Stunning, horrible news from the Wall Street Journal‘s Pervaiz Shallwani: “Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead Sunday afternoon in his New York City apartment, a law-enforcement official said. The New York Police Department is investigating, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine exact cause of death.”
One of the most admired American actors of the past twenty years, Hoffman began acting in 1991 and won a Best Actor Oscar in 2005 for Capote. Some of his most remarkable work has been for Paul Thomas Anderson: Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), and of course, The Master (2012). Other memorable performances would include his Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000) and theater director Caden Cotard in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York (2008). In 2010, Hoffman made his feature film directorial debut with Jack Goes Boating.
Updates: For the New York Times, J. David Goodman reports that the cause of death is “an apparent drug overdose, according to a law enforcement official… ‘It’s pretty apparent that it was an overdose,’ the official said. ‘The syringe was in his arm.'” Hoffman “had undergone treatment for drug addiction in the past, and spoke in interviews about ‘falling off the wagon’ last year after remaining clean for 23 years.”
In 2008, Lynn Hirschberg profiled Hoffman for the New York Times Magazine:
“In my mid-20s, an actor told me, ‘Acting ain’t no puzzle,’ ” Hoffman said, after returning to his seat. “I thought: ‘Ain’t no puzzle?!?’ You must be bad!” He laughed. “You must be really bad, because it is a puzzle. Creating anything is hard. It’s a cliché thing to say, but every time you start a job, you just don’t know anything. I mean, I can break something down, but ultimately I don’t know anything when I start work on a new movie. You start stabbing out, and you make a mistake, and it’s not right, and then you try again and again. The key is you have to commit. And that’s hard because you have to find what it is you are committing to.”
Via Joe Leydon, a clip from Magnolia:
Indiewire‘s posted eight more clips (and I can’t stop watching them).
“Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the most miserable men I have ever met, and one of the most humane,” writes Simon Hattenstone, who interviewed Hoffman for the Guardian in 2011. “He spoke in the same fractured, tortured sentences as he did in his films. Nobody did crippled communication quite like Hoffman…. He might have insisted he was giving me nothing of himself, but when I transcribed our meeting I realised it was just like one of his movies—he’d reluctantly grouched his way to a full and complex self-portrait.”
“I personally first laid eyes on Hoffman the way a lot of people did,” writes the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw: “in Todd Solondz‘s excoriating black-comedy Happiness in 1998, when he played Allen, a deeply horrible yet lonely guy who is addicted to making anonymous and sexually abusive phone calls. His psychotherapy reveals a chilling strain of violent fantasy, but also a poignant and pathetic need to be respectful and gentle to the people with whom he imagines himself to be in love. It was not Hoffman’s screen debut, but it certainly made a shattering breakthrough impression. Here was a performer replete with darkness and danger, and yet a distinctive kind of cerebral high-mindedness also shone through.”
Time editor at large Catherine Mayer recalls seeing a rough cut of Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man about a year ago: “When the lights came up, I told Anton that he’d made a fantastic movie. But I also begged him to change a moment of screen time, something I can’t describe without being guilty of a spoiler. I had so completely bought into Hoffman’s character, in all his shambling, flawed humanity, that I wanted to play god, play Anton, and protect him. I wish someone could have done that today.”
Via Jürgen Fauth:
RogerEbert.com is collecting tributes from its contributing writers, among them, Susan Wloszczyna: “I had to beg my editors [at USA Today] to let me do a major cover profile on him since it was readily apparent to me that this guy was going places. They reluctantly agreed and I first interviewed Hoffman in a cozy bar that he often patronized on Jane Street on a cold November day in the Village…. Hoffman was far from loquacious that day—he saved whatever intense emotions he harbored for the characters he played. So to beef up my story, I talked to the several of the directors who had hired him and often worshiped him, especially his good friend Paul Thomas Anderson, who allowed him to sleep in his apartment when they worked together. Anderson’s only complaint about his roommate was that Hoffman often failed to empty his ashtrays. That is how I managed to write the first major national profile on Hoffman.”
At Vulture, Bilge Ebiri comments on twelve amazing performances, but first: “Look on his filmography and despair at its unthinkable breadth—from Happiness to The Talented Mr. Ripley, from State & Maine to Flawless, from Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead to The Master. He didn’t transform into these parts, he consumed them—in the best, most brilliant way possible.”
