FLASH SPECIAL: A Philip Seymour Hoffman Memorial - The Many Reasons Why He Was The Undisputed Master, Onstage & Onscreen
One of the greatest actors of his generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman has left behind an astoundingly rich and varied resume with his shocking and unexpected death reported on Sunday - sterling Tony Award-worthy stage turns to remarkable Academy Award-winning work onscreen to his own directing and producing ventures. Now, we celebrate the Broadway and Hollywood work that made Hoffman one of the most consistently compelling characters in the modern entertainment age - each and every performance imbued with a special kind of magic few can conjure once, let alone repeatedly.
Sunday morning was marked with the tragic news of the passing of one of American acting's most vivid, varied and committed stage and screen performers, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and we have already marked his passing with a rerun of my 2010 InDepth InterView with the man - available here - conducted around the time of the release of his first and only feature film as both director and star, JACK GOES BOATING. On a personal note, MAGNOLIA remains my favorite film and his tremendous turn within it as a put-upon home nurse dealing with death, dogs and a Biblical plague of frogs falling from the sky (no, really) is visceral, masterful and unforgettable - and Hoffman's own description to me of the meta-musical film as "an opera" in not only its incorporation of music into the plot and the outsized emotions of its characters but also the scope of the Paul Thomas Anderson project itself is an exquisitely erudite example of the perceptive nature Hoffman always exhibited, whether onscreen or onstage in performance, or in real life. Nevertheless, Hoffman's five films with Anderson alone are among the finest legacy a modern film actor could ask for, if not more: HARD EIGHT, BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE and THE MASTER; not to mention his Academy Award-winning turn in CAPOTE, as well as his many notable stage performances ranging from TRUE WEST to LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT to DEATH OF A SALESMAN and many more. A titanic talent that will be missed for many decades to come, Hoffman really was the master, indeed.
Besides his longstanding relationship with Anderson, Hoffman also excelled in a number of wide-ranging characterizations in many popular and some lesser-known entities over the course of his 20-year-career. An early standout role opposite Al Pacino in SCENT OF A WOMAN caught the eye of many - and understandably so - while his TWISTER featured part introduced him to yet a wider audience given the film's international success. 1996 also marked his first onscreen collaboration with Anderson byway of HARD EIGHT, in which he effortlessly portrays a loud-mouthed gambler and heckling craps addict. The next year, Anderson offered Hoffman his finest role onscreen to date in living the heartbreaking, closeted nightmare of a porn film crew member smitten with a male star in BOOGIE NIGHTS, while NEXT STOP WONDERLAND and HAPPINESS further cemented his indie cred. Another crowd-pleaser came with PATCH ADAMS, while the instant-classic THE BIG LEBOWSKI showed his cooler side (in film choices if not in actual parts played, in this case). FLAWLESS found him exploring his feminine side opposite Robert De Niro and THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY gave him the chance to play off some of the brightest stars of our age - Jude Law, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett included, all under the direction of master director Anthony Minghella. The aforementioned MAGNOLIA is a career pinnacle, although his charismatic turn in David Mamet's STATE & MAIN around the same time is a particular pleasure to experience, as well. ALMOST FAMOUS is yet another cultural lynchpin, especially given his moments in it, whereas LOVE LIZA is a fascinating character study. Spike Lee's THE 25th HOUR and Brett Ratner's RED DRAGON afforded Hoffman some more commercial choices to shine in his career - ably abetting each enterprise with his characteristic excellence - while COLD MOUNTAIN gave him a memorable dramatic featured role. Plus, OWNING MAHONEY as well as STRANGERS WITH CANDY found him exercising his comedy chops onscreen by the mid-00s, too. Then came the role of a lifetime: Truman Capote - and the Oscar that went with it.
Hoffman's post-Oscar-win output is a dizzying showcase of audacious and awe-inspiring acting on full display, going from a haunted and harrowing heroin addict in Sidney Lumet's late-career masterpiece BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD to a talky thug in Mike Nichols's CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR to a villainous tentpole star turn in MISION: IMPOSSIBLE III. So, too, were hearts warmed by the brusquely moving THE SAVAGES and his sensational turn in the HBO miniseries EMPIRE FALLS. Additionally, SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK found him exploring the sort of oddball, out-there film universe we had come to expect from his sharp taste in material, while his fierce dedication to specificity made his playing of a pedophile priest (or not) in John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT a definite stunner. After that, Hoffman continued to show off seemingly endless adaptability as an actor, with a hubbub-generating stage performance under director Mike Nichols in Arthur Miller's DEATH OF A SALESMAN ending a theatre career marked with such spectacular showings as his Tony-winning Eugene O'Neill LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT playing and the dual-role tour de force of Sam Shepard's TRUE WEST with friend and frequent co-star John C. Reilly as well as JACK GOES BOATING, which he himself would bring to the silver screen as director and star following the original production at his much-beloved LAByrinth Theater Company, where he acted as Artistic Director.
