Phillip Seymour Hoffman

I was really shocked and sad when I saw the news that one of my favorite actors died at his home in the West Village on Super Bowl Sunday. He was a phenomenal talent and it's really sad to see him go well before his time. I was thinking about the movies he's made and I looked back at the Top 20 movies list I made a while back and realized that he was in 3 of them -- Scent of a Woman, The Big Lebowski and Capote. Most people would probably argue that Capote, in which he won an Oscar for best actor, was his best performance. He was incredible in that film. But I would argue that his best performance was actually in a much lesser known movie titled, Doubt. It's a somewhat disturbing story about a nun (played by Meryl Streep) that accuses her school's priest (played by Hoffman) of inappropriate behavior with a troubled young student. The acting in this movie is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend the film.

With all of Hoffman's success and talent and brilliance, it's hard to imagine that he would die of a drug overdose. He had so much to live for. As I much as I hate to say it, you can't help but wonder if his talent and troubles were connected. The New Yorker summed up that thought really well in a blog post a couple of days after his death.

The controversy over “The Wolf of Wall Street” also involves the allure of drugs; though the movie makes it pretty clear that the character Jordan Belfort acts monstrously under their influence, it also leaves little doubt regarding the pleasures and powers that they provide him and his cohorts. It also suggests the poison pill of imagination, the diabolical—even self-destructive—power of theatrical rhetoric, its eruption from the depths of a soul that hardly dares to consider itself. Hoffman, with his seemingly infinite range of possibilities and self-transformations, was at the diametrically opposite end of the spectrum: he couldn’t help but look at himself, from angles he had never anticipated and in aspects he might not otherwise have fathomed. Genius, whether at its most constructive or destructive, its most sublime or its most repugnant, is unnatural; Hoffman lived for great art, and it’s impossible to escape the idea that he died for it. The complete price of his nearly superhuman ability has yet to be reckoned.