Philip Seymour Hoffman was born on July 23rd, 1967 in Fairport, New York to parents Marilyn and Gordon, although they divorced not long after in 1976. Having taken up acting in high school following an injury-curtailed pursuit of wrestling, he took to his new hobby quickly and after attending theatre schools and earning his drama degree Hoffman first graced screens in a 1991 episode of NBC’s Law and Order. 1992 was his breakthrough year cinematically, earning supporting roles in four feature films (most notably the multiple Academy Award-nominated Scent of a Woman alongside Al Pacino). More supporting parts followed, such as in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999), as well as 1998’s cult favourite The Big Lebowski. Despite his well-received performances, Hoffman was rarely given lead roles although he had top billing in both Love Liza in 2002 and Owning Mahoney the following year.
After smaller roles in Cold Mountain and Along Came Polly, Philip was cast as writer Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic, Capote. For this role Hoffman received widespread acclaim and numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor on his first try. This role put him firmly on the scene as an A-list actor, and in 2007 he starred in Sidney Lumet’s final film, the critically-acclaimed Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Despite these successes in lead roles, Hoffman remained mostly as a supporting actor in his later films; he received more Oscar nominations in this category for Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Doubt (2008) and The Master (2012), although he was unsuccessful on all three occasions. He was also an active part of both the television and theatre scenes; he was nominated for an Emmy for Empire Falls and Tony Awards for True West, Death of a Salesman and Long Day’s Journey into Night. It is cinema however for which he will be most significantly remembered, and his final roles came as Plutarch Heavensbee in the later films of the Hunger Games series.
Hoffman, in a relationship with costume designer Mimi O’Donnell from 1999, struggled with drug and alcohol addiction after leaving college but was recovered by the age of 22. In 2013, however, he suffered a relapse and checked into a rehab clinic citing problems with heroin and prescription drugs as the problem. On February 2nd, 2014 he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment by friend and playwright David Bar Katz in what appears to have been a drug-related catastrophe. He leaves behind his wife and three children: son Cooper (born 2003) and daughters Tallulah (2006) and Willa (2008).
Philip Seymour Hoffman was an actor admired by almost everyone, including me. I particularly enjoyed his performances in The Big Lebowski and Magnolia as well as more recently Doubt and his comic turn in 2009’s The Boat That Rocked. It is a shame that he didn’t appear in more central roles, although clearly he excelled in supporting positions to the extent that he was more often called upon in this capacity. Nevertheless, he could evidently handle the spotlight since in one his few lead roles he won what most consider to be the highest accolade. He was a popular actor in the industry, particularly with Paul Thomas Anderson who cast Hoffman in five of his six features so far. He was undoubtedly an excellent actor, and 46 is far too young to lose anyone.
Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014