Philip Seymour Hoffman died

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Philip Seymour Hoffman - a brilliant thespian whose name you just need to say in full - passed away today at 46 years young from drug overdose. I'm doubly shocked to hear first of the passing of an actor of his stature at his age, then of his substance use struggle. We've lost a master of his crafts, and it's always sad to lose such a talent still very much in the game. It's sadder for me personally, as he was a memorable part of the first important film in my early film-geek years, P. T. Anderson's Magnolia. That he's a constant in Anderson's films also made this news upsetting - Anderson lost an important piece of his films' make-up. I don't know much of Philip Seymour Hoffman's life (I don't tend to follow actors' life - I prefer not to know too much to preserve some of their blank canvas nature), but on screen, he had such a remarkably controlled career. He had always lived his characters, big or small, and made them memorable, even down to the smallest gesture. He had such gravitas and consistently lent weight to every picture he was in, most recently The Hunger Games (as Plutarch Heavensbee). He may have left too soon, but he'll forever live on screen, always bright and electrifying.

In honour of his memory, given the number of great performances, these are my absolute favourite Hoffman creations:

1.
Phil Parma in Magnolia (1999). As a nurse looking after an old, dying man, Hoffman played it for both laughs and pathos, walking the line with as much tenderness as one could possibly cram into a P. T. Anderson film. Hoffman was at his most understated and effective of all the roles he'd played.

2. Lancaster Dodd in The Master (2012). He was simply deviously terrifying, utterly convincing at being psychotically persuasive, clever and delusional at the same time.

3. Truman Capote in Capote (2005). As clinical and controlled a performance as the film was, Hoffman did not forget to hint at the vulnerable human underneath, which elevated the film beyond what was written for it.

4. Dean Trumbell in Punch-Drunk Love (2002). It was a rare performance on the wild, entertaining side for Hoffman, though you know he was still very much the one in control.

5. Caden Cotard in Synecdoche, New York (2008). Hoffman has never been this discombobulated as a character, using all his weight to carry a difficult film that dealt with existential anxiety in the way that only Charlie Kaufman could. And Hoffman gave it as good as he ever did, in the same year he gave us a very assured Father Brendan Flynn in Doubt. His talent and versatility had very few equals of his generation.

Rest in peace, Philip Seymour Hoffman.



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