R.I.P., Mr. Hoffman

I am not a celebrity person. I don’t follow any celebrity websites, I am usually not up-to-date what is going on in Hollywood (because I frankly do not care), and I don’t subscribe to the gossip.
I sometimes watch the award shows, but just for fun, not because I am dedicated to the cause, because let’s be honest, all it really is, is a whole lot of self-adulation ( granted, some of it might even be well-deserved).
That is to say that I do appreciate good movies, the art of theater and acting, and talented actors/actresses.

I was driving on the freeway on Sunday, listening to NPR, when I heard: The actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, has died.

A “you gotta be f***ing kidding me” might have slipped out of my mouth right that second. It just didn’t seem right. I’ve never before expressed my deep admiration and respect for him as an actor here or anywhere else for that matter, but I, in fact, have been a big fan of his work.

He was not the usual Hollywood hunk that people women, go crazy about, but he was for sure one of the greatest actors of our times. If you wanted to watch a movie and knew he was in it, you really couldn’t go wrong. He stood out because he impressed with raw, theatrical talent, tremendous acting skills and brilliantly executed characters. If you have seen him in “Capote“, “Owning Mahony“, Before the devil knows you’re dead” or (one of my favorites) “Flawless“, you know what I’m talking about.
Even in smaller roles, like in “The Big Lebowski” or “Along came Polly“, his roles were a perfect fit for him and you could tell that he had real potential.

Nobody said it better than A.O. Scott in the New York Times:

[Hofman’s] dramatic roles in middle-sized movies (“Capote,” “25th Hour,” “Doubt,” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “The Savages” and “Synecdoche, New York,” to keep the list at a manageable half-dozen for now) were distinguished by how far he was willing to go into the souls of flawed, even detestable characters. As the heavy, the weird friend or the volatile co-worker in a big commercial movie he could offer not only comic relief but also the specific pleasure that comes from encountering an actor who takes his art seriously no matter the project. He may have specialized in unhappiness, but you were always glad to see him.

And later in the article:

He did not care if we liked any of these sad specimens. The point was to make us believe them and to recognize in them — in him — a truth about ourselves that we might otherwise have preferred to avoid. He had a rare ability to illuminate the varieties of human ugliness. No one ever did it so beautifully.

I couldn’t agree more with this article, Hoffman was outstanding in portraying odd characters, but part of me wonders if some of those dark, sinister roles came back to haunt his sensitive soul. Human beings are complicated and actors often work hard to identify with the characters they play.

He was only 46 years old when he died.

Or should I say, when he took his life?

Because the evidence clearly suggests an intentional drug overdose. Call me naive, but I didn’t even know he had a drug problem and just recently – as in last summer – had completed rehab (see, this is how much I follow the celebrity news. NOT AT ALL.) It just makes me really, really sad to think that someone, who on the surface seemed to have it all, was in such a bad place that suicide seemed like a really good idea.

And he was not the only one. We have heard of numerous celebrities that have overdosed on drugs in the not too recent past. It honestly boggles my mind. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around “addictions”, maybe because I don’t have an addictive personality myself and just don’t know what it feels like to think that you “can’t live without something”.

You know, part of me is also a little selfish and pissed off: he won’t be making any more movies. That seriously blows. He could have just taken care of himself. Taken an extended vacation or something, you know? IMHO, there really is no fame and glory in dying young from a drug overdose. But I know it is a disorder that needs to be treated and can’t just be brushed off as a character flaw. He needed help.

And whatever the reasons were that led Philip Seymour Hoffman (or others) to using drugs – may it be for recreational purposes or in search of an emotional escape – I do believe that internally they were all troubled individuals trying to cope with unmanageable internal conflict, stress, and pressure. How do you get to this point when you’re living a life that is sought after by so many? Why is it so hard to stay grounded and not let fame and stardom go straight to your head?

I could have written this post a hundred times in the past when yet another young and promising life was lost to drugs. To me, Philip Seymour Hoffman was just an exceptional master of his art, and for one reason or another, his death simply touched me a little more last weekend. Maybe because I wasn’t aware that he had a drug problem, maybe because he didn’t strike me as the internally troubled person that was looking for an escape (in the end with such dire consequences). Maybe because I thought that he had weathered the early years of his career and had navigated a public life so well for so long that he was beyond addiction’s reach. But I realize that the lines are blurry, the circumstances complicated and the explanation to be found in a place much deeper than the surface of his no-doubt stressful career that he so brilliantly excelled at.

Still, there seems to be something missing for a lot of celebrities in finding the balance between pursuing their work and maintaining a ‘normal’ life and their sanity.
I often wonder how much the constant spotlight, the paparazzi and the gossip further exacerbate the problem. Why are some able to handle it and others are simply falling apart while the whole world looks on? I sometimes can’t help but speculate what it was that pushed him (and others) over the edge. We really should ask ourselves what is wrong with Hollywood when incidents like this seem to repeat themselves.

I didn’t go out looking for negative characters;
I went out looking for people who have a struggle and a fight to tackle.
That’s what interests me.

– Philip Seymour Hoffman

He surely was tackling a fight of his own.

  1. this pretty much sums up a lot of my feelings about his death. so incredibly sad, he was quite a gem of hollywood.

  2. It is truly truly sad. Drug addiction is devastating. This article here is so so good and probably as close as anyone can get to explaining addiction: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/mar/09/russell-brand-life-without-drugs

  3. Yepp… basically my thoughts!

    My favorite role of his was in Almost Famous and I feel like no one is even mentioning that one. He did always have amazing supporting roles and he was such a good actor.


  4. It’s all just so sad, that addiction has taken so many people. And from what I hear people are always chasing the feeling of that first high, trying to feel as good as they did that first time and they so often kill themselves trying to get to that point. It’s so sad that we’ve lost another incredibly talented person in such a terrible way.

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