This past week we lost a great actor. Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the best actors of his or any generation and I was deeply saddened by his unexpected (but all too common) death.
There aren't a lot of movies I'd go see just for a certain actor, but Hoffman was one of them. His presence could make even the worst move at least somewhat tolerable. I became familiar with Hoffman's work at a young age. I was about 12 when I first saw in "Twister," a role that didn't bring him lots of acclaim, but he provided a good deal of the comic relief. I next remember seeing him in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights," in a small, but undeniably powerful role. Hoffman would become part of Anderson's revolving door of actors, either in small supporting roles or as the lead. Hoffman also had a small role in Todd Solondz's "Happiness" as a prank call loving pervert. He didn't run away from odd or strange roles. Rather, he embraced them and brought forth a humanity in them few other actors could.
I remember seeing "Doubt" in theaters and being blown away by his portrayal of Father Brendan Flynn. Despite his character being accused of sexual child abuse, Hoffman brought to that role a level of compassion I doubt any other actor could have.
When I heard that Hoffman would be portraying Truman Capote, I was a little skeptical at first. I wasn't sure Hoffman would be able to pull off Capote's mannerisms and way of speaking, but my God, did he knock it out of the park. There are few actors who are truly deserving of the accolades thrown at them, but Hoffman was one.
Whenever Hoffman was cast in one of Paul Thomas Anderson's film I knew we would be getting something special. His role as hospice nurse Phil Parma in "Magnolia" is touching and beautiful. But I think my favorite role would have to be as Lancaster Dodd in "The Master." Despite being the leader of The Cause, a scientology-like cult, he was understanding, patient, considerate and also temperamental. He truly cared for his flock, despite not always being able to sell them on the tenets of his religion.
I was shocked when I found out about his death Sunday afternoon, but I'm grateful I was able to appreciate him while he was still with us. Actors come and go, but there will always be a handful who truly lifted the art of acting and brought something new and different to each role. Hoffman was one of those people. While he may be gone, his work will live on indefinitely.