*The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman resonates so personally because he’s not the actor that everyone wants to be – it’s because he so closely resembled the actor that we all, secretly, think we’d be like.
Hoffman never possessed those movie-star quality looks like his co-stars – Damon, Clooney, Gosling, Hawke – did. He was an everyman, with a few extra pounds and not much fashion sense and hair that could charitably be described as “scruffy.”
He looked like he could be any one of us, any person just walking in off the street – just with reservoirs of acting talent that gave him the means to slip into the skin of anyone
Even from the start, Hoffman was special. Witness the shame and fear he injects into his brief appearance he has in “Scent of a Woman,” playing a slimy prep school kid matched up against Al Pacino’s fury. Then came his astonishing role in “Boogie Nights”; he’s not in it very long, but Hoffman’s closeted, self-loathing character provides one of the movie’s greatest moments, mournfully verbally flagellating himself in his car after being rejected by Wahlberg. Afterwards, the memories just kept on going. His partnership with the wondrous Paul Thomas Anderson of “Boogie Nights” fame produced two more miracles, in “The Master” and “Magnolia.” He injected life into Hollywood blockbusters like “Mission: Impossible 3” and the sequel to “The Hunger Games,” and stole the show from bigger, boldface names in “Doubt” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Oh, and of course, there was his absolute triumph in “Capote,” the film that got him his first (and, sadly, likely, his only) Oscar. Hoffman fully embodied the spirit of the great author, going far, far beyond an impression or portrayal – he found Capote’s soul and brought it to the screen for all to see.
Hoffman’s last big role will be in the next two “Hunger Games” movies. They’re the type of big-budget Hollywood stuff he elevated just with his presence, the stuff snapped up by younger generations. The masses are going to get a fitting last image of one of the greatest actors of this, or any other, era. Rest, finally, in peace, Mr. Hoffman.