cult status and a "huge fan base".[34]

Hoffman took a highly unflattering role in Todd Solondz's Happiness (1998),[35] a misanthropic comedy about the lives of three sisters and those around them. He played Allen, a strange loner who makes crude phone calls to women; the character furiously masturbates during one conversation, producing what film scholar Murray Pomerance calls an "embarrassingly raw performance".[35] Associated Press film writer Jake Coyle rates Allen as one of the creepiest characters in American cinema,[36] but critic Xan Brooks also praised Hoffman for bringing pathos to the role.[37] Happiness was controversial but widely acclaimed,[38] and Hoffman's role is often cited as one of his best.[36][39] His final 1998 release was more mainstream, as he appeared as a medical graduate in the Robin Williams comedy Patch Adams. The film was critically panned but one of the highest-grossing of Hoffman's career.[40][41]

Hoffman opposite Robert De Niro in Flawless (1999) as drag queen Rusty Zimmerman. Critics praised Hoffman's ability to avoid clichés in playing such a delicate role

In 1999, Hoffman starred opposite Robert De Niro as drag queen Rusty Zimmerman in Joel Schumacher's drama Flawless. Hoffman considered De Niro to be the most imposing actor that he had ever appeared with, and felt that working with the veteran performer profoundly improved his own acting abilities.[8] Critics praised Hoffman's ability to avoid clichés in playing such a delicate role,[20][42] and Roger Ebert said it confirmed him as "one of the best new character actors".[43] He was rewarded with his first Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.[44] Hoffman then reunited with Paul Thomas Anderson, where he was given an atypically virtuous role in the ensemble drama Magnolia.[15] The film, set over one day in Los Angeles, featured Hoffman as a nurse who cares for Jason Robards's character. He said of the role: "That's the guy's life and that's his job, and my point was, that doesn't make it any easier ... it's [always] painful."[45] The performance was praised by the medical industry,[45] and Jessica Winter of the Village Voice considered it Hoffman's most indelible work, likening him to a guardian angel in his caring for the dying father.[45] Widely acclaimed, Magnolia has been included in lists of the greatest films of all time,[46] and it was a personal favorite of Hoffman's.[32]

One of the most critically and commercially successful films of Hoffman's career was The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999),[41][47] which he considered "as edgy as you can get for a Hollywood movie".[48] Hoffman played a "preppy bully" who taunts Matt Damon in the thriller, and caught the attention of Meryl Streep—another of his cinematic idols—with his performance: "I sat up straight in my seat and said, 'Who is that?' I thought to myself: My God, this actor is fearless. He's done what we all strive for – he's given this awful character the respect he deserves, and he's made him fascinating."[17] Jeff Simon of The Buffalo News considered his character, Freddie Miles, to be "the truest upper class twit in all of American movies".[8] In recognition of his work in Magnolia and The Talented Mr. Ripley, Hoffman was named the year's Best Supporting Actor by the National Board of Review.[49]

Theatrical success and leading roles (2000–2004)[edit]

Hoffman at Cannes in 2002 promoting Punch-Drunk Love

Following a string of roles in successful films in the late 1990s, Hoffman had established a reputation as a top supporting player who could be relied on to make an impression with each appearance.[50] The experience of seeing Hoffman pop up in various films was likened by David Kamp of GQ to "discovering a prize in a box of cereal, receiving a bonus, or bumping unexpectedly into an old friend".[17] According to Murray Pomerance, as the year 2000 began, "it seemed Hoffman was everywhere, poised on the cusp of stardom".[51]

Hoffman first gained recognition as a theater actor in 1999 for the off-Broadway play The Author's Voice, for which he received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play.[52][53] On Broadway, he starred in the 2000 revival of Sam Shepard's True West, where he alternated roles nightly with co-star John C. Reilly,[c] making 154 appearances between March and July 2000.[54][35] Ben Brantley of The New York Times felt that it was the best stage performance of Hoffman's career, calling him "brilliant",[55] and indeed he earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play.[52] As a stage director he garnered acclaim, receiving two Drama Desk Award nominations for Outstanding Director of a Play: one for Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train in 2001; another for Our Lady of 121st Street in 2003.[56] On the benefits of taking both positions, Hoffman commented, "I would say that acting helps you become a better director. And directing helps you become a better actor—if you have that visual sense, because as a director you need that sense of design, and of storytelling ... But switching hats helps, because as a director you’re able to see yourself objectively through other actors."[57]

