Philip Seymour Hoffman never met a loser he didn’t have sympathy for. In an industry that prizes glitz and glamour, he offered the opposite: untidy, imperfect, shy, awkward and eminently real people. Despite his outsized talent, he was relentlessly humble. Here are a few highlights from Hoffman’s prolific but too-brief lifespan:
Hard Eight Hoffman’s least known performance for director Paul Thomas Anderson was also his first. In 1996’s Hard Eight, also titled Sydney, Hoffman plays a loud-mouthed, mullet-haired craps player who clashes with the more dignified gambler played by Philip Baker Hall. But he’s quickly won over by a ballsy bet, and cheerfully takes to calling him “Big Time”. It’s the scene that began one of the most enthralling actor-director collaborations in recent movies, running through Boogie Nights, (as a pathetic wannabe pornographer), Magnolia, (as a dying man’s nurse), Punch Drunk Love (as a mattress store owner) and The Master, (as a cult leader).
Jack Goes Boating Hoffman’s 2010 directorial debut was adapted from Robert Glaudini’s play. In it, he plays a painfully shy limo driver with the unlikely dream of working for the New York transport authority. It’s the story of an exceptionally ordinary guy trying to improve himself. Everything about the character and the film exudes the kind of downbeat modesty Hoffman prized.
Capote One occasionally wished Hoffman had more frequently taken on big parts like Truman Capote that more obviously showcased his tremendous talent. In some ways, his most ambitious work went to Broadway: Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, True West. But though he gravitated more to regular guys, Hoffman’s dapper, brash Capote is a master class in how to play an icon . Such roles are so often a collection of accent and manner – mere impression – but Hoffman’s Capote was a full, soulful portrait
Happiness Hoffman had dangerousness in him, too. His peeping pervert in Todd Solondz’s 1998 drama was unforgettably daring. It remains one of the creepiest performances in American movies.
The Savages In Tamara Jenkins’ 2007 film, Hoffman and Laura Linney play a brother and sister struggling with adulthood and their father’s decline in old age. It feels like the epitome of a Hoffman film: a mix of comedy and tragedy told with subtlety, bone-dry humour and flashes of grace.