Philip Seymour Hoffman, Oscar-winning actor and father of 3, was found dead in his New York City apartment on Sunday morning. Authorities say it appears a drug overdose caused the 46-year-old’s death, as he was found in the bathroom with a syringe in his arm. It was public knowledge Hoffman had battled with addiction, and that he relapsed and checked into rehab last year – after being clean for 23 years.
The news still stunned me, as I came up from the subway on Sunday lunchtime and saw the breaking news tweet from the Wall Street Journal, as it did so many other fans of his work. I wasn’t here in the city when Heath Ledger was found in his apartment in 2008, after overdosing on pills, but I imagine the scenes outside Hoffman’s West Village apartment were eerily the same: fans coming to pay their respects, neighbours standing around, sad and confused, police in and out of the building.
An autopsy will be done on Monday to determine the exact cause of Hoffman’s death. In the meantime, we try to make sense of these feelings we have when someone we didn’t know, but we greatly admired, dies. I saw Hoffman at Sundance last month. I watched God’s Pocket and A Most Wanted Man purely because he was in those films. At the God’s Pocket premiere, he got up to join the cast on stage, in Cat boots and a red-checkered shirt. As he shuffled by me, and I failed to take a proper picture of him, I told myself, ‘don’t worry, you’ll get to interview him one day soon.’
Aside from the Sundance films, Hoffman was almost done with the next Hunger Games movie. But of course, he has so many more varied, accomplished roles to remember him by. He had a TV show in the works, and he was a king on the theatre stage too. I came to the PSH party a little late. I was a big fan of Lester Bangs, the rough-around-the-edges rock ‘n roll critic so I loved him playing the part in Almost Famous, when he cautioned the film’s budding intrepid reporter “to never make friends with the rockstars.” But it was only really after seeing him in Capote in 2005, the movie that earned him his Best Actor Oscar statue, that I went back and watched out for him in dozens of other films. From Scent of a Woman to Boogie Nights, Twister to Magnolia – and The Master, the film that gave him his most recent Oscar nod, Hoffman was in some of the best films of our time. No wonder – he was truly one of the best actors of this generation.
Rest in Peace, PSH.
[Pic: A Most Wanted Man, courtesy Sundance Film Festival]