Hoffman's first screen role of the new millennium came in David Mamet's comedy State and Main (2000), about the difficulties of shooting a film in rural New England. The picture had a limited release but was critically praised.[58] Later that year, Hoffman had a supporting role in Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe's acclaimed coming-of-age film set around the 1970s music industry.[36] Hoffman portrayed the enthusiastic rock critic Lester Bangs, a task that he felt burdened by,[59] but managed to convey the real figure's mannerisms and gregariously sharp wit after watching him in a BBC interview.[60] The following year, Hoffman featured as the narrator and interviewer in The Party's Over, a documentary about the 2000 U.S. elections. He assumed the position of a "politically informed and alienated Generation-Xer" who seeks to be educated in U.S. politics, but ultimately reveals the extent of public dissatisfaction in this area.[61]

In 2002, Hoffman was given his first leading role (despite joking at the time "Even if I was hired into a leading-man part, I'd probably turn it into the non-leading-man part.")[62] in Todd Louiso's tragicomedy Love Liza (2002). His brother Gordy wrote the script, which Hoffman had seen at their mother's house five years earlier, about a widower who starts sniffing gasoline to cope with his wife's suicide. He considered it the finest piece of writing he had ever read, "incredibly humble in its exploration of grief",[12] but critics were less enthusiastic about the production. A review for the BBC wrote that Hoffman had finally been given a part that showed "what he's truly capable of",[63] but few witnessed this as the film had a limited release and earned only $210,000.[64]

Director Paul Thomas Anderson, who cast Hoffman in five of his first six features

Hoffman had better success starring opposite Adam Sandler and Emily Watson in Anderson's critically acclaimed fourth picture, the surrealist romantic comedy-drama Punch-Drunk Love (2002), where he played an illegal phone-sex "supervisor".[65] Drew Hunt of the Chicago Reader saw the performance as a fine example of his "knack for turning small roles into seminal performances", and praised Hoffman's comedic ability.[66] In a very different film, Hoffman was next seen with Anthony Hopkins in the high-budget thriller The Red Dragon, a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs, portraying the pesky tabloid journalist Freddy Lounds.[67] His fourth appearance of 2002 was as an English teacher who makes a devastating drunken mistake in Spike Lee's drama 25th Hour.[68] Both Lee and co-star Edward Norton were thrilled to work with Hoffman, and Lee confessed that he had long wanted to do a picture with Hoffman but had waited until he found the right role for him.[69] Hoffman considered his character, Jakob, to be one of the most reticent characters he had ever played, a straight-laced "corduroy-pants-wearing kind of guy."[12] Roger Ebert promoted 25th Hour to one of his "Great Movies" in 2009,[70] and along with A. O. Scott,[71] considered it to be one of the best films of the 2000s.[72]

The drama Owning Mahowny (2003) gave Hoffman his second lead role, starring opposite Minnie Driver as a bank employee who embezzles money to feed his gambling addiction. Based on the true story of Toronto banker Brian Molony, who committed the single-largest fraud in Canadian history, Hoffman met with Molony himself to prepare for the role and help him play the character as accurately as possible.[73] He was determined not to conform to "movie character" stereotypes,[64] and his portrayal of addiction won approval from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.[73] Roger Ebert ranked the film as one of the best of the year and assessed Hoffman's performance as "a masterpiece of discipline and precision".[74] Critics were generally kind to the production,[75] but its unpleasant nature meant it earned little at the box office.[76]

