Joseph LiMandri, Contributing Writer
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death early Sunday morning marked the passing of an American cinematic legend. Hoffman possessed the rare ability to elevate any picture in which he starred simply by appearing on screen. Whether he was playing a smaller character, like Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous,” or in the title role, like his Oscar-winning Truman Capote, Hoffman’s bravado and charisma immediately made his movies more interesting and compelling. This is evident in “Mission Impossible III,” a franchise that had arguably run stale until Hoffman’s villainous performance as an arms dealer.
At the young age of 46, Hoffman was found dead in his apartment after an apparent drug overdose. His untimely death is all the more tragic in that he leaves behind a wife and three children. He battled his addiction for the better part of last year after staying clean for the previous 23 years. As he began to relapse, he slipped into and out of rehabilitation facilities until he was discovered in his apartment with over 50 envelopes of what is believed to be heroin. Four people who are believed to have been connected with the drugs found in his apartment were arrested.
Perhaps Hoffman’s most stellar quality as an actor was his versatility. He excelled in both tragedy and comedy and starred in smaller films as well as in blockbuster hits like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Despite his unique physical features, he was able to completely transform himself for all of his roles. This utter devotion to his craft made him one of the most sought-after actors working in Hollywood and enabled him to collaborate with some of Hollywood’s greats, like directors Paul Thomas Anderson, Sidney Lumet and the Coen Brothers. He put all of his energy into every character he played and has left us performances that we will never forget. His portrayal of Lancaster Dodd in 2012’s “The Master,” a take on scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, is spellbinding from beginning to end.
His talents extended beyond the screen to the stage, where he deftly handled classic characters like Shakespeare’s Iago and Willy Loman from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” Hoffman also stepped behind the camera for a stint as director of “Jack Goes Boating,” a small-scale romantic comedy that only lends further evidence of the outstanding talent and capabilities he possessed.
Philip Seymour Hoffman will surely be missed, but he leaves behind an incredible legacy that has cemented his status as one of cinema’s finest.