I remember the night it happened, it was at a New Year’s Eve party and 1980 was on the horizon. Scotty J. was vulnerable and a nervous mess, but he was going to show Dirk Diggler how he felt about him. The rejection transcended from the screen and I simultaneously felt the embarrassment and agonizing pain that Scotty was feeling, that was the night I became a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Boogie Nights is unarguably a masterpiece and the entire ensemble cast was amazing, but something about Hoffman’s vulnerable performance struck a chord with me and I made it a point to not miss a single performance of his after that.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was dedicated to his craft with high regard and admiration, he never slummed in any role big or small and would give just as much playing a bad guy in a commercial action film as he would a complex man dealing with inner-turmoil. The following year after Boogie Nights, Hoffman made another huge impression in Happiness as Allen, an awkward yet colorful character who deals with his infatuation in a peculiar way, only to find his fantasies met with rejection. As Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Hoffman showed us the opposite of vulnerability and a natural balance of levity and gravitas. Lester Bangs is one of the most memorable character in Almost Famous and he’s barely in it. it’s not just the meaningful dialogue but how he delivered it, who can forget “You’ll meet them all again on their long journey to the middle.”? When Paul Thomas Anderson collaborated with him for the fifth time on The Master, he gave Hoffman one of the most intricate roles of his career as Lancaster Dodd. This character possessed charm and wit, but was also required to be fragile at times and only an actor of Hoffman’s caliber could make him so convincing.
We have lost a tremendous actor, one who could elevate films and remind us that there isn’t small roles, only small actors. He was a stage actor that didn’t resent the power of cinema. I am angry and sad that he’s gone, maybe that’s selfish. There were so many more memorable performances he would have gave us and the standard of acting he left is legendary. I never got to meet him and now I never will but I’ll always have the work he’s left, which I will treasure until I’m dead.