Later in 2003, Hoffman had a small role in Anthony Minghella's successful Civil War epic Cold Mountain.[77] He played an immoral preacher, a complex character that Hoffman described as a "mass of contradictions".[78] The same year, from April to August, he appeared with Vanessa Redgrave in a Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night.[79] Director Robert Falls later commented on the dedication and experience that Hoffman brought to his role of alcoholic Jamie Tyrone: "Every night he ripped it up to an extent that he couldn't leave [the role]. Phil carried it with him."[80] Hoffman received his second Tony Award nomination, this time for Best Featured Actor in a Play.[52] In 2004, he appeared as Ben Stiller's character's crude, has-been actor buddy Sandy Lyle in the box office hit Along Came Polly.[81] Reflecting on the role, People magazine said it proved that "Hoffman could deliver comedic performances with the best of them".[29]

Critical acclaim (2005–2009)[edit]

Truman Capote in 1959. Hoffman won many awards for his portrayal of the writer in Capote (2005).

A turning point in Hoffman's career came with the biographical film Capote (2005), which dramatized Truman Capote's experience of writing his true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966).[82] Hoffman took the title role, in a project that he co-produced and helped get off the ground.[83][84] Portraying the idiosyncratic writer proved highly demanding: he lost weight and undertook four months of research, particularly watching video clips of Capote to help him affect his effeminate voice and mannerisms – Hoffman stated that he was not concerned with perfectly imitating Capote's speech, but did feel a great duty to "express the vitality and the nuances" of the writer.[85][86] During filming, he stayed in character constantly so as not to lose the voice and posture: "Otherwise", he explained, "I would give my body a chance to bail on me."[86] Capote was released to great acclaim, with particular praise going to Hoffman's performance.[87] Many critics noted that the role was designed to win awards,[88] and indeed Hoffman received an Oscar, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, BAFTA, and various other critics awards.[89] After Capote, several commentators began to describe Hoffman as one of the finest, most ambitious actors of his generation.[84]

Hoffman received his only Primetime Emmy Award nomination for his supporting role in the HBO miniseries Empire Falls (2005), but lost to castmate Paul Newman.[90] In 2006, he appeared in the summer blockbuster Mission: Impossible III, playing the villainous arms dealer Owen Davian opposite Tom Cruise. A journalist for Vanity Fair stated that Hoffman’s "black-hat performance was one of the most delicious in a Hollywood film since Alan Rickman’s in Die Hard",[54] and he was generally praised for bringing gravitas to the action film. With a gross of nearly $400 million, it carried the benefit of exposing Hoffman to a mainstream audience.[91]

Hoffman returned to indie films in 2007, firstly with a starring role in Tamara Jenkins's The Savages where he and Laura Linney played siblings responsible for putting their dementia-ridden father (Philip Bosco) in a care home. AP film writer Jake Coyle stated that it was "the epitome of a Hoffman film: a mix of comedy and tragedy told with subtlety, bone-dry humor and flashes of grace".[36] Rafer Guzmán considered it to be a "high-water mark for the two leads, and some of the finest acting you'll ever see".[92] Hoffman received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. In Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, the final film by veteran director Sidney Lumet, Hoffman played a realtor who embezzles funds from his employer to support his drug habit, with devastating consequences on his family. The character was considered one of the most unpleasant of his career, but Pomerance comments that "Hoffman's fearlessness again revealed the humanity within a deeply flawed character" as he appeared naked in the opening anal sex scene.[93] The film was praised by critics as a powerful and affecting thriller.[94]

Mike Nichols's political film Charlie Wilson's War (2007) gave Hoffman his second Academy Award nomination, again for playing a real individual – Gust Avrakotos, the CIA agent who conspired with Congressman Wilson (played by Tom Hanks) to aid Afghani rebels in their fight against the Soviet Union. Todd McCarthy wrote of Hoffman's performance: "Decked out with a pouffy '80s hairdo, moustache, protruding gut and ever-present smokes ... whenever he's on, the picture vibrates with conspiratorial electricity."[95] The film was a critical and commercial success,[96] and along with his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Hoffman was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award.[89]

