The first film tragedy of 2014 occurred a couple of days ago and it came in the form of the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The acclaimed actor died yesterday in his New York flat of a suspected heroine overdose. It is reported it was due to the recent split from his wife and mother of three children. However, we’re not here to talk about why and how he died, that’s not what we do. No we’re here to talk about the career and achievement of big PSH himself.
Hoffman’s acting career took off in the early 90’s, notably his first major performance was alongside award winning actor Al Pacino in the 1992 film A Scent of a Woman and then progressively obtaining bigger, yet not particularly serious roles in films like Twister (1996). For me personally, PSH’s first impressive role came along when he first teamed up with (then) maverick director Paul Thomas Anderson in the 1997 cult flick Boogie Nights. His portrayal of an over-weight, sexually confused boom operator in the late 70’s porn industry is endearing and convincing. From this he managed to put his stamp on a certified acting style highlighting raw talent and genuine method acting capabilities.
PSH in Boogie Nights (1997) Image Via
PSH obviously had made an impression on Hollywood because after 1997 the man was incredibly busy. In 1998 he was bought in by the Coen Brothers to play Brandt, the proper yet enthusiastic aid to the ‘big lebowski’ in the 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski. PSH had to impress for this one, despite having proven his skills in Boogie Nights. A style in which he had to adjust to, he did so beautifully, fitting the brief of a unique and eccentric part which is typical for a Coen brothers film. He managed to engulf a character that is serious yet hilarious, a guy that takes his job very seriously but maintains an ora of comedy. Side by side some serious stars like Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi; PSH was certainly on the Hollywood radar.
In 1999 PSH teamed up again with director PT Anderson in the highly acclaimed Magnolia (repeatedly using actors in films is something Anderson is known for doing….GET-IN PSH). His performance was sublime only heightening his reputation as a reliable and convincing method actor, launching him into tougher roles where his acting abilities would be tested further (the best is yet to come).
PSH in the 1998 film Magnolia. Image Via
PSH wasn’t messing about anymore. He was established, respected and well sought after. He appeared as a supporting actor in the novel-film The Talented Mr Ripley as Freddie Miles, an annoying American drunk who came across as rambunctious, flamboyant, crafty and in your face. Freddie succumbed to a rather unfortunate death but, hey-ho, that’s film. The point is that PSH had starred in a role where the character wasn’t necessarily loved, he was in fact slightly loathed. PSH was, however, showing off a vast range of acting talent, on one end a lovable fat gay guy to a devious, crafty, cunning pig. More is still yet to come.
The pattern continued for a while. He was in a few flicks here and there that portrayed talent, just not the kind of talent we were to get so used to. In 2005 the talent dropped. PSH starred as the leading role in the massively brilliant Cupote. The role gave PSH another chance to shine, a leading role, yet PSH approached the role like he did with any other film. He was yet again convincing and able to lure the audience in for a memorable experience. He encapsulated the character, turning into him and exploiting the eccentricity that came with the role as well as mimicking his (rather strange) voice perfectly, a task that some may find extremely challenging. PSH one best actor for the role and so he bloody well should have.
PSH in Capote (2005) in which he won the academy award for best actor. Image Via
PSH wasn’t going to stop there, oh no, more work was to be done. His career continued to flourish, winning other roles in equally impressive films such as Doubt (2008) and The Master (2012, another PT Anderson production). What was becoming evident is that his skills as actor were becoming increasingly more noticeable with every film he did. The Master in particular is an example of this. He essentially played a cult leader, luring in a misunderstood degenerate and offering him a path of righteousness. He was technically the supporting role (which he was nominated for an award for by the way) but he didn’t come across as the supporting actor. PSH had become ‘that guy’ you notice when he walks into the room. He beamed confidence, charm and absolute attention; qualities that were not necessarily achieved by actors or even actors who were in character. This was certainly a testimony to who he was, not just in regards to an actor but as a man.
PSH in The Master (2012). Image Via
(Sigh) Yes, it always seems to be the best that go. And PSH was certainly one of the best. He leaves a legacy of accomplishment, a patron of the arts and a true star. However, the harsh reality is that he did not fulfill what he could have done. He would have been regarded as one of the best of all time. Sadly, he will most probably be remembered for his death before his work. A life of pretending to be somebody else whilst not dealing with his own internal struggles in the harsh reality which is life. Here at 3 wise men we salute and remember the man, the legend, Philip Seymour Hoffman. You will be missed.
This short tribute to Hoffman is certainly not enough and I know that. I could write for fucking years about him as cinema was not his only love but theater played a huge role is his career and life as well. A re-cap on his film career is just a small pinch of salt in the delicious soup which was Hoffman’s life. Carry on old bean.
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