Obituary: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Obituary by Jack Foley
PHILIP Seymour Hoffman, one of Hollywood’s brightest all-round talents, has died at the age of 46.
According to reports, Hoffman’s body was found in his apartment in Manhattan on Sunday, February 2, 2014. The cause of death is still being investigated.
A massively talented performer, Hoffman won the Academy Award for best actor for his performance as America’s best known author Truman Capote in Bennett Miller’s Capote.
And he also received three further Oscar nominations as Best Supporting Actor in the films The Master in 2013, Doubt in 2009 and Charlie Wilson’s War in 2008. And for his stage work, he was recognised with three Tony Award nominations.
He was also equally at home in weighty dramatic roles as he was in crowd-pleasing blockbusters, having also appeared to memorable effect in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible III and – just last year – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as Plutarch Heavensbee.
Born in Fairport, New York, on July 23, 1967, to Marilyn O’Connor (née Loucks) and Gordon Stowell Hoffman, he grew up around the Big Apple and developed a passion for acting from an early age, first attending the 1984 Theater School at the New York State Summer School of the Arts and then the Circle in the Square Theatre’s summer program.
He received a BFA in drama in 1989 from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and while at NYU became a founding member of the theatre company the Bullstoi Ensemble with actor Steven Schub and director Bennett Miller.
Hoffman made his first screen appearance in 1991 as a defendant in the 1991 Law & Order episode The Violence of Summer and followed that up, a year later, with his first movie role in Scent of a Woman alongside Al Pacino. He appeared in a total of four films that year and never looked back, slowly winning praise for head-turning support roles.
His career began to pick up real momentum, however, following his performance in 1998’s Happiness, which saw him shortlisted for several acting awards, including an Independent Spirit, and he followed that up in 1999 with another critically acclaimed turn alongside Robert De Niro in Flawless.
Magnolia and The Talented Mr Ripley followed, in which Hoffman managed to standout among a starry ensemble, while his performance as Lester Bangs in 2000’s Almost Famous also drew several awards nominations.
It was his performance as Truman Capote, however, that brought him his biggest success. Aside from the Oscar for best actor, he also landed a total of 23 further wins, including the BAFTA, The Screen Actors’ Guild Award and the Golden Globe.
But as if to underline his ability to mix the heavyweight with the more enjoyable, he followed that up with a memorable turn as the villain in Mission: Impossible III.
Further acclaim followed in Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead and The Savages before Charlie Wilson’s War and Doubt brought consecutive Oscar nominations in the best supporting actor category in 2007 and 2008.
More recently, the actor continued to dazzle with acclaimed performances in George Clooney political drama The Ides of March, Bennett Miller’s Moneyball alongside Brad Pitt and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. And he stood out in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as Heavensbee, a role he was due to reprise in the final two films, Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2.
Another of his films, A Most Wanted Man, had just received its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, while his second directorial effort, Ezekiel Moss, was being offered to buyers at Berlin.
On stage, he first gained recognition in 2000 for the Off-Broadway play The Author’s Voice, while on Broadway he starred in the 2000 revival of True West and the 2003 revival of Long Day’s Journey into Night, both of which led to Tony Award nominations.
As recently as 2012, Hoffman starred as Willy Loman in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, prompting the New York Times to declare him as “one of the finest actors of his generation […] beyond dispute”.
It’s a sentiment that will surely be echoed by all who witnessed any of his performances – whether displaying vulnerability and sympathy in Magnolia and Jack Goes Boating, sheer scenery-chewing menace in Mission: Impossible III, desperation and creepiness in Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, bravado by the bucket-load in The Talented Mr Ripley, hitherto untapped comedy chops in Along Came Polly, or just sheer, gob-smacking brilliance in the likes of The Master and Capote.
Away from acting, Hoffman was in a long-standing relationship with costume designer Mimi O’Donnell, with whom he had a son, Cooper Alexander, and two daughters, Tallulah and Willa.