Nothing I can say here will lessen the loss of the 46-year-old Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps the greatest actor of his generation.
I say “perhaps” because there are so many great young actors today: Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe, Christian Bale–all in their 40s. Now there is one less: a brilliant actor who’s life ended this weekend in a West Village apartment.
I don’t know how I will look at these scenes now that he is no more, but here goes:
I knew when I saw his portrayal in The Talented Mr. Ripley that this young actor was capable of the terrifying menace, of the person who can see right into you, unclothing your deepest secret, the fraud in you.
In Charlie Wilson’s War, he’s the CIA agent so riotously non-conformist that the agency higher-ups can’t see he’s the guy who truly knows how to spy.
Then there’s Doubt, about the Catholic priest accused by a sister superior of abusing an altar boy. You can see Hoffman in this movie and root for either verdict, yet suspect there is so much more to the story–so much more, or less, to the priest he is playing.
I’ve seen him in Moneyball as the old-style baseball manager, in The Ides of March as the veteran political expert, and, of course, as Truman Capote, refusing to play it camp but showing all the corners of the great, troubled writer’s character.
I prefer to remember him as I first spotted him, with that character of Freddie out front, and him, the actor, in the back, wondering what it was like being Mr. Ripley with this specter of truth invading his soul and knowing he must confront and defeat this menace or fall before it.
Philip Seymour Hoffman–the best of the best.