I am well aware that the tragic news of the passing of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is a little over a week old now. Lists have been compiled, eulogies written and tears have been shed over the loss of one of Hollywood’s most beloved that-guys. Lauren wrote a very nice editorial earlier today about what death means when it hits Hollywood and how the passing of someone we’ve shared hours with, but really know nothing about, still stings so much. So what do I really have to add at this point? Two things, actually, and then I’ll let it go.
Many have taken to list-making, directing fans to Hoffman’s fantastic work in films like Boogie Nights, The Master and Capote in the wake of the actor’s untimely death (my personal favorite role of his was his villainous turn in Mission: Impossible 3 – I believe that performance elevates that film to a higher level and his intensity is unmatched in my opinion). Others have resorted to lamenting the fact that we will never see the extent to which Hoffman could have wowed us in the future, his career cut short at the age of 46, no one knowing what the next maybe thirty years had in store for the man who could DO ANYTHING on screen. And then there are those who have spoken out about an addiction they know nothing about (even if you’ve seen or done drugs – which I personally have not – it doesn’t make you an expert on what Hoffman was going through) and decided that they know whether this was an “accidental overdose” or an addict relapsing.
The first two responses are natural and respectable. It’s saddening to think about the man who made Along Came Polly watchable (him walking in and slipping on the dance floor is one of the funniest physical comedy moments ever in my opinion) with his kooky humor and goofy smile sitting in a chair alone as air escaped his lungs for the last time. So we have to make ourselves feel a little bit better about the situation and try to make things a bit more positive.
But it’s the third response that I want to tackle for just a second…
We don’t know.
That’s something I would like bloggers and reporters to recite in their minds a bit more. What makes sense to you might not make sense to someone else. A demon to one person isn’t even on the radar of another. It’s not something to be speculated or theorized about. I’m going to go ahead and assume that what Philip Seymour Hoffman was going through in his mind was not helped or hurt by what his career had become. The man struggled with something deep inside of himself that saw no solace in anything this world had to offer. So I’m not going to begin to think that I know what he felt, thought, or believed when his heart stopped beating. All I’m going to do is think about his children who are now fatherless, left to see their dad on the cover of the magazines at the grocery store checkout with unflattering headlines underneath his picture. That’s the real tragedy… that even in the wake of an awful scenario like this, people still are thinking selfishly and not letting things just be.
Secondly (and lastly), I think that when it comes down to it, it’s completely pointless for any of us to write anything about the man after what Aaron Sorkin wrote for TIME Magazine last week. If you didn’t see it, then here it is in full, because fewer men in the world have a way with words like Sorkin. It’s poetic and beautiful, a touching tribute to a man who struggled mightily with inner demons and nothing more…
“Phil Hoffman and I had two things in common. We were both fathers of young children, and we were both recovering drug addicts. Of course I’d known Phil’s work for a long time — since his remarkably perfect film debut as a privileged, cowardly prep-school kid in Scent of a Woman — but I’d never met him until the first table read for Charlie Wilson’s War, in which he’d been cast as Gust Avrakotos, a working-class CIA agent who’d fallen out of favor with his Ivy League colleagues. A 180-degree turn.
On breaks during rehearsals, we would sometimes slip outside our soundstage on the Paramount lot and get to swapping stories. It’s not unusual to have these mini-AA meetings — people like us are the only ones to whom tales of insanity don’t sound insane. “Yeah, I used to do that.” I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.” He meant that our deaths would make news and maybe scare someone clean.
So it’s in that spirit that I’d like to say this: Phil Hoffman, this kind, decent, magnificent, thunderous actor, who was never outwardly “right” for any role but who completely dominated the real estate upon which every one of his characters walked, did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.
He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed — he died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a y in it. He’ll have his well-earned legacy — his Willy Loman that belongs on the same shelf with Lee J. Cobb’s and Dustin Hoffman’s, his Jamie Tyrone, his Truman Capote and his Academy Award. Let’s add to that 10 people who were about to die who won’t now.”
R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman… you will be sorely missed.