Updates, 2/3: At the Dissolve, Noel Murray, Keith Phipps, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, Matt Singer and Scott Tobias remember Philip Seymour Hoffman.
“Mr. Hoffman’s gifts were widely celebrated while he was alive,” writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “But the shock of his death on Sunday revealed, too soon and too late, the astonishing scale of his greatness and the solidity of his achievement. We did not lose just a very good actor. We may have lost the best one we had.”
A Most Wanted Man director Anton Corbijn adds that “if you look at just the smaller roles he occupied, then those performances alone set him apart from his contemporaries. His strength was a total immersion in the role and a lack of vanity. At the same time, he hated what he loved, that was his curse—he would tear himself to pieces over his performances…. He was 200% human, with all the struggles and flaws that come with this—and that is where that great art came from, I like to think.”
Also in the Guardian, Xan Brooks writes that “he became, arguably, the one great guarantee of modern American cinema.” And Ryan Gilbey: PSH “had three names and 3,000 ways of expressing anxiety. He was a prolific and old-fashioned character actor, which is not a euphemism for ‘odd’—it means he could nail a part in one punch, summoning the richness of an entire life in the smallest gesture.”
The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody: “Work that’s only good is limited to its technique; when it’s great, a work is virtually inseparable from the artist’s life because it gives the sense of being the product of a whole life and being the absolute and total focus of that life at the time of its creation. The most depressing thing about The Master—in which the art of the director and the actors converged with a rare, white-hot fury from beginning to end—is, now, its basis in substance abuse.”
For Flavorwire‘s Jason Bailey, “there was one common thread in his work: he was an actor of remarkable control. Many of his best performances conveyed that control, and even when he played disorderly characters, there was never a fear of Hoffman losing control of them. And that, more than his age or his persona or the sordid details of his death scene, may be the most shocking thing about his passing: that it was so clearly the death of a man who had lost control of a crippling addiction.”
“If Philip Seymour Hoffman can die of an overdose, then anyone can,” writes Dana Stevens. “If his death doesn’t serve as a wakeup call for ‘high-functioning’ addicts, then nothing will… Accomplished as he already was, Hoffman’s career nonetheless had a distinct feeling of being nearer its beginning than its end—he was the opposite of an artist in decline. It’s easy to imagine him performing into his 80s, challenging himself and surprising us in ever-different ways as he grew older, playing Winston Churchill or Falstaff or Captain Ahab or King Lear, directing and producing both for the stage and the screen, mentoring younger actors. That we’ll never get a chance to watch that lifelong creative flowering makes me want to destroy a roomful of furniture with the cold, methodical rage Hoffman’s betrayed jewel thief displayed in Sidney Lumet’s final film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.”
Also in Slate, June Thomas: “For all his great movie roles and Hollywood accolades, Philip Seymour Hoffman was in many ways a quintessential New York actor. He was a resident of the West Village; his stage work spanned Tony-winning performances on Broadway and downtown projects with the Labyrinth Theater Company; and like all New York thespians worth their salt, his résumé included an appearance on Law & Order.” He “plays a young thug charged with gang rape. The part is small, but Hoffman makes the most of it.” And she’s got the clips to prove it.
New York‘s David Edelstein recalls lunching with Hoffman who told him that he’d argued with Bennett Miller during the editing of Capote. PSH wanted to make the writer “less attractive—to make him, in fact, thoroughly reprehensible. He said he told Miller, ‘The way toward empathy is actually to be as hard as possible on this character.’ I said I had no idea what he was talking about. ‘I think deep down inside, people understand how flawed they are,’ he said. ‘I think the more benign you make somebody, the less truthful it is.’ Yes … if you think that who we are at our worst is who we really are. And I’m pretty sure Hoffman did think that. Ever since then, I’ve been conscious of how much he went out of his way to make his characters un-benign. It was central to his power as an actor, though I wonder if at times he didn’t confuse self-hatred for integrity.”
David Thomson for the New Republic: “It’s one thing to say that he was a very good actor, or brilliant, or a genius; it’s probably far more important to realize how contemptuous he was of those labels and how thoroughly he lived with their inadequacy.”
