I first witnessed the power of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Cameron Crowe’s masterpiece “Almost Famous”, in which he played rock critic Lester Bangs. Even though he was in the film for only a few scenes, his performance is among one of my favorites in the film. He’s utterly captivating with his blunt, down to earth, honesty. He was just… real
Hoffman had a gift that only a few actors are lucky to have. Like a chameleon, he was able to become someone else entirely in his roles. His name did not carry with him. He was Phil Parma, he was Truman Capote, he was Father Brendan Flynn, he was Willy Loman.
It’s very easy to chalk up Hoffman’s power as an actor to the quote-unquote “everyman” quality he had, but in this case that term is an insult. Philip Seymour Hoffman was among the best actors of this generation. He never played the same character twice. Each of them had their own shades that made them feel legitimate. That’s power, that’s talent. That’s something that feels rare in this modern age of film.
The day Hoffman died, I watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master”, a film which contains performances from all involved that are nothing short of Promethean. In Hoffman, as religious leader Lancaster Dodd, I saw a performer just reaching his apex, carrying such a chilling, deep gravitas in every scene he was in, detailing a man who was so lost in his own self-proclaimed brilliance and universal worth. An incredible performance that will stand the test of time among the numerous performances he has graced upon the screen and stage.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman was an actor of the highest caliber. He was legitimate, he was true to his craft, and, by all accounts, a really sweet guy. He taught me that it was cool to be uncool.
May he rest easy, for he will be missed.
Ten Essential Phillip Seymour Hoffman Performances:
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Mission: Impossible III