I am rarely affected strongly by celebrity deaths. It is not that I am cold hearted or unfeeling. It’s just that I guess to live in a world like ours full of endless war and tragedy, rightly or wrongly you need to build up some level of ambivalence to the world around you. The sudden death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has cut through all of that though and affected me quite deeply.
A couple of days ago, I probably wouldn’t have thought of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as one of my favourite actors. But looking over his filmography, it is inarguable that he is one of the greats. Of this or any generation. Rare is the actor who can totally inhabit any role. But he did it as well as anyone. Whilst, especially over recent years, he has developed a reputation as a dramatic powerhouse, he could really do it all. He could be the absolute best thing about otherwise middling fare such as in Along Came Polly and Mission Impossible 3. He could elevate blockbuster material with his turn such as in Twister or The Hunger Games Catching Fire (I really loved what he was doing with the Plutarch Heavensbee character). He could be exuberant and fun as in The Boat That Rocked. And of course he really could be the emotional, dramatic powerhouse as shown in numerous films including The Ides of March, Capote, Doubt, Moneyball, Charlie Wilson’s War and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.
Perhaps one of the reasons the passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has affected me so much is because it brought a couple of things to light I never knew. Firstly that he had a young family. Three kids under 10 now no longer have their old man and that’s fucked up. Secondly, the fact that he died of a heroin overdose. Or more specifically, the fact that he had overcome addiction for 23 years. For me, that is Philip Seymour Hoffman’s most powerful achievement. To beat something like addiction for so long is an exceptional achievement and one that makes his eventual death to heroin all the more heartbreaking. There are some out there who choose to tear people who suffer from addiction down from on high. Unfortunately an ugly example of this reared its head in Australia’s ugliest tabloid The Daily Telegraph yesterday when they ran the headline “Kids Grieve for Junkie Actor Dad”.
Philip Seymour Hoffman did not choose drugs over his family or life. He was claimed by a disease he was able to beat for so long. You find it is always those who have never experienced addiction who feel they can judge those that have been afflicted with it.
The man is gone and all we have left is his work. So reflect on that and revel in it. As for me, I think I will set aside some time this weekend for a Philip Seymour Hoffman double header. I’m thinking the deliriously fun Twister into what I think is his best performance in Doubt (though I would chuck his performance in Charlie Wilson’s war in that conversation too). Reflect and revel.