In the hours before millions watched the Super Bowl, word quickly spread that the supremely gifted actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman had died in his West Village apartment in Manhattan, less than 10 miles from Metlife Stadium.
Described by New York Times journalist Bruce Weber as “perhaps the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation”, Hoffman had been battling drug addiction 23 years. Sources indicate the Oscar-winning actor was found with a syringe in his arm, several full bags of heroin, additional syringes and prescription medications.
As news broke out early Sunday morning of his death, friends and countless fans shared their disbelief and sadness through social media. What resulted was a nearly universal sense of adulation in paying homage to an actor described as “a genius”, “ a brilliant, talented man” and “one of the greatest actors of all time”.
With heartfelt condolences to his family, here is a list of 10 of his finest and most honored films.
1. Capote (2005)
His portrayal of the acclaimed American author Truman Capote, best known for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood”, won him the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2006, in addition to the Golden Globes Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, BAFTA Award for Best Actor, the SAG Award and Satellite Award. The film was also among the nominees for Best Picture of the Year but lost out to surprise winner “Crash”, in a year “Brokeback Mountain” likely lost due to its controversial storyline.
2. The Master (2012)
Hoffman’s last Oscar nomination was a film inspired in part by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Although the film was not a box office success, Hoffman in the supporting role of Lancaster Dodd, the leader of “the Cause” and Joaquin Phoenix in the role of Freddie Quell, an alcoholic WWII Navy veteran, were both nominated for their roles as a lead actor and supporting actor in 2013 by the Golden Globes, Academy Awards and BAFTA Awards. Co-star Amy Adams was also nominated for all three awards in the Best Supporting Actress category.
3. Doubt (2008)
Hoffman delivers a powerful performance in this film set in the 1960s at a Catholic church in the Bronx, New York. Portraying Father Flynn, he is wrongly accused by a distrusting Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) of an inappropriate relationship with a young member of the congregation. The film also stars Amy Adams and Viola Davis and all four principal actors were Oscar nominated for their exceptional performances.
4. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Based upon a true story starring Tom Hanks in the lead role as Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson and Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring, his ex-fiancée, Hoffman’s role was as the CIA agent Gust Avrakotos. After developing a business partnership with Charlie Wilson, the pair provided arms to Afghan freedom fighters that helped withstand the Soviet invasion, ending nine years of war in 1989. Hoffman was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor in 80th Academy Awards but rightly lost out to Javier Bardem for his remarkable portrayal of a psychopathic hitman in “No Country for Old Men”.
5. Almost Famous (2000)
Based upon the autobiography of the film’s director, Cameron Crowe, the film also stars Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup and Frances McDormand.. The late film critic Roger Ebert described the comedy-drama as the best film of the year. In his role Lester Bangs, a noted rock music journalist for Rolling Stone, Hoffman firmly displays his versatility as an actor and his most famous line from the movie was “the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool”. Ironically, the real Lester Bangs was also a victim of a drug overdose and died at the age of 33 in 1982. The film won Cameron Crowe an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes.
6. Magnolia (1999)
In the role of Phil Parma, Hoffman is a deeply caring hospice nurse assigned to care for a former TV producer Earl Partridge (Jason Robards in his final film), who’s dying of cancer. Before the cancer patient passes away, Parma is successful in locating Partridge’s long lost son Frank Mackey (Tom Cruise). For his lead role in the film, Cruise was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Golden Globe in 2000. Hoffman won a National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor.
7. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
At the National Board of Review Awards, Phillip Seymour Hoffman was the winner of the Best Supporting Actor not just for Magnolia but also for his role as Eddie Miles in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. Based upon the 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith, it was the first of five novels based upon the lead character portrayed in the film by Matt Damon. In his role as a rich socialite and friend of Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), Miles is suspicious of Greenleaf’s new friend Ripley and sadly gets himself murdered.
8. The Savages (2007)
Displaying his comedic side, Hoffman co-stars with Laura Linney as siblings who were drawn apart after years of abuse from their father, Lenny. Later in adult life, the two are informed by Lenny’s longtime girlfriend she can no longer care for him and is dumping the ailing father onto his family, who eventually place him in a nursing home. The storyline doesn’t exactly come off as material for a comedy-drama but Hoffman was nominated for a 2008 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. The film was among the multiple winners of the 2008 American Film Institute Award for Movie of the Year.
9. Boogie Nights (1997)
Set in the Disco era of the late 1970s-early 80s, Hoffman is portrayed as Scotty J, a gay production assistant for a porn studio with a misguided love interest in actor Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). Scotty J humiliates himself after trying to kiss Diggler, who quickly rejects him. Scotty J’s ensuing reaction is so emotionally charged, it’s one of the film’s most unforgettable moments.
10. The Big Lebowski (1998)
In the lead role, Jeff Bridges portrays a shaggy, pot-smoking Jeff Lebowski aka The Dude, who’s mistaken for another guy aka the Big Lebowski (David Huddleston). Although Hoffman’s role as the straight-edged personal assistant to the Big Lebowski was minor, it was spot on and easily one of his funniest movies. Written and directed by the Cohen Brothers, the film was one of the year’s most memorable films and has since acquired a large cult following. The Big Lebowski also starred John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Tara Reid, and John Turturro, in the unforgettable role as the trash-talking bowler Jesus Quintana.