Philip Seymour Hoffman

Performer

Male

Born: July 23, 1967
Fairport, New York

Died: February 2, 2014
New York, New York

Obituary: Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Academy Award-winning stage and screen actor who brought his own unique presence and deep-delving intelligence to his every role, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment around 11:30 AM Feb. 2, 2014.

A cause of death has not been determined. However, the New York Times reports that Hoffman's death may be the result of an apparent drug overdose, according to a law enforcement official. The New York Post reported that he was found with a hypodermic needle still in his arm. He was 46.

Mr. Hoffman had in the past admitted to a lifelong struggle with substance abuse. He entered rehab shortly after graduating from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 1989, when he was in his early 20s, and again in 2013, following a relapse. "I am not ever going to preach to anyone about drugs or drinking," he once said. "But, for me, when they were around, I had no self control."

Stocky and rumpled, with a pale, pinky complexion and an unruly shock of pale blonde hair, Mr. Hoffman was no one's typical idea of a leading man. Yet, over his twenty-plus-year acting career, he slowly but surely ascended to the status of star, an actor of oddball charisma and intense gravity who could anchor a movie or a Broadway play. He won an Academy Award—as well as dozens of other accolades—for his layered, affecting portrayal of a willful, yet conflicted Truman Capote, researching the murder and murderers that informed his nonfiction novel "In Cold Blood," in "Capote." He won additional nominations for his work in "Charlie Wilson's War," "Doubt" and "The Master."

Rare among actors who made the grade in Hollywood, Mr. Hoffman held on fiercely to his theatre roots. He described his habit of doing a play every year as invigorating. Aside from regular roles on and Off-Broadway, he was for many years the co-artistic director of the kinetic Off-Broadway theatre company LAByrinth Theatre Company, a troupe he joined in 1995. Hoffman not only acted in occasional LAByrinth production, but frequently directed. He was particular associated with the gritty, emotional violent work of Stephen Adly Guirgis, a playwright whose career was fostered by the company.

"The idea of faith comes up," he said, speaking of Guirgis' work to Playbill.com in 2008. "The idea of how to lay down your past, and what it is to be a man, an adult; what that really means under the surface of that idea — emotionally, spiritually. It's mostly about people who are coming to terms with the fact that they're not children anymore. And that's a painful thing."

Mr. Hoffman directed Guirgis' breakout play, Jesus Hopped the A Train, as well as Our Lady of 121st Street, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and The Little Flower of Each Orange.

"That kind of level is the best level," he told Playbill.com in 2000, talking about his commitment to small Off-Broadway productions. "You see work you don't see in other things. You're not under the pressure of getting fired. Or of money. Or what's 'expected of you.' There's just the pressure of their peers at the company. That creates an environment where you and your peers challenge each other, push each other to do great work."

While working with LAByrinth, Mr. Hoffman's star began to rise as a stage actor in unaffiliated productions, beginning with 1997's Defying Gravity, about the Challenger disaster, in which he offered a touching portrayal of a suffering NASA worker. He then appeared Mark Ravenhill's controversial Shopping and Fucking and in a revival of Richard Greenberg's The Author's Voice, in which he delivered a darkly comic, howling turn as a the physical manifestation of an artist's muse, cruelly kept in a closet by his master. He was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for the latter.

Mr. Hoffman's stage career exploded in 2000 when he teamed up with John C. Reilly in a Broadway revival of Sam Shepard's True West. In a gimmick that thrilled both audiences and critics, he and Reilly switched the two leading roles—cultured screenwriter Austin and his criminal brother Lee—on a nightly basis. He was nominated for both a Tony and Drama Desk Award. In 2001, he was Constantin in a star-studded staging of Chekhov's The Seagull, directed by Mike Nichols in Central Park.

In 2003, Robert Falls directed him, along with Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Dennehy and Robert Sean Leonard, in a praised revival of O'Neill's tortured family drama, Long Day's Journey Into Night. Mr. Hoffman's sympathetic, yet malevolent performance as the dissipated elder son Jamie was nominated for a Tony and Drama Desk Award yet again. His final Broadway and New York stage appearance was in the 2012 Mike Nichols revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Though reviews were mixed—many thought the actor simply too young to play Willy Loman—he was nonetheless again nominated for a Tony and Drama Desk Awards, and the production was a commercial success.

He described a small role in the Al Pacino film "Scent of a Woman" as his breakthrough. "I was working in the prepared foods section of a deli when I was cast in that movie," he said, "and I've never had a non-acting job since."

