I adored Phillip Seymour Hoffman -frankly, I can’t think of anyone who didn’t. He was one of those guys that just made you love movies.
Hoffman, who was today found dead in his New York apartment at the tragically young age of 46, made one hell of a mark on the face of cinema. You always knew you were in the best of hands when he appeared on-screen, and he leaves behind an incredible back catalogue of work, ranging from hyper-budget blockbusters to the cream of the independent crop.
In a slightly bizarre turn of events, the first time I ever saw Hoffman was in the much maligned Patch Adams (A movie for which I will always harbour a childhood-tinged soft spot), but throughout my formative years he then seemed to be everywhere. His borderline incomparable talents were on show in everything from Boogie Nights to The Big Lebowski to Mission Impossible 3.
Even when he was presented with less than quality material, he elevated it, dross like Along Came Polly and Flawless became enjoyable when he was on-screen. And he just made great films that much greater -his wonderful final monologue in Mary and Max; his breakdown in Magnolia; his barnstorming take on Truman Capote… the highlight reel for Hoffman’s career would encompass hours. While I’ll put together a list of a few of my personal favourites at the bottom of this article, I’d encourage you to frankly ignore my opinions and go and make your own, the man put in far too much good work to definitively boil it down. It’s almost unheard of for someone so young to have built such a majestic career -there’s a reason why Paul Thomas Anderson, himself one of the most intelligent and original filmmakers in contemporary cinema, insisted on collaborating with Hoffman above anyone else
The fact that Hoffman went on to star in Synecdoche, New York -the divisive Charlie Kaufman masterpiece that just happens to be my favourite film of all time- makes an already terrible blow that bit worse. As my taste in movies changed and matured, he always remained a constant, this kind of ever-present arbiter of talent and dedication. Philip Seymour Hoffman represented everything that was right about modern movies.
Until the end he seemed borderline incredulous at his own success. Yes, he wasn’t the best looking guy, but raw talent and an utter devotion to one’s art will always overrun even the snidest of studio execs. Maybe not the handsomest, but Philip Seymour Hoffman was certainly the best. Even through struggles with drugs and alcohol, his work remained impeccable, and it’s a travesty that he leaves us with only the single cinematic directorial credit to his name (2010’s severely underrated Jack Goes Boating).
As one of the handful of people lucky enough to have see his final film (Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of John Le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man) at Sundance last month, I’m glad to say that his final curtain call does his absolutely incredible career the justice it deserves -it’s a quiet and subtly wonderful film, and his performance is equally measured. Maybe it’s the best kind of turn for him to bow out on -he was, after all, the great understated showman of our time.
Dom’s Favourite Philip Seymour Hoffman Films:
Synecdoche, New York
Mary and Max
Punch Drunk Love
(Originally posted at The London Film Review)