"Synecdoche, Hoffman"

The Spectrum

On Sunday, Feb. 2, cinema lost one of its finest treasures.

More importantly, a man died, leaving behind grieving parents, three siblings, his ex-girlfriend of 15 years and their three children.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead, lying on his bathroom floor, on Sunday morning. He was wearing shorts, a t-shirt and his eyeglasses - with a needle on his arm.

Four people have since been arrested for allegedly being in conjunction with Hoffman's passing. Two of them have been charged with misdemeanors for possession of a controlled substance, the third with a felony and the last left unprosecuted due to lack of evidence.

But of course you know this. I'm not the news. But those who work in media professionally have sweated and labored over finding the facts and relaying them to you since Superbowl Sunday.

Not me. I only want to write about an actor for whom I have true admiration.

Hoffman acted in 50 featured films, in addition to three still in production. I've seen 11 of them. The first film I distinctly remember seeing him in is Mission: Impossible III as the main villain. He played probably the mellowest villain in movie history, even when dangling from an airborne jet. I recall him holding my attention in an otherwise assembly-line action movie.

His three best performances in my mind are his parts in Synecdoche, New York (his finest work), Before the Devil Knows Your Dead and A Late Quartet. You're right; I failed to list his most publicized role in Capote, which I have not seen. But in the three films I mentioned, he brought a nearly unmatched reality to his roles, often playing desperate, scheming men forced to deceive others for personal gain.

You'll also notice I chose works for which he failed to receive an Oscar nomination. This causes me to believe he treated every film as if it were his last. He wasn't very far off.

In the past, I've spent time trying to interpret who Philip Seymour Hoffman was when the cameras were off. I always reached the same conclusion - that he was an unconcealed, calculating person who often kept to himself but wasn't afraid to discuss his life when asked to.

He has always been upfront about his drug and alcohol conflicts and how they have ruined him, making me respect him even more.

While being interviewed on 60 Minutes in 2011, Hoffman admitted to suffering from drug and alcohol abuse during his college years. He went to rehab when he was 22 and recovered.

"Anything I could get my hands on, I liked it all," he said. "You get panicked ... I was 22 and I got panicked for my life."

Last year he told TMZ that he had returned to using, particularly prescription pills and heroin. But he continued to work appear in films, including The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a great film.

Cinema and theater meant more than a job title and paychecks to him. He always made that quite clear. Not only because he was afraid every day might be his last; my guess is that acting and directing were his only solaces to prevent himself from abusing. Whatever motivations drove Hoffman paid off for his career, as he received four Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, winning one of each for his title role in Capote. He also received three Tony nominations for his involvement in live theater.

In the coming weeks, months or even years, the media will be exploiting Hoffman's death with updates of the convictions of the three people being prosecuted. Hell, Eric Rivera finally got sentenced to prison two weeks ago after murdering Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor in 2007.

Hoffman won't be remembered for his challenging acting skillset as much as his mysterious death, which is a shame because he took his profession to heart.

I'll always remember him as a struggling theater director in Synecdoche, New York, who sacrificed so many years to create a perfect replica of New York City for his play. I see Hoffman as that exact person, like the film was telling his life struggles. Maybe it was.

email: jakeknott85@gmail.com