Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance in “Death of a Salesman” took my breath away. As someone who at the time only knew Hoffman as that funny, overweight guy from “Along Came Polly,” I definitely did not expect him to perfectly portray the complex character of Willy Loman. When the curtains closed, however, tears fell from my eyes and I rose to join everyone in giving him a standing ovation. It was in that moment that I knew I was in the presence of a truly talented actor.
Not surprisingly, Hoffman earned his third Tony Award nomination for this portrayal of Willy Loman in the classic Arthur Miller play. Hoffman was also nominated in 2000 for his performance in Sam Shepard’s “True West” and in 2003 for his performance in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” In 2005, Hoffman won an Academy Award for his performance in the film, “Capote.” He was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Doubt,” and “The Master.”
As demonstrated by his numerous nominations, Hoffman had recognizable talent. The actor constantly met with success but continually pushed himself to do better. His unlimited determination was illustrated by his 2006 interview with USA Today.
“I don’t want compliments,” Hoffman said in the interview. “I want to know what I’m doing right or doing wrong. No one wants to hear they suck. But sometimes it’s the best thing you can hear. It’s the only way you’re going to get better.”
In the years to follow, Hoffman definitely did get better. His profound resolve and versatility led him to frequently be called one of the best actors of his generation.
This is not surprising, as Hoffman became completely engulfed in the characters that he was portraying. Take, for example, his complete voice change in his award-winning role in “Capote.” Hoffman was one of those rare actors who could successfully go from playing a porn film crewmember in “Boogie Nights” to a hospice nurse in “Magnolia” to a manipulative Eisenhower-era cult leader in “The Master.”
On Feb. 2, 2014, the world lost one of the most brilliant actors to date. It was on this day that Hoffman ultimately lost his ongoing battle with drugs. The talented actor reportedly died due to a heroin overdose in his Manhattan apartment. It was long known that Hoffman had wrestled with addiction for most of his life.
When he was released from rehab last year, many people close to Hoffman thought that this was the last of his struggles with drugs.
“I saw [Hoffman] last week, and he was clean and sober, his old self,” David Katz, a screenwriter and dear friend to Hoffman, told The New York Times. “I really thought this chapter was over.”
Katz was also the person who found Hoffman’s body at 11:30 a.m. after the actor failed to show up to an appointment at 9 a.m.
Despite its sad ending, Hoffman’s life deserves to be commemorated rather than mourned. His fans should watch his movies and bask in the greatness that was his acting career. His three young children, a son and two daughters, should be proud of everything their father has accomplished.
“I try to live my life in such a way that I don’t have profound regrets,” Hoffman said in a 2008 interview with The New York Times, “That’s probably why I work so much. I don’t want to feel I missed something important.”
Despite passing away at only 46, Hoffman left behind a legacy that impacted millions, myself included. Rest in peace, Philip Seymour Hoffman. You will be missed.