The year 2008 gave Hoffman two important roles. In Charlie Kaufman's enigmatic drama Synecdoche, New York, he starred as Caden Cotard, a frustrated dramatist who attempts to build a scale replica of New York inside a warehouse for a play.[97] Hoffman again showed his willingness to reveal unattractive traits and, according to Pomerance, "showcased his intelligence and courage as he endured the mental strain of relentless introspection and the physical demands of exhibiting his body in a continuous state of decay.[98] Critics were divided in their response to the "ambitious and baffling" film,[99] but Roger Ebert named it the best of the decade and considered it one of the greatest of all time.[100] Robbie Collin, film critic for The Daily Telegraph, called Hoffman's performance one of the finest in cinematic history.[101]

Hoffman's second role of the year came opposite Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, where he played Father Brendan Flynn – a priest accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old African-American student in the 1960s. Hoffman was already familiar with the play and appreciated the opportunity to bring it to the screen; in preparing for the role, he talked extensively to a priest who lived through the era.[102] In another widely praised performance,[103] Hoffman received second consecutive Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes; he was also nominated by the Screen Actors Guild.[89]

Returning to the stage in 2009, Hoffman played Iago in Peter Sellars' futuristic production of Othello, which received mixed reviews.[104] Hoffman also did his first vocal performance for the claymation film Mary and Max. He played the male title character, a depressed New Yorker with Asperger syndrome, while Toni Collette voiced Mary – the Australian girl who becomes his pen pal. The film did not have an American release but gained a cult following – widely praised for its heart and ingenuity.[105] Continuing with animation, Hoffman then worked on an episode of the children's show Arthur and received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performer In An Animated Program.[106] Later in the year, Hoffman played a brash American DJ opposite Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans in Richard Curtis's British comedy The Boat That Rocked (also known as Pirate Radio), a character based loosely on the host of Radio Caroline in 1964.[107] He also had a cameo role as a bartender in Ricky Gervais's The Invention of Lying.[108] Reflecting on Hoffman's work in the late 2000s, Pomerance writes that the actor remained impressive but had not delivered a testing performance on the level of his work in Capote. The film critic David Thomson believed that Hoffman showed indecisiveness at this time, unsure whether to play spectacular supporting roles or become a lead actor who is capable of controlling the emotional dynamic and outcome of the film.[109]

Final years (2010–2014)[edit]

Hoffman's profile continued to grow with the new decade, and he became a well-known public figure.[23] Despite earlier reservations about directing for the screen,[8] his first release of the 2010s was also his first as a film director. The indie drama Jack Goes Boating was adapted from Robert Glaudini's play of the same name, which Hoffman had starred in and directed for the LAByrinth Theater Company in 2007. He originally intended only to direct the film, but decided to reprise the main role of Jack – a lonely limousine driver looking for love – after the actor he wanted for it was unavailable.[110] The low-key film had a limited release and was not a high earner,[111] but it received mainly positive reviews.[112] The film critic Mark Kermode appreciated the cinematic qualities that Hoffman brought to the film, and stated that he showed potential as a director.[113] In addition to Jack Goes Boating, in 2010 Hoffman also directed Brett C. Leonard's tragic drama The Long Red Road for the Goodman Theater in Chicago.[114]

Hoffman at the Moneyball premiere in September 2011

Hoffman next had significant supporting roles in two films, both released in the fall of 2011. In Moneyball, a sports drama about the 2002 season of the baseball team Oakland Athletics, he played the manager Art Howe. The film was a critical and commercial success, and Hoffman was described as "perfectly cast" by Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, but the real-life Art Howe accused the filmmakers of giving an "unfair and untrue" portrayal of him.[115] Hoffman's second film of the year was George Clooney's political drama The Ides of March, in which he played the earnest campaign manager to the Democratic presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney). The film was well-received and Hoffman's performance, especially in the scenes opposite Paul Giamatti – who played the rival campaign manager – was positively noted.[116] Hoffman's work on the film earned him his fourth BAFTA Award nomination.[89]

In the spring of 2012, Hoffman made his 24th stage appearance, starring as Willy Loman in a Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman. Directed by Mike Nichols, the production ran for 78 performances and was the highest-grossing show in the Ethel Barrymore Theatre's history.[117] Many critics felt that Hoffman, at 44, was too young for the role of 62-year-old Loman,[1] and he admitted that it was a difficult role,[32] but he nevertheless earned his third Tony Award nomination.[52]

