46-year-old actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his West Village apartment this morning by a friend. The New York Times has reported that Hoffman was found in the bathroom with a hypodermic needle still in his arm, near an envelope “containing what is believed to be heroin.” The actor had struggled with addiction previously and had checked himself into rehab as recently as 2012, following his first relapse in 23 years. Hoffman has a son and two daughters with his partner since 1999, costume designer Mimi O’Donnell. He was widely considered one of the best actors of his generation.
I really liked Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He’s been in a lot of movies, period, but also has specifically appeared in a number of my favorite movies and worked with many of my favorite writers and directors. I liked how his voice seemed to carry a certain confidential gravity, like a gravely whisper. He seemed too indie for Hunger Games: Catching Fire but he turned out to be perfect, challenging Donald Sutherland’s booming sociopoathic President Snow with his sly, calculating Plutarch Heavensbee.
He played Rolling Stone writer Lester Bangs in the Forever Iconic Movie Almost Famous, and I can still hear my favorite lines from that film in my head like it’s on auto-play in my mind — “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”
Then there’s Magnolia, obviously, and who can forget The Big Lebowski (nobody, because one must watch Lebowski at least once a year, it’s like a law of nature).
He “played gay” a lot — a gay boom operator in Boogie Nights and as Truman Capote in Capote — and once told The Guardian, “I would read sometimes about people thinking I was gay and I would think, “Oh, that’s so great!” I take it as a compliment.””
He also played a transgender woman in gay writer-director Joel Schumacher’s 1998 film Flawless, but predictably that film isn’t winning high honors from the community, securing a place in Calpernia Adams’ Hall of Shame. But this portrayal of Log Cabin Republicans from Flawless is pretty cool!
His role in Boogie Nights didn’t exactly do the queer community any favors, either, but regardless he’s become, throughout his career, face you see and a voice you hear when you think about LGBT representation on film. He took risks, and always has. For his portrayal of gay writer Truman Capote, he received the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor and was nominated for a GLAAD award.
Hoffman’s roles consistently challenged what it means to be a Leading Man and popular conceptions of how masculinity is best performed and exemplified on film. Hoffman was celebrated, rather than sidelined, for his versatility and non-traditional appearance.
Hoffman was repeatedly the recipient of nominations and awards for acting and directing, earning major acclaim for roles in films including Doubt, The Master, Magnolia, Happiness, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Savages, Charlie Wilson’s War and The Ides of March. He was nominated for acting and directing Drama Desk Awards for plays like True West, Our Lady of 121st Street, Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Death of a Salesman, and a Tony for True West.
Last month, Showtime ordered 10 episodes of Happyish, a comedy pilot starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Kathryn Hahn and Rhys Ifan. Hoffman also appeared at Sundance to promote his new film God’s Pocket, directed by John Slattery. Last week, it was announced that Ezekiel Moss, a project Hoffman planned to direct, had signed on Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is in Post-Production, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is still filming, though what will become of his character now remains to be seen. Hunger Games Co-star Sam Claflin tweeted this morning, “I am genuinely shocked, saddened and speechless. A truly wonderful man, with a magical touch. My hero. Thoughts are with his family.” Ellen DeGeneres tweeted “Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a brilliant, talented man. The news this morning is shocking and sad. My heart goes out to his loved ones.”
“I think you should be serious about what you do because this is it,” Hoffman once said. “This is the only life you’ve got.”