The first movie I really noticed Philip Seymour Hoffman in was Boogie Nights. I’d seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s earlier film, Hard Eight, but for whatever reason his role didn’t really register in my head. In Boogie Nights, though, as Scotty the sound man with the heartbreaking crush on Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler character, I walked out of the theater waiting to see an interview with Hoffman because I figured there was no way his mannerisms could all be an act. He had to be something like Scotty to pull off that role, didn’t he?
Then I saw him in Lebowski, and Magnolia, and The Talented Mr. Ripley and his brilliant turn as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, and his Oscar-winning role in Capote, and I came to the conclusion so many others did: that Philip Seymour Hoffman was living proof of what it really means to be an actor. He was a man of a thousand faces and a thousand personalities, every one of them fully formed and stunningly realized.
This morning, Hoffman was found dead in his Greenwich Village apartment with a needle still in his arm and five empty heroin bags next to his body, with two more still full and available for use. This honestly made me cry the first time I read it. I used to do heroin — a lot of it. It’s fucking shit and it steals your soul, destroying you piece by piece by piece. What never ceases to devastate me, though, is how many people seem to have everything they could ever want and turn to drugs anyway. Even to someone who’s been through it and understands, it still creates a painful amount of dissonance.
But then I remember that nobody knows what really goes on inside the mind and heart of someone drawn to creative endeavors. And no one knows how much pain anyone is truly in. What made Philip Seymour Hoffman so brilliant is very likely what destroyed him. It’s a tragedy but maybe in Hoffman’s eyes — and I know this will be shocking to some — a somewhat unpreventable one. But that doesn’t make it any better that such awesome talent was taken from us far too soon.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the greatest actors of his generation. Maybe that’s what we should remember about him because maybe that’s enough.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.