The Passing of a Powerhouse.
e was no Schwarzenegger or Cruise or Willis – but he could slam the breath from your body with greater force. He was no Pitt or Gosling or Clooney – but you could not tear your eyes from him.
I cannot pinpoint exactly when Philip Seymour Hoffman appeared on radar as an Actor’s Actor (his multitude of supporting roles were often disservices to his talent – n.b. playing bad guy opposite Chris O’Donnell’s beige in SCENT OF A WOMAN, like a tennis match, only brought Hoffman down to O’Donnell’s level), but once he had hooked into our limbic consciousness, his hurricane presence could not be denied (which is ironic, considering he is renowned for “disappearing” into his roles – doubly ironic, considering he was in that movie about hurricanes, that we wish would disappear.)
There were the giants of Hollywood’s Golden Age: Fonda, Peck, Poitier; there were the post-modern Everymen: Hackman, Pacino, Dustin Hoffman; and there are the Method men for millennials: Sean Penn, Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale… right amongst their distinguished table, if not near its head – Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like Fonda, an authenticity (THE IDES OF MARCH); like Pacino, a volcanic intensity (DOUBT); like Penn, an earthy empathy (CAPOTE). Then there are those movies that he drags from the muck they are wallowing in, simply through his sheer, compelling presence (ALONG CAME POLLY, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III). He was a chameleon, an artisan, every word wrenched with passion, every gesture wrought with meaning…
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is one of those tragedies that could have gone either way. A sincere stupid fragile idiotic miscalculation: one sliver less in the dose and the news bulletins would have had nothing more on their venal plates than politics and Miley Cyrus again.
That Philip Seymour Hoffman died with a junkie needle in his arm will shiver disparate reactions from the quivering populace: those who loved him and his art will look beyond the frailties and continue to laud Hoffman for the almost-unbearable humanity and uncomfortable honesty he infused in his work; those indifferent to great art or who have not lived (in the Hunter S. Thompson sense) will mock and deride from their pedestals of holier-than-thou.
The industry calls people like Philip Seymour Hoffman “character actors.” Too small a word for someone who could deliver a cinematic bodyblow so electric.
He was no Spider-Man or Wolverine or Iron Man – but we will remember Philip Seymour Hoffman for the powerhouse he was.