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.
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Wonderful piece Tim. I can’t believe that Telegraph headline. What a bunch of twats. And you really said it best, “You find it is always those who have never experienced addiction who feel they can judge those that have been afflicted with it.” That is 100% the truth.
I look forward to getting to know the man more as I intend to watch a lot of his stuff in the coming weeks. Shamefully I haven’t seen much of him. Yet.
Thanks for commenting mate. They are a pretty terrible excuse for a newspaper, so unfortunately their horrible lack of tact was not entirely surprising.
Hope you enjoy watching some of his films. I watched Twister last night. So good to see him in a really light, over the top performance. And I am intending on re-watching him in Doubt and Charlie Wilson’s War over the coming weeks. So those are my three suggestions if you need any.
Top stuff man. I’m with you, celebrity deaths never really affect me but this one felt like a gut punch. I must admit that I’ve been guilty for being less than sympathetic of those who’ve died of overdoses in the past but I think this has completely changed my attitude towards that. Sad stuff indeed.
Cheers for commenting mate. I think there is always that sense of overdose deaths being a ‘waste’. But I think if you can consider addiction a disease like any other, it makes it clearer.
Reflect and revel in indeed, man. A sad loss and even sadder that a tabloid rag would choose to vilify a man because of a disease that he was suffering. Addict or not, there’s still a person behind it all. One of the true greats!
Cheers for the comment man. Yeah it is a terrible, shitfull excuse for a newspaper. But the headline was low, even for them.
Good write up, Tim.
Not judging him or his addiction – it sucks that he couldn’t kick it once and for all. Mostly it sucks for his kids. Poor family.
Yeah I agree man. I never even knew he had a family until the news broke of his death. Incredible sad for them all. Three young kids with no father. That sucks.
Great tribute, Tim. I’ve considered PSH one of my favorite actors for a while now so his death really struck me. Such a sad loss of talent and I feel very sorry for his kids. Before his death, however, I didn’t know he had battled addiction for so long, so it’s even sadder that he succumbed to it after so many years clean. Read that headline when you shared it on Facebook the other day and I can’t believe how insensitive it was! Just awful.
Cheers for commenting Fernando. I didn’t know anything about him having kids or his addiction til the news of his passing. And I think that both of those things made the news even more upsetting to me.
Yeah, same here.
I don’t usually get affected by celebrity deaths either but there are exceptions. Heath Ledger, River Phoenix and now Hoffman all made me tear up, it’s such a waste of talent. My heart goes out to his loved ones.
That’s so true. Obviously it is far more sad for his family and friends. But it is also sad for us as film lovers, that there will be no more Phillip Seymour Hoffman performances (except for those in post-production obviously).
That’s absolutely terrible what The Daily Telegraph published, completely disgusting. Hoffman is one of the best actors today and his death is a great loss to the film world.
Cheers for commenting mate and agree with you 100%
Great piece you have here, Tim. What an absolutely disgusting headline! This was one celebrity death that really was heartbreaking news (you aren’t cold, I get what you mean when you say that it just doesn’t all affect you. Had so few that actually had me put my head up). Truly a loss of phenomenal talent.
Thanks for commenting Zoe, appreciate it and the fact you understood where I was coming from with my opening. Yep, the Telegraph are scum, but I think that in a lot of countries there is one paper who likes to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
There really is a paper like that everywhere!