Philip Seymour Hoffman was important to me.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was important to me.

How does one write a blog entry about how the death of an actor is going to cause them to literally mourn without sounding like a cheeseball dweeb?  I’m pretty sure one does not accomplish this.  So here goes.  Prepare for the cheeseball dweeb.

Celebrities and artists die all the time, and I see people getting all verklempt over it and I think they are fools.  Get over it, I think.  You morons.  You had an emotional connection to Paul Walker? I think to myself.  What jibberjabs.

But Philip was different.  Philip was an artist.  He connected.  He was important.

My first exposure to him was in the movie “Magnolia”, which I would watch probably a hundred times during the most desperate years of my alcoholism, and which is probably the most important movie in my own personal history.  “Magnolia” is not a happy movie.  It is not a hopeful movie.  “Magnolia” didn’t help me get sober.  But I learned things from that movie that continue to shape who I am today.  Things like owning my regret and not denying it.  And recognizing when obsession goes too far and finding another place to put your love.  Embracing my inadequacies.  And on and on.  Now I grant you, Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t write this movie, and he didn’t direct it.  But he did act the fuck out of his part in it.  But more importantly, he chose to be in this movie.  That was his true gift: choosing the right projects to be in.  Movies that meant things.  Movies that were high art without being art films.  Movies that could move you without being trite, or saccharine, or unnecessary.

Even Philip’s few “sellout” movies were well chosen.  “Along Came Polly” might be a populist comedy, but his part in it rings true, and gives the movie heart without giving into sentimentality.  Also, in it, his character coins the term shart, which is still floating around our culture.

Philip didn’t just act.  He directed exactly one movie: “Jack Goes Boating”, an adaptation of a Robert Glaudini stage play (Glaudini wrote the film’s script, too) that most people missed, but such is my love for Mr. Hoffman that I saw it in a theater, and own the blu ray disc (not many can say that, I assure you!).  “Jack Goes Boating” touches me deeply—makes me come to terms with uncomfortable truths about myself, such as my depth of selfishness, my fears of commitment, my reasons for pushing others away—and much of that power is owed to Phil’s perfect sense of tone (oh how I wish he’d directed more!), his powerhouse acting performance in the film, and, of course, the fact that he chose the project.  He knew what to choose.  Watch this clip from “Jack Goes Boating”. 

I felt like I knew Mr. Hoffman.  If I’d ran into him on the street, we would have just started talking, I think.  I wouldn’t have been starstruck.  I would have thought, oh, it’s about time we hung out.  Maybe this makes me creepy or weird, but I think it’s just a testament to a man who built an astoundingly successful acting career by putting trust in his audience, and there being an audience out there who wanted desperately to be trusted.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was important to me.

2 Responses to “Philip Seymour Hoffman was important to me.”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    That man was incredible. He was downright hilarious in “Along Came Polly”.

    He was coming dangerously close to being typecast as “the asshole” in the 90’s. Even PTA cast him as one! Somewhere along the line he turned it around big time.

    He must have been going through some hell to die so young from a heroin overdose alone in his apartment. He may have done the occasional crap movie, but I want to make it a goal in my life to see all of his movies eventually. Soon we will run out of new movies of his to see. If there’s an afterlife I hope he finds the peace he was searching for.

  2. hey, man. you were the first person I thought of when I heard this. sorry for your loss – and I feel ‘loss’ is a valid word for it, despite all the ‘celebrity-didn’t know him-never met him’ stuff or caveats or whatever.

    so sad for his family, especially his kids.

    I think his movie I’ve seen most is ‘happiness’, but he WAS hilarious in along came polly. to maybe add to what you said about his choices of work, I think it shows his courage and passion for his work – is he the handsome guy to be the lead in every big movie? nope. but he turned that into the blessing it really can be. he did all the fun stuff – heroes can be boring.

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