Hoffman collaborated with Paul Thomas Anderson for the fifth time in The Master (2012), where he turned in what critic Peter Bradshaw considered the most memorable performance of his career.[118] Set in 1950s America, the film featured Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, the charismatic leader of a nascent Scientology-type movement who brings a troubled man (Joaquin Phoenix) under his tutelage. Hoffman was instrumental in the project's development, having been involved with it for three years.[32] He assisted Anderson in the writing of the script by reviewing samples of it, and suggested making Phoenix's character, Freddie Quell, the protagonist instead of Dodd.[119] A talented dancer,[37] Hoffman was able to showcase his abilities by performing a jig during a surreal sequence; Bradshaw called it an "extraordinary moment" that "only Hoffman could have carried off."[118] The Master was praised as an intelligent and challenging drama,[120] and the critic Drew Hunt also felt that it contained Hoffman's finest work: "He's inscrutable yet welcoming, intimidating yet charismatic, villainous yet fatherly. He epitomizes so many things at once that it's impossible to think of [Dodd] as mere movie character".[66] Hoffman and Phoenix received a joint Volpi Cup Award at the Venice Film Festival for their performances, and Hoffman was also nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award and a SAG Award for the supporting role.[89]

Hoffman, Anton Corbijn and Grigoriy Dobrygin promoting A Most Wanted Man at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2014, less than two weeks before his death

Hoffman's other film release of 2012 was A Late Quartet, where he played a violinist in a string quartet whose members face a crisis when one is diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. The drama received favorable reviews, and Stephen Holden of The New York Times called Hoffman's performance "exceptional".[121][122] In 2013, Hoffman joined the popular Hunger Games series for its second release The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, where he played the gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. The film finished as the tenth highest grossing in history to that point,[123] and made Hoffman recognizable to a new generation of film-goers.[118] In January 2014, shortly before his death, Hoffman attended the Sundance Film Festival to promote two films. In Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, a thriller based on John le Carré's novel, Hoffman played a German intelligence officer. His performance was praised by Xan Brooks as one of "terrific, lip-smacking relish: full of mischief, anchored by integrity."[124] The other was God's Pocket, the directorial debut of actor John Slattery, in which Hoffman played a thief.[125] In November 2014, Hoffman will be seen posthumously in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.[126]

At the time of his death, Hoffman was filming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, the final Hunger Games film, and had already completed the majority of his scenes.[126] Lionsgate Films have announced that Hoffman will be digitally recreated for a major scene that he had yet to shoot.[127] Hoffman was also preparing for his second directorial effort, a Prohibition-era drama titled Ezekiel Moss, which was to star Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal.[128] In addition, he had filmed a pilot episode for the Showtime series Happyish, in which he played the lead role of an advertising executive, but plans for a full season were put on hold following his death.[129]

Legacy and influence[edit]

"No modern actor was better at making you feel sympathy for fucking idiots, failures, degenerates, sad sacks and hangdogs dealt a bum hand by life, even as — no, especially when — he played them with all of their worst qualities front and center. But Philip Seymour Hoffman had a range that seemed all-encompassing, and he could breathe life into any role he took on: a famous author, a globetrotting party-boy aristocrat, a German counterintelligence agent, a charismatic cult leader, a genius who planned games of death in dystopic futures. He added heft to low-budget art films, and nuance and unpredictability to blockbuster franchises. He was a transformative performer who worked from the inside out, blessed with an emotional transparency that could be overwhelming, invigorating, compelling, devastating."