Time‘s Richard Corliss: “For all his film renown, Hoffman said: ‘Theater is where I have more of a home. It’s a place where you’re not going to believe your own press. You either suck or you don’t. It’s a great humbler.’ As impressive a director as a stage actor, he brought the same intelligence to mounting plays and shaping the performances of other actors. Time’s Richard Zoglin found room on his annual 10 Best lists for two of Hoffman’s LAByrinth productions: The Glory of Living and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot—’a bold, blasphemous examination of the notion of forgiveness.'”
For more on PSH’s theater work, see Alexis Soloski in the Guardian.
“As thrilling as it was to see Hoffman emerge from obscurity and evolve from a sterling, well-regarded character thesp into a leading actor of tremendous intelligence, stature and emotional force,” writes Variety‘s Justin Chang, “it may be the surest sign of his achievement that he did his finest work in concert with others, whether it was with Laura Linney as a jaundiced brother-sister duo in The Savages; with Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson and Anna Paquin as a fractured circle of post-9/11 New Yorkers in 25th Hour; or with Marisa Tomei and Ethan Hawke as members of a family marked for tragedy in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.”
PSH left us “with two of the greatest performances in the history of cinema,” writes Robbie Collin. “The first came in 2008, in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, in which he played Caden Cotard, a theatre director who is given a grant to pursue a wildly ambitious work.” More on that one from Michelle Dean at Flavorwire. “The second came in 2012, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.” Also in the Telegraph, Tim Robey revisits “the 10 film moments that made him great.” And for Intelligent Life, Tom Shone writes about nine.
“Of the nearly three dozen performances of Hoffman’s that I have witnessed onscreen, I can’t think of a single one that failed to elevate the film in question,” writes Christopher Orr for the Atlantic.
“In our minds and imaginations he remains the modern American movie actor who never reached the end of his talent to move, to disturb, to reveal, to surprise,” writes Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times.
EW‘s Owen Gleiberman: “What I’ll cherish about Hoffman is the way that his stunning commitment to the truth of his characters, the way that he fearlessly infused them with every aspect of his love and pain, until they infused us as well, created a human reality on screen that you couldn’t shake, couldn’t deny, and could never, ever forget.”
“Hoffman appeared in Hollywood movies but never became one with that community,” writes Eric Kohn. “In the most literal sense, he was pure New York, a ubiquitous figure who mingled downtown at various screenings and other events. Seemingly every local had a Hoffman story.” Also at Indiewire, Dana Harris calls up acting teacher Tony Greco, who “first worked with Philip Seymour Hoffman when the actor was 17 years old. That grew into a professional relationship that would span three decades and much of Hoffman’s finest work.” And Jed Mayer: “That he was also one of the most subtle actors of the twenty-first century seems paradoxical, until we realize that only by stealth and imagination could someone manage to catch a jaded viewer off-guard.”
Tracking his social media feeds on Sunday, the L‘s Jesse Hassenger “was struck not only by just how many people expressed their sadness but also by the sheer number and variety of great movies they chose. In less than two decades of film work, Hoffman gave a staggering number of great performances in a staggering number of great movies—because great directors wanted to work with him, and he wanted to work with great directors. In short: he was great.”
Brian Doan at Cinespect: “Hoffman’s best performances often negotiated the line between unearned confidence and terrified vulnerability, allowing us to not just see but feel the intertwined pain and bluster of a belief system coming undone.”
Press Play editor Max Winter: “When great actors die as Hoffman did, revealing staggering addictions, or psyches run ragged because some unspecified demon is chasing them, the question always becomes: did the role become the person, or did the person become the role, or both?”
More from James Joiner (Esquire), Geoffrey Macnab (Independent) and Stephen Marche (Esquire). Josef Braun posts his 2005 interview. Filmmaker‘s Scott Macaulay: “In a free-flowing interview with June Stein in the Spring, 2008 issue of BOMB Magazine, Philip Seymour Hoffman discusses the insights into acting he gleaned from his experience as a director.”
Updates, 2/4: Cameron Crowe recalls the way PSH completely reimagined his signature scene as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous: “It became the soul of the movie.”
At Slate, James Urbaniak writes about what he learned by losing a role to PSH.
“I had two contradictory but complementary responses to the news,” writes Tom Junod at Esquire. “The first was that there was no way Hoffman had died with a syringe still in his arm—no way that an actor who brought such finicky dignity to his portrayal of the most desperate characters had permitted himself to die so ruthlessly unmasked. The second was that of course he had died in such a sordid manner—how else was Philip Seymour Hoffman supposed to die?… And in the extermity of these two responses was, I think, the essence of Hoffman’s art.”
