When I first discovered Philip Seymour Hoffman it was as Jason Robard’s attentive but slightly flaky nurse, Phil Parma, in my all time favourite movie, Magnolia, by one of American cinema’s greatest ever directors, Paul Thomas Anderson.
“It’s your pal” my wife has said ever since, as Seymour Hoffman has film-tracked our lives.
What I admire, no love, about him is his ability to command each and every role I saw him take on. He was a prolific actor (63 roles) seemingly only now becoming box office with his starring role The Hunger Games trilogy and in one of The Mission Impossibles but that’s not how I’ll remember him.
His love was for ‘art house’ (a damning description if ever there was some – Indie would, I suppose, be better) and his role as one of PT’s go to guys gave a real backbone to his career; Magnolia was preceded by another cameo in Boogie Nights and Anderson’s pool hall debut, Hard Eight.
It was followed by a truly brutal contribution to Anderson’s underrated classic Punch Drunk Love as the owner of a phone sex-line that violently dupes Adam Sandler. Later he finally took starring role in his own right as Lancaster Dodd in the magnificent and slightly overlooked The Master where he picked up an Oscar nomination as best actor. In fact, Hoffman was only missing from one of Anderson’s movies; There will be Blood.
He starred, from a physical point of view almost unbelievably, as the eponymous star of Capote for which he won his only Oscar, and as Father Brendan Flynn (another Oscar nomination) in the Catholic-faith-questioning Doubt. He again troubled the Oscar judges as maverick CIA agent, Gustav “Gust” Avrakotos in Charlie Wilson’s War.
In all he picked up four nominations and five Bafta recognitions (all of the above plus Ides of March) in a career that never really saw him become an A-lister but a bedrock of every movie I saw him in.
He seemed an outsider, a troubled soul and was a reformed alcoholic and drug addict, having been clean for almost 20 years. And yet that ghost haunted him all his adult life seeing him finally succumb once again in his mid 40’s to drug habits. It’s thought that his passing was the result of a heroin overdose. He is survived by his partner and three children.
Philip Seymour Hoffman ticks every acting box I can imagine. His presence was electric.
My wife was right; he was “my pal” and I will miss him.
God bless Philip. You fucking rocked.