Performance world mourns Hoffman’s loss

NEW YORK: He was only 46, busy as ever and secure in his standing as one of the world’s greatest actors.

There were no dissenters about the gifts and achievements of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose death Sunday in New York brought a stunning halt to his extraordinary and unpredictable career.

Hoffman, a leading actor of his generation and winner of an Academy Award for his title role in the film “Capote,” was found dead in his Manhattan apartment in what a New York police source described as an apparent drug overdose.Police responding to a 911 call found the 46-year-old Hoffman unresponsive on the bathroom floor of his Greenwich Village apartment, and Emergency Medical Service workers declared him dead at the scene. An investigation was underway.

A police spokesman said investigators discovered Hoffman with a syringe in his arm and recovered two small plastic bags in the apartment containing a substance suspected of being heroin. A police department source earlier told Reuters that Hoffman had died of an apparent drug overdose.

Hoffman, who is survived by three children with his partner Mimi O’Donnell, had detailed his struggles with substance abuse in the past.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone,” Hoffman’s family said in a statement issued through his publicist.

“This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving,” it added. “Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers.”

Sunday afternoon saw onlookers gather near Hoffman’s apartment, a four-story red brick building in a fashionable neighborhood of the West Village, where many other actors keep homes.

Citing a law enforcement official, CNN reported that Hoffman was last seen alive at 8 p.m. Saturday. He had been expected to pick up his children Sunday but failed to show up, prompting playwright David Katz and another person to go to his apartment, where they found him dead.

Hoffman spoke in the past of struggling with drugs, including a 2006 interview in which he told CBS he had at times abused “anything I could get my hands on. I liked it all.”

Born in upstate New York near Rochester, Hoffman won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote in the 2005 biographical film “Capote.” He also received three Academy Award nominations as best supporting actor, for “The Master” in 2013, “Doubt” in 2009 and “Charlie Wilson’s War” in 2008.

After more than a dozen earlier roles, Hoffman burst onto the film scene in 1997’s “Boogie Nights,” in which he played a lovelorn gay man in a movie about the porn industry.

Hoffman, who brought a workmanlike intensity to his roles, often played characters with innate intelligence and logical minds riven by underlying passion. The blond, thickset actor’s on-screen persona could range from professorial to unkempt, from the aloof intellectual to the everyman.

The actor appeared in such blockbusters as “Twister” and “The Hunger Games” series. He was more often associated with the independent film world, though, for his portrayals of often disturbing and complex characters.

In Todd Solondz’s “Happiness,” he played an obscene phone caller. In Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” he played a son who schemes to rob his parents’ jewelry store, a plot that ends in their deaths. Hoffman could also play nice, as in his portrayal of an angelic nurse in “Magnolia.”

Other noteworthy films included “Moneyball,” “The Savages,” “Cold Mountain” and “Scent of a Woman,” one of his earliest films.

Hoffman was “one of the most gifted actors of our generation,” Lionsgate, the studio behind “The Hunger Games,” said in a statement.

“We’re very fortunate that he graced our ‘Hunger Games’ family,” the statement continued. “Losing him in his prime is a tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Philip’s family.”

Hoffman also frequently appeared on Broadway, earning Tony award nominations for his role as Willy Loman, the principal character in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” and for his parts in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “True West.”

“If you missed him as Willy Loman, you missed a Willy Loman for all time,” actor Steve Martin Tweeted Sunday.

“This is a horrible day for those who worked with Philip,” Tom Hanks, who co-starred with him in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” said in a statement. “He was a giant talent. Our hearts are open for his family.”

British comedian Russell Brand, who has discussed his own struggles with drug abuse, Tweeted his sympathies to Hoffman’s family. “Addiction kills,” he wrote. “I hope all who need it have access to abstinence based recovery.”

Showtime, the cable television network which had just ordered a 10-episode comedy, “Happyish,” starring Hoffman and produced by his company, Cooper’s Town Productions, mourned the actor’s loss.

“Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of our generation’s finest and most brilliant actors,” it said.

“He was also a gifted comedic talent. It was a great privilege and pleasure to work with him and we are all absolutely devastated by this sudden loss.”

Hoffman appeared last month at the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of “A Most Wanted Man,” a thriller based on the John le Carre novel, in which he played German spy Gunther Bachmann.

At the premiere, Hoffman told Reuters that he connected to Gunther’s personality, a man driven by the shame of previous failure into an obsessive pursuit of capturing terrorists by any means necessary.

“I think it’d be hard for anyone not to connect with the loneliness,” Hoffman said. “He’s pretty lonely, driven, obsessive guy, unforgiving of himself in a lot of ways. A lot of traits that a lot of people carry in one grade or another.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 04, 2014, on page 16.




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