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  • Nov 21, 2014
  • Updated: 5:36am
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OBITUARY

US actor Philip Seymour Hoffman dies aged 46 of suspected drug overdose

Outpouring of grief over the loss of a complex man who struggled with the limelight and yet became one of 'the greatest actors of his time'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 5:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 3:22pm
 

Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment of a suspected drug overdose on Sunday, law enforcement officials said. He was 46.

The enigmatic star, who was hailed as the finest character actor of his generation, won an Oscar in 2006 as best actor for Capote and was nominated for three further Academy Awards.

Police said they responded to the American actor’s home in Manhattan’s West Village after receiving a call from one of his friends.

Watch: Investigators and mourners gather at Hoffman's home in NYC

“It appears to be an alleged overdose,” one police official told AFP. The actor was found on the bathroom floor with a syringe in his arm, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, the officer added.

He said the actor had been alone. There were no pills and no sign that the actor had been drinking, he added.

Law enforcement officials refused to comment further until after the arrival and report of the medical examiner.

Hoffman, whose more than 20-year career made him one of the most liked and respected actors in Hollywood, leaves behind his partner, costume designer Mimi O’Donnell and three children.

His family released a brief statement through the media saying they were devastated, thanking people for their love and support.

“This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving. Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers,” the statement added.

New York police detectives and officers secured the street outside the actor’s home, and were seen entering and exiting the red brick, six-floor apartment building, an AFP reporter said.

A crowd of journalists and neighbours gathered, and a red rose and a bouquet of white roses were laid at the entrance.

One neighbour who gave her name as Janine, said she was accustomed to seeing the actor and his family out and about.

“They were always in the ’hood,” she told AFP. “My husband saw him last week... They were a part of the community here.”

Tributes quickly poured in from fellow celebrities and actors, who took to Twitter to express their sorrow.

“A truly kind, wonderful man and one of our greatest actors - ever,” wrote Mia Farrow.

Born Philip Hoffman in July 1967 in New York state, he was the third of four children of a Xerox executive and a feminist housewife who divorced when he was nine.

He earned a drama degree from New York University in 1989, though he fell into alcohol and drug abuse for a while.

Incorporating his grandfather’s name, Seymour, between his given names, he made his big screen debut in a 1991 independent film called Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole.

In 1997, he made waves as a closeted gay crew member in Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn industry tale Boogie Nights, followed by a quirky turn as a toady in the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998).

In Anthony Minghella’s crime thriller The Talented Mr Ripley, he stole the show from co-stars Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow with his supporting role as slippery and duplicitous preppie Freddie Miles.

The late Minghella once said that Hoffman was an extraordinary actor ”cursed, sometimes, by his own gnawing intelligence, his own discomfort with acting”.

“There are few actors more demanding in front of camera, less demanding away from it.”

Film’s hard when you don’t have any relationship with the director at all and you just show up. But that doesn’t happen so often with me. I’m lucky that way
Philip Seymour Hoffman

But, for all his success, Hoffman was a reluctant occupant of the limelight and in an interview with the Guardian published in October 2011 said he thought everyone struggles with self-love.

“I think that’s pretty much the human condition, you know, waking up and trying to live your day in a way that you can go to sleep and feel OK about yourself,” he was quoted as saying.

After his Oscar-winning turn in Capote, Hoffman had three more Oscar nominations as a supporting actor in Charlie Wilson’s War in 2008, Doubt in 2009 and The Master in 2013.

Reluctant in the limelight

Hoffman was hailed as the finest character actor of his generation but struggled with fame and addiction.

For more than 20 years, Hoffman mesmerised and entertained filmgoers with his portrayal of some of the most repellent and yet electrifying characters of the silver screen.

He transformed movies through calculatingly understated performances and his daring choice of roles.

But, for all his success, Hoffman was reluctant in the limelight and, in an interview with Britain’s The Guardian newspaper published in October 2011, said he thought everyone struggled with self-love.

Heroin relapse

“I think that’s pretty much the human condition, you know, waking up and trying to live your day in a way that you can go to sleep and feel OK about yourself,” he was quoted as saying.

He spoke about his struggles with drink and drugs as a drama student at New York University, and reportedly checked himself back into rehab last year after having a relapse with heroin.

His career spanned more than 50 films, as well as television and theatre credits, and in 2010 he became a director for the first time with Jack Goes Boating.

He appeared in Hollywood blockbusters such as 2006’s Mission Impossible III alongside Tom Cruise and Hunger Games, but was starred in some of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s best films.

He played striking roles in Anderson’s Magnolia, starring Cruise (1999); in Flawless, in which he plays a melodramatic drag queen opposite Robert De Niro, and in Punch-Drunk Love.

“Film’s hard when you don’t have any relationship with the director at all and you just show up,” Hoffman said in an interview with Esquire magazine in 2012. “But that doesn’t happen so often with me. I’m lucky that way.”

He became interested in theatre and comedy at school, but was also an accomplished sportsman. He left home to study at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University.

“Theatre’s the most taxing. But to act well is always difficult, no matter the material,” he told Esquire.

Gnawing intelligence

The late Anthony Minghella – director of The Talented Mr Ripley, where Hoffman stole the show as the duplicitous Freddie Miles – described Hoffman as an extraordinary actor “cursed, sometimes, by his own gnawing intelligence, his own discomfort with acting”.

In Bennett Miller’s movie about the outspoken gay author, Hoffman captured not only Capote’s effete demeanour and high-pitched voice but also the powerful forces that drove him, and ultimately destroyed him, as an artist.

Hoffman won three more Oscar nominations after “Capote” as a supporting actor playing a foul-mouthed CIA agent in Charlie Wilson’s War in 2008, Doubt in 2009 and The Master last year.

In Doubt, he was Father Flynn, an anguished Catholic priest suspected of molesting a teenage student.

Based on John Patrick Shanley’s successful stage play, the film’s best moments come when Hoffman’s character wages verbal warfare with his accuser, Sister Aloysius, played by Meryl Streep.

 

Director Anton Corbijn, who cast Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man, which premiered earlier this month at the Sundance Film Festival, said in a statement: “He was not only the most gifted actor I ever worked with (and judging by the legacy he leaves behind I am certain I share this with most if not all directors who were fortunate enough to work with him), he had also become an incredibly inspiring and supportive friend.

“I am so terribly sad as I find it impossible to comprehend what happened today and to collect my thoughts properly. I have to think about Mimi and the children and I wish them much strength coping with the loss of this truly great man as a father and partner.”

Hoffman and O’Donnell, his long-time partner, met during the production of a play he directed. They have a son and two daughters.

With additional reporting from Associated Press

 

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