I am usually unaffected by celebrity deaths, but this time was different. I found out about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death like most anyone else did: through social media. I immediately started scouring the Internet with hopes that this was one of those fake social-media induced celebrity deaths. The more I searched, the deeper my heart sank. The worst had happened: Hoffman had fallen victim to addiction after years of sobriety.
Even at this point – now a few days after the news – my mind always drifts back to how tragic this is.
I may not be the most appropriate eulogizer for this – I have never seen Capote, the film for which Hoffman earned the “Best Actor” Academy Award – but Hoffman has always entranced me.
In The Master, he plays Lancaster Dodd, a cult leader of a philosophical movement “The Cause,” – a role for which Hoffman received an Oscar nomination, and rightfully so. Hoffman is so charismatic and convincing as he pitches Dodd’s ideas of “processing” and soul cleansing. With Hoffman, it goes beyond acting. He is not pretending to feel these emotions; he truly embraces the psyche of his characters.
One of his lesser-known roles, but more prominent ones by my standards, is that of Art Howe, the Oakland Athletics manager in Moneyball. This is by far my favorite baseball movie, and much is owed to Hoffman. As Billy Beane (the A’s general manager played by Brad Pitt) tries to implement his unconventional strategy to win, Howe continually meets him with resistance. It again bears mentioning how Hoffman embraces his characters. Howe is tired and sick of dealing with Beane’s shenanigans. The tension between two is suffocating each time they are together. Howe never snaps but comes damn near close on more than one occasion.
Another role I keep coming back to is Sandy Lyle in Along Came Polly. Whether you’re laughing at or with him in this film, Hoffman wins. Not the best film he, Ben Stiller or Jennifer Aniston has made, but I feel I am speaking for a few people when I say I am not changing the channel if it’s on TV. It just shows that no role was below him. And, as many of his movies go, he was the star without being the star of the film.
Tragically, Hoffman is survived by his three children and significant other of 15 years. He had been over 20 years sober before relapsing last year.
I believe to call Hoffman an “actor” is unfulfilling. He didn’t just act; he felt. He became the emotions we see on screen. He put those emotions inside me. And for that, I say, Hoffman was truly one of the best performers of a generation and will be missed greatly.