When I was about 11 years old I went to a sleepover birthday party for a kid, in my 6th grade class, named Josh. I didn’t like Josh that much. He was an alright kid I guess, but he was such a nerd (<sarcasm). The only real reason I agreed to go to the party was because his parents were taking us all to see Twister, and I was super pumped that my parents were allowing me to see a PG-13 movie. Like imagine it is for most people my age (almost 30… ALMOST), this the first I ever time a saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in movie. I would eventually see movies like “Leap of Faith” and “The Getaway”, both of which he has small roles in, but this was one of his first more substantial roles. I mean, it wasn’t major or anything, but I guarantee you that movie would have suffered a little bit had he not been in it. The “dude-ness” of his character, Dusty, was just so great. He brought an aspect to the comedic relief, in this film about the destructiveness of Mother Nature, that was necessary to keep it from being too bleak.
The next thing I remember seeing him in was Patch Adams. I’ll be honest, I saw this with a girlfriend so I missed some of the movie upon initial viewing, but there was no denying the evolution this actor had to have gone through in order to so convincingly play the grinch-ish doctor who eventually sees his cold heart warm up. Shortly after watching this movie, a friend of mine, Dave, and I convinced his mom to rent us “Boogie Nights” and “The Big Lebowski”. In her defense, we told her NOTHING about them so she didn’t know what kind of… art(?) she was accidentally exposing us to. We watched “Boogie Nights” first because we were hormonal teenagers and because ROLLER GIRL, duh. Growing up in the American-south leaves much to be desired, equality-wise. Even though I never had hateful, or “bigoted” feelings toward the LGBT community, the Scotty character from this movie made me uncomfortable at times, but I always felt for him. I’d even say that it genuinely bothered me when Dirk (Mark Wahlberg’s character) rejected him. Scotty was just trying to find love and after he’d mustered up enough confidence to take a shot, he got turned down. And then, seeing him weep and call himself and idiot, over and over and over again, it just started to hurt. It didn’t matter that this character’s love interest was another man, I could relate to how he felt. Unrequited love.
Once Dave and I moved on to “The Big Lebowski”, I realized that I’d seen it before. Well, I saw some of it. See, when it was in theaters, my dad took me with him to watch it but quickly realized, about 1/3 into the movie, that I should watch Blues Brothers 2000 instead. To this day I haven’t forgiven him.
Hoffman’s role in that flick isn’t huge, but seeing it back to back with “Boogie Nights” gave me an impression of what kind of range and dedication he had to his parts. This guy could leap from role to role, playing INFINITELY different characters, and he was still seamlessly believable on all of them.
Even in blatantly comedic roles Hoffman shined. He was great as the ringmaster of a band of British DJ’s illegally broadcasting radio from a boat in “Pirate Radio“, which is based on a true story. His cameo as a bartender in “The Invention of Lying” was a welcomed surprise. We literally owe him for introducing us to the word “shart” in “Along Came Polly”. Without it, it would take us a lot longer to explain that we “tried to fart and a little shit came out”.
In the past decade he starred in incredibly brilliant films such as “Capote” (which he won an Academy Award for), “Doubt” (which was opposite one of his confessed idols, Meryl Streep), “The Ides of March”, Moneyball, and The Master. The latter film earned him his first Oscar nomination since 2008’s “Doubt”. It’s truly an incredible film and you should do yourself a favor and watch it the next chance you get.
My absolute favorite role of his though is from a movie called “Happiness”. I won’t lie to you… it’s a pretty dark film, as far as the story and plot goes, but he plays his awkward and socially inept character so well. IMDB summarizes the film this way: “The lives of many individuals connected by the desire for happiness, often from sources usually considered dark or evil.” And they’re right too. Here’s the trailer…
The day before his death, I took my wife to see “Catching Fire”. It’d been so long since I’d seen a trailer for it, that I had forgotten that he was in it. When he first showed up I looked at her and said, “He’s gonna be conniving and cruel, and it’s gonna be amazing.” (For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I won’t spoil the ending. Suffice to to say, I was half-right.) He was perfect in the movie. His back-and-forth with Donald Sutherland’s President Snow were some of my absolute favorite scenes.
The story, right now, is that he died of an overdose on heroin. He leaves behind his partner of 15 years, Mimi O’Donnell, and their 3 children (ages 10yrs, 7yrs and 4yrs). I’m crying as I write this because I come from a family where my own father struggled with alcohol addiction for many years, but we were lucky enough that he was able to commit to getting clean and he’s now been sober for going on 6 years. It just breaks my heart man. These kids have to watch their father’s death play out in the media with everyone commenting on it and tossing in their bullshit opinion. Straight up… F–k THAT. Whatever he was going through personally, I have no idea what it was, I won’t disrespect him and his family by trying to speculate. It hurts me that he couldn’t get kick his addiction, even after admitting himself to rehab in the past, but I hope like hell that even just one person looks at this situation and says, “Not me. Not anymore.”
The world has lost a brilliant actor. Film will never quite be the same again. We’ll miss you Phil.