Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the greatest cinema and theatre actors of his
generation, died on 2 February 2014 at the age of 46 of an apparent drug
How does one comprehend the loss of an actor whose immense measure of
talent is so rarely glimpsed that he was surely one of the brightest stars in the
It’s still unbelievable that Hoffman’s presence on movie screens has been
obliterated. In 23 years, he starred in more than 50 movies, and each role
counted, he made the characters his own, became the flesh and bone, soul and
spirit of everyone he portrayed, with a range more diverse than most actors are
He had presence, charm, poise, he could convey so many expressions simply,
easily, with his eyes, hands, the pull of his mouth, a slump in the shoulders. One
never felt one was watching Philip Seymour Hoffman act. The characters he
portrayed on screen authentically appeared whenever he entered the frame of a
film, often dominating, without effort, scenes and screen time, even in the most
Whether his roles required silence, rage, despair, fear, sorrow… he could move,
convince, sway, and bewitch audiences. He was, simply put, a genius,
translucent with his boundless unconventional beauty on screen.
Hoffman had an inability not to shine but shared the screen selflessly with his
fellow actors, and often, strong performances bounced off his delivery.
Sometimes he was as gentle as a lullaby, or powerful as a raging storm, lashing
reams of dialogue – or mere sentences – always spellbinding.
His intense character roles must have, to some degree, chipped away at his
solid frame and gentle soul and splintered him, a man already fighting demons
few have the courage to face. Perhaps his light burnt so bright and so fierce that
an implosion was inevitable.
On rare occasions, in movies such as Synecdoche, New York (2008) in which he
played a stage director, perhaps he offered a glimpse of his true self. Or possibly
he was always the chameleon of the screen, one so powerful in his ability to
transform himself that no one would ever doubt that there could be an end to
his magnificent acting abilities.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was a beautiful, powerful, tender and brave actor. He
said about acting: “To have that concentration to act as well is like lugging
things up staircases in your brain. I think that’s a thing people don’t understand.
It is that exhausting. If you’re doing it well, if you’re concentrating the way you
need to, if your will and your concentration and emotion and imagination and
emotional life are all in time, concentrated and working together in that role, that
is just like lugging weights upstairs with your head… And I don’t think that
should get any easier.’
In the end, perhaps the weight simply became too heavy to lug upstairs.