—David Fear of Rolling Stone on Hoffman[20]

Hoffman was held in high regard within the film and theater industry, cited in the media as one of the finest actors of his generation.[1][130][131] He often played supporting roles – in both dramas and comedies[132] – but was acclaimed for his ability to make small parts memorable.[10][15] Peter Bradshaw, film critic for The Guardian, felt that "Almost every single one of his credits had something special about it."[118]

Hoffman was praised for his versatility and ability to fully inhabit any role,[11][37] but he specialized in playing creeps and cads: "his CV was populated almost exclusively by snivelling wretches, insufferable prigs, braggarts and outright bullies", writes the journalist Ryan Gilbey.[15] Hoffman was appreciated for making these roles real, complex and even sympathetic;[1][15][20] Xan Brooks of The Guardian remarked that the actor's particular talent was to "take thwarted, twisted humanity and ennoble it".[37] "The more pathetic or deluded the character," writes Gilbey, "the greater Hoffman's relish seemed in rescuing them from the realms of the merely monstrous."[15] When asked in 2006 why he undertook such roles, Hoffman responded, "I didn't go out looking for negative characters; I went out looking for people who have a struggle and a fight to tackle. That's what interests me."[133]

Many of Hoffman's notable roles came in arthouse films – Gilbey wrote that the actor "became integral to some of the most original US cinema of the past 20 years" – but he also featured in several Hollywood blockbusters.[1][15] He was not a typical movie actor, with a pudgy build and lack of matinée idol looks,[37][134] but Hoffman claimed that he was grateful for his appearance as it made him believable in a wide range of roles.[67] Joel Schumacher once said of him in 2000, "The bad news is that Philip won't be a $25-million star. The good news is that he'll work for the rest of his life".[109] Todd Louiso, director of Love Liza, stated that Hoffman connected to people on screen because he looked like an ordinary man and revealed his vulnerability.[135] However, Hoffman was acutely aware that he was often too unorthodox for the Academy voters. He remarked, "I'm sure that people in the big corporations that run Hollywood don't know quite what to do with someone like me, but that's OK. I think there are other people who are interested in what I do."[12]

Work ethic[edit]

Hoffman was described as "probably the most in-demand character actor of his generation",[8] but claimed never to take it for granted that he would be offered roles.[69] Although he worked hard and regularly,[12] Hoffman was humble about his acting success, and when asked by a friend if he was having any luck he meekly replied, "I'm in a film, Cold Mountain, that has just come out."[7] Patrick Fugit, who worked with Hoffman on Almost Famous, recalled that he was intimidating but an exceptional mentor and influence in "a school-of-hard-knocks way", remarking that "there was a certain weight that came with him".[136] Hoffman admitted that he sometimes appeared in low-brow studio films for the money, but said, "ultimately my main goal is to do good work. If it doesn't pay well, so be it."[137] He kept himself grounded and invigorated as an actor by attempting to appear on stage once a year as a break from the screen.[137]

Hoffman often changed his hair and lost or gained weight for parts,[10] and he went to great lengths to reveal the worst in his characters. In an interview with David Edelstein he remarked that "I think deep down inside, people understand how flawed they are. I think the more benign you make somebody, the less truthful it is."[51] But in a 2012 interview he confessed that this was not easy: "It's hard. The job isn't difficult. Doing it well is difficult ... just because you like to do something doesn't mean you have fun doing it; and I think that's true about acting".[15] In an earlier interview with The New York Times, he explained how deeply he loved acting but added, "that deep kind of love comes at a price: for me, acting is torturous, and it's torturous because you know it's a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, That’s beautiful and I want that. Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great—well, that's absolutely torturous."[6]

Personal life[edit]

Hoffman at a Hudson Union Society event in September 2010

Hoffman rarely mentioned his personal life in interviews, stating in 2012 that he would "rather not because my family doesn't have any choice. If I talk about them in the press, I'm giving them no choice. So I choose not to."[131] For the last 14 years of his life, he was in a relationship with costume designer Mimi O'Donnell, whom he had met when they were both working on the play In Arabia We'd All Be Kings in 1999.[10] They lived in New York City and had a son born in 2003, and two daughters born in 2006 and 2008.[138] Hoffman and O'Donnell separated in the fall of 2013, some months before his death.[139]

Hoffman was also discreet about his religious and political beliefs, but it is known that he voted for the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election.[5][131] He felt that keeping his personal life private was beneficial to his career: "The less you know about me the more interesting it will be to watch me do what I do".[18]

