PSH OD FML RIP


Philip Seymour Hoffman

(July 23, 1967 – Feb. 2, 2014)

“Another Hollywood actor has overdosed and died in some expensive apartment in New York. Another bright flame that held so much promise has been extinguished… etc.”

This ridiculous swamp-mouthed journalistic sentiment that is all too often pumped out for sad stories of demise year after year feels quite commonplace, almost expected when scrolling through the day’s news. These clippings in which the actor is thought of fondly, or when someone feels compelled to call them a genius are nearly every day occurrences. And far be it from us to go from film collective to obituary column but today we find ourselves in that same position. Except we don’t want to speak of him as a genius or master of his trade and there’s no need to express how undervalued he was, because he wasn’t- everyone knows that Philip Seymour Hoffman was the best.

He was not a ‘star’ in the traditional sense or someone that many were particularly interested in outside of his great variety of roles, in fact on that note he has starred in some truly awful films. Along Came Polly anyone? The Invention of Lying? The Boat That Rocked? Charlie Wilson’s War? A list of films that you’d wished you’d missed (and stop kidding yourself about The Boat That Rocked). Though, somehow he let those roles slide off his large back as if he was just an extra trying to pay some bills or perhaps he saw himself as a leading man, as a Ben Stiller in waiting? Leering at the back of the Hollywood Rom-Com, just waiting for his turn to shine. He wasn’t the easiest actor to watch either; in fact he could make my skin feel rotten like no other. During Synecdoche, New York his freckled, sweaty skin peppered the air with a scent that I could almost taste. And his occasional Jack Nicholson: line-breathe-pause-breathe-deliver rest of line style of performing could from time to time make me hyperventilate.

The truth is I am just angry. Those smaller roles in those less good films are washed away by the brilliant ones and by the fact that he could consume the screen with his presence, creating a sense of space in his delivery meant he commanded one’s attention completely whatever the film. For the first time in a very long time, the death of an actor has caused me to feel the duelling emotions of loss and anger. Will they even let Paul Thomas Anderson make films anymore? I feel as if he was capable of creating his own 100 greatest films list all starring himself, that we were yet to see every facet of his enormous ability hinted at by his previous roles. You will no doubt read “he was great” in all of its many forms but for now I am just pretty mad at him and at a bit of a loss.

I don’t think that sense of loss will go away all that soon. 

Thank you Philip.


WORDS AND IMAGE: RICHARD MANDERS