“For want of a better word, Phil Hoffman was incandescent,” writes Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir. “Once you’d seen him, even in a small role in a movie destined for oblivion, you never forgot him. In another era he might have been a classic Hollywood character actor, playing villains and sidekicks and cuckolded husbands by the dozen. Scratch that—he might just as well have been a star. If he didn’t have the bland, perfect good looks or impressive musculature required of today’s romantic leading men, you could say the same about Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart or Jack Nicholson. It’s too early to say these things, of course, but he may well be remembered as long as they are.”
“Philip Seymour Hoffman was a New Yorker—not just in name and presence, but in soul and spirit.” Mark Harris elaborates at Grantland.
The Believer has posted the full text of Ryan Bartelmay‘s 2004 interview.
Updates, 2/5: “I have no certainty about what went wrong,” writes David Carr at Medium, “but I can tell you from personal experience that what happened was not the plan. I have been alone in that room with my addled thoughts, the drugs, and the needle. Addicts in the grip always have a plan. I will do this, get this out of the way, and then I will resume life among the living—the place where family, friends and colleagues wait and hope. He didn’t make it back to that place…. I don’t blame him or condemn him or second-guess him. He did the best he could with everything that he had.”
Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com: “When I see people saying, of Hoffman’s death, ‘What a waste’ or ‘Pity he was so selfish’ or ‘Why would anybody do that to their children?’ or ‘While we’re praising him, let’s not forget the man was a junkie’ or other such hateful blather, I wonder if they know what addiction is, or have chosen, for reasons of anger or preening self-regard, to pretend that they do not.”
“I can’t recall an occasion when people have been so upset—grief-struck, really, and also angry—over the death of an actor,” writes David Denby. “I’m angry about his death for two reasons. One is simply that he can’t be replaced. In recent years, Hollywood has created some good young dramatic actresses, like Anne Hathaway, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence. But most of the young men developed over the past twenty years—or, properly, created by the marketplace—have been buffoons, including Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, and now Seth Rogen…. I’m also angry about the talk of artists inevitably dying of drug overdoses.”
Also in the New Yorker, Daphne Merkin: “For those who were lucky enough to catch Hoffman in last year’s revival of Death of a Salesman, he reinvigorated what to me had become a sentimental set-piece of a play, giving Willy Loman’s anguish a vivid edge.” And Lee Siegel: “In our current post-character-actor moment, Hoffman was creating a new conventional style for younger actors to react against, just as Pacino had for the previous generation.”
“It’s been said that the best actors are the ones who make it look easy,” writes Adam Nayman for the Grid. “But Philip Seymour Hoffman was the opposite of self-effacing—he was incandescent. His acting had the sort of glow that could illuminate dim movies and burn holes through the middle of vivid ones.”
When Patrick Fugit, who played the Cameron Crowe surrogate in Almost Famous, heard the news, his first thought wasn’t actually that film: “I started immediately thinking about Punch-Drunk Love, which is one of my favorite films that he’s in,” he tells EW‘s Jeff Labrecque. In particular, the Mattress Man commercial. But of course, Fugit does talk about the phone scene—and more.
“Though Hoffman was best known for the rawness of his performances, he was as gifted a technical actor as he was at dredging up emotion,” writes Sight & Sound‘s Nick James. “Each new incarnation of him came as either a shock or a twist…. If to watch Hoffman swaggering about in Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) or milking the falling-apart fuck up in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) for his spectacular loathsomeness was merely what Hoffman gave us to expect was the minimum he could do, his brilliant, nuanced, ever-envious second violin in that superb actors’ study A Late Quartet (2012) showed us exactly how many astonishing varieties of expression we will miss in future. He showed so much vulnerability on screen that he made you feel somehow responsible for what you were watching. Only the very best performers can do that.”
Josef Braun: “Whether embodying a near shut-in, choking on loneliness, his body collapsing in on itself, or a master communicator and manipulator, drunk on his own Kool-Aid, given to sudden ecstatic gestures and charismatic dance, Philip Seymour Hoffman conveyed a sense of bearing heavy burden like few others could.”
“Part of his genius was the humor he brought to each role,” writes Steven C. Beer at Truly Free Film. “Hoffman understood the power of comedy within the human spi