In a 2006 interview with 60 Minutes, Hoffman revealed that he suffered from drug and alcohol abuse during his time at New York University, saying that he had used "anything I could get my hands on. I liked it all."[140] Following his graduation in 1989, he entered a drug rehabilitation program at age 22, remaining sober for 23 years. However, in 2012, during a wrap party for his film The Master, Hoffman accepted an alcoholic beverage to celebrate the completion of the film, resulting in a relapse, and began using prescription medications months later. He started using heroin in 2013, and admitted himself to drug rehabilitation for approximately 10 days in May of that year.[1][140]

Death[edit]

Although friends observed that Hoffman's problematic drug use was under control at the time,[139] on February 2, 2014, playwright and screenwriter David Bar Katz[1] found Hoffman dead in the bathroom of Hoffman's fourth-floor apartment in Manhattan's West Village—Hoffman was 46 years old.[141][142] During a search of the apartment, detectives found heroin and prescription medications at the scene of the death, and revealed that Hoffman was discovered with a syringe in his arm.[143]

On February 28, 2014, the New York City medical examiner's office ruled Hoffman's death an accident caused by "acute mixed drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine".[144] The examination did not determine whether he had taken all of the substances on the same day, or whether any of the substances had remained in his system from earlier use.[145] Hoffman's parents and siblings survived him.[1]

Reaction[edit]

Hoffman's unexpected death was widely lamented by fans and the film industry, and was described by several commentators as a considerable loss to the profession.[66][101][118][146] On February 5, 2014, the LAByrinth Theatre Company honored his memory by holding a candlelight vigil, and Broadway dimmed its lights for one minute.[147][148]

Hoffman's funeral was held at St. Ignatius Loyola church in Manhattan on February 7, 2014, and was attended by many of his former co-stars and close friends. After the funeral, Hoffman was cremated and his ashes were given to his family.[149] In another tribute, actress Cate Blanchett dedicated her BAFTA trophy to Hoffman when she received the award for Blue Jasmine on February 16.[150]

Three weeks after Hoffman's death, David Bar Katz established the American Playwriting Foundation in the actor's memory. With the money received from a libel lawsuit against the National Enquirer—which had inaccurately published that Hoffman and Katz were lovers—the foundation will award an annual prize of US$45,000 to the author of an unproduced play. Katz named this the "Relentless Prize" in honor of Hoffman's dedication to the profession.[151] A fundraising campaign for the LAByrinth Theater Company was also established in Hoffman's memory—partly initiated by actor Edward Norton, who worked with Hoffman on 25th Hour and Red Dragon.[152]

In July 2014, it was revealed that Hoffman had left his entire fortune to O'Donnell in his October 2004 will, which omitted any of his children. According to a filing obtained by the New York Post, Hoffman did so because he "did not want his children to be considered 'trust fund' kids" and thought O'Donnell would take care of them.[153]

Filmography, awards, and nominations[edit]

Hoffman at the 81st Academy Awards in February 2009

Hoffman appeared in over 50 films during his career spanning more than two decades. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Capote (2005), and was nominated three times for Best Supporting Actor for Charlie Wilson's War (2007), Doubt (2008), and The Master (2012). He also received five Golden Globe Award nominations (winning one) and five BAFTA Award nominations (winning one).[89] Hoffman remained active in theater throughout his career, starring in and directing numerous stage productions in New York. He received three Tony Award nominations for his Broadway performances: two for Best Leading Actor, in True West (2000) and Death of a Salesman (2012), and one for Best Featured Actor in Long Day's Journey into Night (2003).[52]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Hoffman continued to collaborate with Anderson, appearing in all but one of the director's first six films. The others were Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and The Master.[15]
  2. ^ David Fear of Rolling Stone described Hoffman's Boogie Nights character as a "complete, unabashed loser", a "lumpy mouthbreather always lurking on the periphery", and that the most distinguishing thing about him is that he seems "incapable of finding a T-shirt that actually fits his doughy torso."[20]
  3. ^ John C. Reilly had been a frequent co-star of Hoffman in Anderson's films, including Hard Eight, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and the pair were already well-acquainted with each other as actors.
Citations
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Bibliography

External links[edit]