In my last post I decried our notion that substance abuse and addiction needs to be hidden from the world. The unfortunate passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman is quite regrettable and it saddens me that few will learn from his lesson. I do, however, want to honour the life that Hoffman had and look back on some of the finer points in his career. Going through his film database I’m surprised by how many of his movies I have yet to see, because I have always enjoyed his acting. Hoffman is the definition of a character actor.
Hoffman truly could play any role in any genre as he seems to be able to break down the role of a character, climb into the person’s shoes and make you believe that that is who he is, with what appears to be little to no effort. The ease in his transitions and the fact that he would take lesser roles than he deserved and still put in his whole heart and talent into making the perfect character, is what will define him as a great actor for quite some time.
Some of Hoffman’s notable performances,* include that of meek and mild Scotty J. in Boogie Nights. Small role? Yes. But important to the story and delivered with an affable lovability. Quite often I forget that he played Brant, the personal assistant to Mr. Lebowski in The Big Lebowski. A movie that defined what a cult-hit should look like to an entire generation of cinephiles.
Almost Famous is one of my favourite movies of all time and it was here that I actually remember seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman for the first time. He plays Lester Bangs, a rock journalist, who assigns the main character, William Miller, to review concerts. He ends up being a bit of a guiding light to the young Miller and Hoffman takes what could have been a typically clichéd mentor role and embeds his acting brilliance into the small role.
The Thomas Harris crime reporter character, Freddy Lounds, has been played by Stephen Lang, is currently being played by Lara Jean Chorostecki but was perfected by Philip Seymour Hoffman in Red Dragon. Lounds had a sickly bizarre character relationship with the serial killer Dolarhyde and would constantly get in the way of Will Graham’s efforts. Hoffman played a very unlikable character, yet put so much into the film that his performance in Red Dragon sticks in my mind more than some of the other actors including Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keital, or even Edward Norton.
While the film Cold Mountain doesn’t hold up against its much superior novel the slimy character of the corrupt preacher Reverend Veasey sticks out. Hoffman was able to get into the minds of these characters and play corrupt just as well as he could play a clean cut character. He is also able to create a redeeming quality to all of his extremely negative characters. Think Father Flynn in Doubt.
Other films that Hoffman was excellent in that deserve a mention include Mission: Impossible III, Pirate Radio, and Moneyball. I think it’s important to touch on Capote before I finish this post. Truman Capote is the role that got Hoffman his much deserved Academy Award. Many of Hoffman’s roles are award-worthy. While the film Capote wasn’t really my cup of tea, Hoffman was still phenomenal in it. When he passed Hoffman had 4 Oscar Nominations to his name, with one win; 5 Golden Globes Nominations to his name, with one win; 5 BAFTA Nominations to his name, with one win; 4 Independent Spirit Award Nominations to his name, with three wins; 9 SAG Award Nominations to his name, with one win; among many other Nominations and Awards.
*This is not an exhaustive list as there are still many of his films that I would like to see that I haven’t had the time to enjoy.