Celebrity deaths are a weird thing. They don’t influence the lives of average people, but when we hear the news about a celebrities’ passing, we all take a minute and reflect on their careers. A few fans feel the bug to watch the celebrities’ movies and some people may be apathetic, which is a completely normal response. In a time when we are spoon fed every detail about a celebrity’s life, the overabundance of information all becomes unimportant in the scheme of things. Many people just hearing about the news about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death may just write it off as another heroin junkie meeting his end.
Honestly, when I heard the news that’s exactly what I thought. I was angry, or as angry as I was going to be about a person I’ve never met making stupid choices. It was pretty easy for me to think about the life he just wasted because of his selfish decisions.
The thing is, though, I’ve never been addicted to heroin, nor any narcotic. I don’t know of the personal torment and temptation that he must have dealt with on a daily basis. He was very open with his history of drug addiction. He had gone on record to say that he was a massive addict in his early ’20s until he managed to kick the habit. He stayed sober for 23 years up until May of 2013. Even then, he voluntarily put himself into rehab for heroin abuse. He knew he was on a path of destruction.
Sadly, he was right and he lost the war on February 2nd, 2014.
How humiliating for his family that he was found with a needle still in into his arm. The man most likely led a life of beauty and managed to bring up a great family, yet his final humiliating moments were spent with his demons. Though that’s a very ugly final picture of Hoffman, it shouldn’t invalidate everything that he has accomplished and the effect he’s had on Hollywood in his short 20 years of acting.
Based on his cherubic appearance and droll tone, you’d think he would only be successful as a one-note actor. Just the opposite happened. His natural charisma (yes, even in downbeat roles) required you to watch him in every role, whether he appeared in a bit part or led the film.
He first began stealing scenes in Scent of a Woman and Twister. Quickly after those movies, he found his big break in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights as Scotty J. That role showed the world a man that could act circles around Mark Wahlberg even with a fraction of the screen time.
While I had seen The Big Lebowski and Patch Adams, the first movie I remember taking notice of Hoffman was Magnolia. This film, also by Paul Thomas Anderson, was released right about the time when I first decided to take cinema seriously. I didn’t want low-brow comedies (Austin Powers) to be my favorite movies and I sought films that challenged me and required me to think. This three hour character piece focused in on several vignettes of odd situations that all link together in the end. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a male nurse responsible for taking care of a dying Jason Robards. The short glimpses I saw of Hoffman made me an instant fan.
His career was on the upward swing in the early 2000’s. He knocked it out of the park for the next couple of years with great cameo roles in Punch-Drunk Love and Almost Famous. Somewhere along they way, Spike Lee decided to make a good movie/joint with The 25th Hour. Hoffman played the sensible, emotional core of that movie. He was an average man who struggled with crippling mistakes, and almost stole the movie from Edward Norton.
He first received Oscar notice when he starred as the title character in Capote. For the duration of filming he disappeared into Capote in a very Daniel Day Lewis way. Love or hate that method of character acting, it earns Oscars. Winning a Best Actor award didn’t relegate him to only take great dramatic parts. He went on to play the scenery-chewing villain in Mission Impossible 3, worked on low-budget comedies like Pirate Radio and still managed to play fascinating character in Doubt and The Master. He may have had the perceived persona of an actor that takes acting far too seriously. But really, ask yourself, don’t you need a sense of humor to play a character named gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in an action movie sequel?
When I first started this post, I was going to write about the actors who died from an overdose and how stupid they were. Doing more research led me to see that these people, even with all their praise/money, have the same problems as anyone else. His death is no more or less meaningful than the countless other deaths that happen every day.
The world will miss out on the great performances that he may have brought to film. But the biggest loss is felt by his family. This man had a son and two daughters, who now are suffering with losing their dad.