I, like many, was shocked to hear about the death of actor/director/writer Philip Seymour Hoffman today, a brilliant artist gone way too soon. While it was known that he had a substance-abuse problem, it is still shocking and troubling to hear of the untimely passing of an artist who contributed so much to the performing arts, as a writer, director, and Oscar-winning actor.
I have not seen all of Mr. Hoffman’s films; I can’t even claim to have seen his Oscar-winning portrayal of Truman Capote in “Capote.” However, I always admired his skill and his ability to stay just-this-side of character actor in an industry that traditionally eschews those who aren’t young and beautiful. He has appeared in some of my favorite movies, including “Boogie Nights” and “State and Main,” always giving effective performances that were interesting to watch. That is why I think I enjoyed him so much on screen: he was interesting to watch. Of course, it helped that he was a skilled actor and didn’t just read lines. But I’ve always felt that one of the hallmarks of any great artist, especially a performing artist, is their innate ability to be interesting to watch. Otherwise, why would we as an audience want to look at them for two hours on a screen or on stage? Hoffman was always able to get to the root of a character, to build a performance from the foundation up. He didn’t just play dress up, he lived inside of a character, whether they were based on a real person or not. His choices were bold; his characters were sometimes vulnerable, sometimes strong, sometimes flawed, much like Hoffman himself, or any true artist for that matter. The world lost a unique and talented artist today and he will be missed.