His movie roles were wildly varied, and in just a few years he illustrated his wide range as an actor. He was a rich man's adoring flunky in the Coen brothers' "The Big Lebowski" (1998); a lonely, pathetic schlub in Todd Solondz's dystopian look at modern love and family life, "Happiness" (1998); a helpful nurse in Paul Thomas Anderson's mosaic-like "Magnolia" (1999); an insolent rich kid in Rome who learns too much about the title sociopath in Anthony Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999); a naively idealistic screenwriter (a rare romantic lead for the actor) in David Mamet's satire on moviemaking, "State and Main" (1999); and the funny, iconoclastic rock critic Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" (2000).

"Actors are responsible to the people we play," he said of his immersive approach to acting. "I don't label or judge. I just play them as honestly and expressively and creatively as I can, in the hope that people who ordinarily turn their heads in disgust instead think, 'What I thought I'd feel about that guy, I don't totally feel right now' "

His starring role in Bennett Miller's "Capote" seemed an unlikely bit of casting. Physically, the hulking Hoffman was nothing like Capote, and the actor's low, rumbling, gravelly voice—which could leap from a mumble to a bellow in seconds—was a far cry from the novelist's high-pitched cadences. But Mr. Hoffman folded himself into Capote's persona, and collected nearly every award on offer.

Thereafter, Mr. Hoffman stepped up in class in Hollywood, moving from the poster boy of indy filmmaking to a headlining critics' darling. While he didn't turn his nose up at juicy supporting parts—such as the maverick CIA agent in "Charlie Wilson's War," the greedy, conniving son plotting to rob his parents jewelry store in Sidney Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"; the cynical campaign strategist in "The Ides of March" and the grumpy baseball manager in "Moneyball"—more common were films such as "Doubt," "The Savages" and especially "Synecdoche, New York," which were built around his idiosyncratic screen presence and talents. More than most movie stars, his characterizations would gingerly tread a fine line between attractive and repulsive, winning and pathetic, sympathetic and monstrous. And yet, he was an audience favorite. As film critic A.O. Scott put it, "He may have specialized in unhappiness, but you were always glad to see him."

He sometimes expressed a self-consciousness about the way he was perceived, as least physically. "A lot of people describe me as chubby, which seems so easy, so first-choice. Or stocky. Fair-skinned. Tow-headed. There are so many other choices. How about dense? I mean, I'm a thick kind of guy. But I'm never described in attractive ways. I'm waiting for somebody to say I'm at least cute. But nobody has."

When not working, Mr. Hoffman was a rather unglamorous, unassuming, non-showbiz figure. He could frequently been seems around his native New York, attending theatre or walking the streets, typically attired in jeans and a well-worn winter coat, sporting two or three days' growth of beard.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was born July 23, 1967, in Fairport, NY. His father was a Xerox executive and his mother a family court judge and lawyer. He drew his fair complexion and hair from an ancestry that mixed German, English, Irish, Dutch and Polish. His parents divorced when he was 9. Thereafter, he and his three siblings were raised by their mother.

Hoffman had a longstanding relationship with costume designer Mimi O'Donnell. Together, they had a son born in March 2003, and two daughters, one born in November 2006, and the other born in October 2008. They all survive him.

 

Roles

Playbill Cover - Death of a Salesman Death of a Salesman
Mar. 15, 2012 - Jun. 2, 2012
Willy Loman Performer
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Long Day's Journey Into Night Long Day's Journey Into Night
May 6, 2003 - Aug. 31, 2003
James Tyrone, Jr. Performer
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - True West True West
Mar. 9, 2000 - Jul. 29, 2000
Austin Performer
(Original)
Who's Who
    Lee Performer
(Original)
Who's Who
 

Inside the Playbill (3)

See more Who's Who

Awards


Drama Desk Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
2012 Outstanding Actor in a Play Death of a Salesman Nominee
2007 Outstanding Actor in a Play Jack Goes Boating Nominee
2003 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Long Day's Journey Into Night Nominee
2003 Outstanding Director of a Play Our Lady of 121st Street Nominee
2001 Outstanding Director of a Play Jesus Hopped the A Train Nominee
2000 Outstanding Actor in a Play True West Nominee
2000 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play The Author's Voice Nominee

Outer Critics Circle

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
2012 Outstanding Actor in a Play Death of a Salesman Nominee
2000 Special Award True West Winner

Theatre World

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
2000 Theatre World Award True West Winner

Tony Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
2012 Actor in a Play Death of a Salesman Nominee
2003 Featured Actor in a Play Long Day's Journey Into Night Nominee
2000 Actor in a Play True West Nominee
 
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