Unfortunately, the title of 2012's A LATE QUARTET was all too foretelling of Hoffman's early demise, although his performance within it is simply sumptuous and eminently emotionally breathtaking. On that note, his final cinematic collaboration with Anderson via THE MASTER also provided a career capper to beat the band as the incredibly powerful and magnetic religious leader Lancaster Dodd. More popular fare, Bennett Miller's MONEYBALL gave him a stage-worthy role he was singularly responsible for bringing to new dramatic heights, as did the FARRAGUT NORTH big screen adaptation THE IDES OF MARCH. Of course, a whole new generation - and, surely, many more to come - will now know him for his indelible contributions to THE HUNGER GAMES franchise, with this summer's super-successful THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE soon to be followed up by more sequels, the two-part MOCKINGJAY, in both of which Hoffman appears as game controller Plutarch Heavensbee. Of note, Lionsgate released a statement earlier today noting that Hoffman had only a week of filming left to complete on MOCKINGJAY PART 2 and therefore his appearance in the upcoming two HUNGER GAMES films will reportedly not be significantly altered by today's tragic news of his passing. Unfortunately, his just-announced Showtime series HAPPYISH seems unlikely to find a similar fate, though one hopes his completed work on it sees the light of day sooner rather than later. Also, Hoffman stars in the new John Slattery film GOD'S POCKET as well as A MOST WANTED MAN, both completed and scheduled for release later this year.
So, now, let's look at some of the best moments from the life and career of Philip Seymour Hoffman onstage and onscreen.
First up, here is the first time many will remember setting eyes on the one and only Philip Seymour Hoffman, in SCENT OF A WOMAN.
HARD EIGHT was the first of many collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson. Who could forget the infamous craps scene?
Then, TWISTER gave Hoffman his first bona fide blockbuster.
Next, Hoffman cemented his considerable credentials with BOOGIE NIGHTS.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI provided Hoffman with instant indie cred, as well.
Todd Solondz makes movies like no one else - and in Hoffman he found his ideal actor. Here is HAPPINESS.
Gender-bending and out-acting with Robert De Niro - FLAWLESS.
A feast for the eyes, ears and mind, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY ages like a fine wine.
Another terrific featured turn, this one in ALMOST FAMOUS.
Hoffman ended the century on a high with the magnificent MAGNOLIA.
RED DRAGON afforded Hoffman the chance to get seriously scary - or, in this case, scared.
Hoffman paid tribute to his theatrical side in ALONG CAME POLLY via a hilarious JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR homage.
Re-teaming with Anthony Minghella, 2003 gave us COLD MOUNTAIN.
Hoffman shone brightly on the small screen in EMPIRE FALLS.
CAPOTE earned Hoffman his first - and only - Academy Award.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III afforded Hoffman another studio hit.
Sidney Lumet's BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD is, in a word, superlative.
Another year, another character turn - CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning DOUBT offered Hoffman a particularly rich and meaty part to play.
JACK GOES BOATING was Hoffman's directorial debut.
A particularly theatrical turn enlivened THE IDES OF MARCH.
Hoffman pays homage to his theatre career in SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK.
Tragically, A LATE QUARTET proved to be just that.
THE MASTER was Hoffman's last film with Paul Thomas Anderson, but shall forever remain etched in our memories.
The whole world surely now knows Philip Seymour Hoffman if they didn't before byway of THE HUNGER GAMES franchise.
Hoffman and Christina Hendricks discuss the forthcoming GOD'S POCKET in early 2014.
Here is a look at Hoffman's final film performance, in A WANTED MAN.
Here is a trailer for the most recent Broadway revival of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Hoffman addresses death in an eloquent and touching scene from SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK. All too apropos.
Finally: a master class in acting, here is one of Hoffman's finest single scenes in any film, taken from MAGNOLIA.
As a special bonus, here is one more Hoffman/Anderson phone call you simply must take byway of PUNCH DRUNK LOVE. Wow!
What Philip Seymour Hoffman performance is most memorably etched in your mind as you look back on his jaw-dropping body of work? What stage or screen turn personally moved you most of all? Furthermore, what would you have loved to see him play someday, whether onstage or otherwise? The fact that the world will be denied a Philip Seymour Hoffman King Lear someday is reason to weep in and of itself, no doubt.
Here's to an acting great, a gentle giant and a hell of a nice guy.
More On: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Thomas Anderson, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett.