Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead from a suspected drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment today. He was 46 years old.
People talk about presence in actors, and Hoffman had it in spades. He could take your breath away, and make it impossible to look away from the screen.
There was a gentleness and sensitivity to his performances that transported you to where he was, in any role he was playing.
Of the same vintage as Robert Downey Jr and Christian Bale, Hoffman may not have been tarred with the ‘finest actor of his generation’ brush, but he was the equal of those men and created a superb body of work.
Among all the incredible performances he gave throughout his career, one if his best was as the villain in Mission Impossible III, which may seem an odd choice given the breadth of his filmography.
But as arms dealer Owen Davian he delivered a character that truly chilled and, although he played a monster, was probably the most human thing in a pretty forgettable franchise.
Hoffman came to light in the 1992 Al Pacino film Scent of a Woman, where as George Willis Jr he perfectly captured the righteous sense of entitlement of an old-money preppy alongside struggling classmate Charlie Simms (played by Chris O’Donnell).
It was a glimpse of things to come, and Hoffman was cast in an unforgettable bit as ‘young craps player’ in the 1996 feature Hard Eight, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
Then followed an appearance in Anderson’s Boogie Nights before he landed a role as the simpering assistant to the slightly more decrepit version of Jeffrey Lebowski in the Coen Brothers’ ode to slackerhood, The Big Lebowski.
More collaborations with Anderson saw Hoffman appear in the brilliant Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love, sandwiched between a brief but great turn as rock writer Lester Bangs in Almost Famous.
But it was the period from 2003 until 2007 that cemented Hoffman’s reputation as one of the best actors in the world.
As compulsive gambler Dan Mahowny in Owning Mahowny, he took us all the way inside the mind of a man who was born to lose.
He won the Academy Award for best actor for his performance as writer Truman Capote in 2005’s Capote, and then shot to the top of the box office the following year in Mission Impossible III.
Hoffman starred in Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, alongside Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei, and, along with the latter, was responsible for one of the most brilliantly uninspiring sex scenes in celluloid history.
He was nominated for another Oscar in 2008 for his role as Gust Avrakotos in Charlie Wilson’s War, and followed that with a nomination for Doubt a year later.
In recent years, he had appeared in terrific films such as A Late Quartet and Moneyball.
Hoffman’s death, at the age of 46, leaves a massive hole in the acting world. Thankfully, we’ve still got the films he gave us, but we’ll have to do without the splendid performances that were undoubtedly to come.
Grieg Johnston is The New Daily’s deputy sports editor and a fanatical film follower.