Philip Seymour Hoffman was a man who transcended genre and character type. He was a man who could connect with the average, unkempt viewer. He was a man who rose above the typical egotism of Hollywood. He was a man so humble and so down-to-earth that neighbors of his frequently saw him at local bakeries and at Chelsea Piers playing sports with his children. He was a man of such great diversity of talent and depth of character, but last Sunday, February 2, 2014, a long-time friend found this relatively young man dead at the age of 46.
Although his acting career was only about 23 years long, he has been considered one of the most ambitious and important actors of this generation. As he stood alongside Mark Wahlberg’s impeccably toned body and shameless bouffant hairdo in “Boogie Nights,” Hoffman’s dedication to realism became clear. As “Scottie J.,” the sound guy who falls in love with Mark Wahlberg’s character while shooting his porn films, his nervous mannerisms, ceaseless use of profanities and his inability to dress to size are utterly un-Hollywood but extremely true to life. This is his most defining quality: whether he was quirky and volatile or repressed, he was always real.
Hoffman had a keen ability to take characters who have marginal roles in society and make them truly a pleasure to watch, like his role as the music writer, radio host and self-proclaimed “uncool guy” Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous,” who relishes his place away from the celebrity spotlight.
In other films, those in authority, like in “Doubt,” cast him to the margins. His brilliant and logical rebuttal to Meryl Streep’s emotionally-driven accusation is a scene that is undoubtedly one of his most profound.
His leading roles in “The Master” and “Capote” allowed him to breathe new life and compassion into characters that are cold and manipulative on the outside. These parts showcased his ability to connect with the audience and add depth of character, his greatest talents.