Philip Seymour Hoffman… a loss cinema will feel for years to come

The world lost a great actor yesterday. An Actor in the truest sense of the word, a character actor with the bravura of a leading man and sometimes he played the lead role with all the complex intricacies and methods of a great character actor.

Philip Seymour Hoffman first caught my attention with his role in Boogie Nights. It is appropriate since some of his best roles would come from his collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson, the man who directed Boogie Nights and also directed Philip Seymour Hoffman in Hard Eight, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and most recently to his Academy Award nominated role in 2012’s The Master.

All of those films feature strong performances from the late thespian. Known for most of his career as a character actor ironically he would win his only Oscar as Best Actor for Capote where he played the title role with dead on impersonation. He followed that up with three Academy Award nominations over the next seven years for Charlie Wilson’s War, Doubt and as previously mentioned The Master. It was true that Philip Seymour Hoffman was the type of actor that elevated a film no matter what type of film it was. He had his fair share of roles in blockbusters such as Twister, Patch Adams and the meaty, scenery chewing villainous role in Mission:Impossible III. Even early in his career some of his first film roles he made an impact on the screen in Scent of a Woman and I’ll never forget the hilarious scene Philip S. Hoffman (as he was credited then) plays a police officer who gets punched in the face by Paul Newman as the towns lowlife-tough guy in the highly underrated Nobody’s Fool.

Mostly though he was known for his work in theater and independent cinema. His lone directorial feature Jack Goes Boating was based on a play. Some of my favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances were Brandt the butler in the Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski, a lonely office drone who has a sexual obsession with his neighbor in Todd Solondz’s Happiness, Jude Law’s friend who knew there was more to Matt Damon’s impostor in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a teacher with serious problems in Spike Lee’s 25th Hour and a soulless son and brother who is desperate for money even at the expense of his own family in Sidney Lumet’s final opus Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. All of these films were great pictures from great directors with the spirit of an independent film even if they were not truly financed without big studio money. And all were made even greater by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance.

A native and resident of New York he lived as an everyman. It is a shame that his addiction to drugs took him away from the acting world far too soon. At 46 years old he still had a lot more to contribute to stage and screen and most likely more Oscar and Tony nominations would have followed. I will leave you now with my favorite scene from Philip Seymour Hoffman, opposite Adam Sandler (Yes, that Adam Sandler) as the “Mattress Man” in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love.


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