Another one of film and television’s best actors has died. Philip Seymour Hoffman was only 46, and he surely had many more memorable performances in his future. The actor who had one of the most recognizable grins in cinema is gone forever, found dead with a needle in his arm.
The last part of the story is the saddest. It’s awful that such an original, instinctual actor – one of the purest actors of his generation – went down in such an unoriginal way. Addiction is a bitch. It consistently steals some of our favorite performers from us. It’s not fair at all.
What I loved about Hoffman was how no matter what role he was playing, there was something in his eyes that let you know all at once he understood he was acting, loved what he was doing, and was going to make you believe him as whatever character he was playing. You didn’t have a choice but to believe him. He was so natural. He was on a level that most actors can only hope to reach one day.
He was very good at his job. One of the best. Most of us can only hope to be as good at whatever it is we pick to do for a living. Additionally, we can only hope to love what we do as much as he did. There’s a lot to be learned from Hoffman’s life and death.
How can someone who was so well respected and loved be gone now – so soon? He may have looked older, but he wasn’t even 50 yet. Why was the guy who showed up in everything in Boogie Nights to Along Came Polly to Almost Famous addicted to heroin? How come rehab didn’t help?
These are all questions lacking easy answers. As I noted above, we lose famous public figures all the time to drug overdoses and alcohol addiction. It’d be easy to lump these tragic deaths altogether and say something ignorant like, “This is just what happens.”
The truth is that all of us our constantly fighting our own demons. No one – celebrity or average Joe – is perfect. We’ve all got bad habits, terrible ticks, or scars that we just can’t get rid of. That’s just the reality of life. The good thing is that ultimately we aren’t judged on how many problems we have or what addictions we’re fighting, but rather our ability to overcome these nagging issues.
It’s heartbreaking that such a talented man like Hoffman was unable to overcome his biggest demon – heroin addiction. His death is a not-so-subtle reminder that even the mighty are only a few steps away from heaven’s door.
I think we should all celebrate the beautiful art that Hoffman brought into this world, and read a little bit about the man his colleagues and friends knew him to be.
Then we should something that might seem a little bit scary at first. We should look in the mirror and ask ourselves what demon of ours that we want to battle. I’m not suggesting that everyone has really awful, life-threatening problems. But I’m sure if you really examined yourself and your life, you could find something that you might identify as a “trouble spot.” We all have them. And we all need to fight them. It’s better to be honest and open about it than it is to be cut-off and ashamed.
We’re all trying to improve each and every day. There’s no finished version of ourselves. That’s another scary thought. But it does mean we have an opportunity to get better. And that’s a good thing.
Here is one of my favorite my favorite memories of Hoffman’s work.
I’d argue that if he were talking about himself, he would be terribly wrong. He was very cool. Thanks for the memories, Philip. You’ve definitely had a great impact on my life. I’ll always try to be honest.