Sometimes, it can be hard to believe it’s been long enough. For many years, Philip Seymour Hoffman was always around but not always noticed. I’d probably seen Leap of Faith first, of his movies, and of course there’s his Law & Order appearance. But for most of us, I don’t think it was until 2005 and Capote that he really broke out, after more than a decade of steady work. Possibly the exception there is Coen fans, for The Big Lebowski, and Paul Thomas Anderson fans, for every movie he made in Hoffman’s lifetime except There Will Be Blood.
He was a little disappointed that the range of adjectives people used about him seldom varied and were seldom complimentary. “Chubby” and “towheaded,” he said, tended to top the list, and he wished someone would maybe go with “cute.” I’m not sure “cute” was ever the word for him. But he had definite charisma and a certain amount of physical appeal. Even if he hadn’t given that performance, he eventually would have made his mark, I think, because he was an amazing actor, and they tend to find a way.
How can I be so sure he was amazing? His range of performances. One of my friends legitimately thought his Truman Capote voice was what he sounded like, one assumes because she’d never heard Truman Capote talk. But of course there’s Lester Bangs and Father Brendan Flynn and all those varied cheerful burnouts from his early career. And movies I haven’t seen because something about them doesn’t appeal to me but which I’m still tempted by because they have Philip Seymour Hoffman in them. Which is, let’s be real, enough to raise at least a little interest.
Strange, then, that he was working on The Hunger Games when he died, not the sort of thing that he really became known for. It’s almost enough to make you wonder where the MCU could have slotted him in, had he not chosen a different blockbuster series instead. I still haven’t seen those movies—honestly, the books didn’t do a whole lot for me—but, again, I kind of want to in part because of him. They’re definitely on the list of “incredibly well-cast adaptations of young adult novels,” which arguably led the way to the astonishing casting of the MCU.
He was an extremely private man, so we may never know what personal demons led him to return to his drug use. He’d been sober for decades. He and his partner separated to keep their children away from his use, though, and while I’m not exactly an expert on such things, what was revealed after his death astonishes me. The number of drugs in his system. The amount of heroin he had on hand. It’s depressing, and we are all lessened by his inability to stay away from the drugs.