On Sunday, the Super Bowl was not the only big thing happening in New York. The world lost one of the greatest character actors of all time when Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment Sunday morning from an apparent heroin overdose. The details of his death paint the picture of a tortured genius. Without trying to get too deeply into Hoffman’s personal life, his body of work is certainly the work of a genius.
Hoffman was one of those character actors who could legitimize any film just by being in it, much like Kevin Spacey, Steve Buscemi, or Harvey Keitel. I’m pretty sure the sentence: “This movie would have been so much better if Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t in it.” has never been written by anyone ever. He had an incredible range as a performer, from the title character’s nervously bemused personal assistant in The Big Lebowski to Art Howe, the old school baseball manager and stubborn foil to Brad Pitt’s Billy Bean in Moneyball, to his Academy Award winning portrayal of Truman Capote in Capote. I was surprised that he was only 46, since he’s been playing mature roles for a long time. Art Howe didn’t like they way Hoffman portrayed him, much the way Mark Zuckerberg didn’t like the way Jesse Eisenberg played him in The Social Network. To me, that means that Hoffman nailed the former Oakland A’s skipper, and I was more impressed by his performance than they highly acclaimed performances by Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Chris Pratt. He complimented the actors around him very well, providing a great contrast to the other pieces of the ensemble.
Last year, Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Master. Everyone nominated in that category had already won an Oscar for acting: Hoffman, Alan Arkin (Argo), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), and Christoph Waltz, who ended up taking the statue home for Django Unchained. Never before had an Oscar category been stacked with winners like that, and a compelling case could have been made for all of these men.
Hollywood has lost another great actor to drug problems. Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the best of his generation, and will certainly be missed.