I don’t even know how to start this, because frankly, we shouldn’t be here. Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of those personalities that has made such a mark in film and acting that we never expected him to leave us so soon. His characters were always complex and memorable, and his performances always elevated any project that he was in. Every film he touched benefited from his presence, his grace and his talent.
Paul Thomas Anderson was one of the first directors that I really took note of when I really seriously got into film. After seeing Magnolia, I began hunting down his earlier films, which turned me on to Boogie Nights and Hard Eight. And through these films, I began to know and realize the amazing talent of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Magnolia and Boogie Nights in particular saw him playing these amazingly heart-touching characters that provided some of the most emotionally vulnerable moments in the films. He connected with the audience and conveyed some truly astounding moments and sentiments – often with little dialogue at all, frequently with just the right line.
From that point on, any time I saw his name on a poster or in a cast list, I got excited. He was someone I could always count on to deliver nothing but the best, and tended to selectively choose interesting characters and projects. Having only The Master, or Magnolia, or Synecdoche, New York on an actor’s resume would be crowning achievement enough, and he had all of them. And many others.
Even on films that I wasn’t over the moon for, his moments in them always managed to shine and give me something to remember. Charlie WIlson’s War was one such example. I didn’t love the film, but I found myself recommending it to friends based on Hoffman’s singular performance as Gust Avarkotos, and the moment he called his boss a “fucking child.”
His was a rare talent. Finely crafting these widely varied, yet amazingly complex characters. It’s hard to believe that the compassionate Phil Parma and George Willis Jr (that smug little shit) could have been played by the same actor. Add into that Lester Bangs, Brandt and Lancaster Dodd (among the scores of others) and you have one of the most amazing and varied careers of just about any actor out there. His work was amazing, and it’s tragic to think about all of the roles left empty. I celebrate Hoffman and am saddened by the fact that he left us far too early. It is truly tragic when an artist leaves us before their work is finished.
And so here’s to you, Mr. Hoffman. And to Scotty J. To Phil Parma, and to Lester Bangs, To Lancaster Dodd, Caden Contard, Truman Capote, Brandt, Freddie Miles, Joseph Turner White…to all of the characters that you brought to life, and to the many others that we will never get the opportunity to know.
Goddamn, I loved that Mattress Man.