I returned home from the village shop this evening to be confronted by Mrs Evangelist. For some reason, I’ve not been seeing my texts recently when they come in, so I’ve missed a request for shopping or to pay the window cleaner. Got back to the house just over an hour ago, to discover she’d been frantically trying to text me again. “Did you get my texts? Have you heard? Philip Seymour Hoffman’s dead.”
This isn’t an attempt to be facetious, or to diminish the memory of possibly the finest actor of our generation, but when my wife couldn’t wait the ten minutes needed for me to get home it shows both how shocking it is to have an actor of such talents cruelly taken away from us at the age of just 46, and that even my wife and her more general knowledge of film is aware of what a rich talent Hoffman represented and means to the likes of film fans like myself.
I’ve been writing this blog for three and a half years now, and in that time this is only the second time that I’ve been moved to write a tribute to an actor who’s just died, the other being Leslie Nielsen. While most losses of actors are deeply saddening, and it feels no time at all since Paul Walker was also killed at a young age – heck, it feels no time since we lost Heath Ledger well before his time – Philip Seymour Hoffman was something else, one of the most versatile talents of our generation and the pain feels so much greater for the knowledge of all of those film opportunities now lost to us forever.
Part of the reason I write tributes so sparingly is the feeling that so many others, often those who knew him personally and had worked with him, have the opportunity to express their feelings through news media and the internet in ways more meaningful and often more profound than I can manage. But just occasionally, someone who’s had such a dramatic effect on my own consumption of film needs to be celebrated.
He won an Oscar for Capote, of course, but he elevated pretty much every film he was ever in. I first came to know him as Twister’s Dusty and Boogie Nights’ Scotty, and he was at home in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson – including Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and his imperious performance in The Master – as he was in blockbuster like Mission: Impossible 3 and the Hunger Games series. He’s been at the core of some of my favourite films of the past few years, from Mary And Max to Synecdoche, New York and he was always a standout in solid movies such as Doubt and Charlie Wilson’s War. As I’ve started to catch up on films I’ve missed over the years, it’s always a delight when he turns up, and his career spans Almost Famous to The Big Lebowski and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead to Moneyball. I could carry on listing films for two or three more paragraphs and there isn’t a duff note among any of the performances.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, thank you. You will be greatly missed.