Philip Seymour Hoffman – An Authentic Talent

Philip Seymour Hoffman – An Authentic Talent

When I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in Boogie Nights, I was astonished at his ability to perfectly realise an unpopular, tortured character on screen.  

I loved his work in The Talented Mr Ripley.  

And no wonder he got the Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote.

He was superb as a villain and as a wounded antihero.  

It was consistently a treat to watch his work on screen.  

More Oscar nominations, maybe even awards felt like they were all on their way to him.

He had industry-wide respect and was not tabloid fodder.  

Now at 46 he’s dead.  A family with three kids.  Heartbreak rippling around the world.

Heroin is drug different to others in that she’s a mistress you can be apart from, but not really break up with.  Once a person has had an affair with her, even believes it’s over, she lurks in the background like a bad memory who’s all too ready to get back together if you want to.  

I watched some of my great artist friends fall on the sword of heroin.  Too many had given up for years and then, for various reasons, hit a hotel room for that harmless dalliance once again.  The occasional user runs a higher risk of overdose because they’re out of the habit.  They’re often found dead with the needle still in their arm.

One of my great loves and favourite partners said heroin was the only thing that took the pain away when we split up.  I hated him for that.  The guilt.  I wrote him a poem with a bad pun-title to punish him.  I called it Just Harried.  It was about a man who married a drug. He returned the favour with a poem written about me with an equally bad pun-ish title – Heroinée.

Years later, he had a son and called him Harry.  When I asked him why he named his first born after his drug of choice, he genuinely hadn’t made the connection.

When I heard the news that he had been found dead in a hotel room in Sydney from a heroin overdose – a drug he hadn’t touched in a long time – I was standing in the VIP tent of Tropfest holding a friend’s baby.  I don’t recall seeing a single film that night.  I don’t remember how long I stayed.

While I interviewed prisoners in jail about this and that, I learned that many get straight when they do time.  But I also recall one inmate telling me that he used whenever he was put in prison.  ‘A day on junk inside is a day off your sentence.’

It echoed something Dave said when I asked him why he kept using.  ‘It makes the day go away.’

One thing a lot of artsists who use heroin have in common, is an unbearable sensitivity to the injustice and absurdity of how the world works.  It comes out sometimes as humour, sometimes anger and sometimes as such incredible pain, only the strongest anesthetic seems to suffice.

I’m thinking about all of them today and missing the ones I knew intimately.

Here’s a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman from the Wall St Journal: