Hoffman was widely regarded as an actor’s actor, who took his craft incredibly seriously, winning the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Capote. In 2008, the New York Times penned a long profile of him, calling him “the greatest character actor of our time.”
“Hoffman looked around the theater. The stage manager was arranging furniture; the actors were lolling on a sofa; Andrew Upton was chatting with an assistant. ‘In 80 years,’ Hoffman went on, ‘no one I’m seeing now will be alive. Hopefully, the art will remain.’ “
But while he was known as an elite performer who fully invested himself into his often quirky and challenging roles, he also had his own personal troubles, struggling with drug addiction. He was sober for 23 years until a recent stumble, checking himself into a detox facility in May 2013 after abuse of prescription pills turned into heroin use. There are even more details in this lengthy 2011 profile in The Guardian, where he admits the addiction problems are ongoing concerns:
“What did he drink? ‘Anything. I went to rehab and you know…’ He pulls at his arm impatiently. Did he feel he was having a good time? ‘I don’t know, I was young, I drank too much, you know, so I stopped. You know what I mean, it’s not really complicated. I had no interest in drinking in moderation. And I still don’t. Just because all that time’s passed doesn’t mean maybe it was just a phase. That’s you know, that’s who I am.’ “
There is obviously much to watch, as he was in a slew of important and beautiful movies over the last couple of decades: The Big Lebowski, The Master, Pirate Radio, Almost Famous, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and on and on. But there’s also much to read about his fascinating life, including the aforementioned Times piece and this interview with Esquire magazine. But in 2008, our own Brian D. Johnson sat in on a press conference for Synecdoche, New York, a film that exemplified Hoffman’s boldness in acting choices by signing onto a film by complex auteur Charlie Kaufman. It’s certainly worth a watch.
According to IMDB, Hoffman was in the process of filming his role as Plutarch Heavensbee in upcoming follow-up of the Hunger Games franchise, the two part Mockingjay, and he most recently appeared in John Slattery’s directorial debut, God’s Pocket. He received three Academy Award nominations as Best Supporting Actor, and also earned three Tony Award nominations for his stage performances. And like so many actors, one of his very first acting credits came from Law and Order. Here’s a bright-eyed 24-year-old Hoffman in this rare treat: the first lines from an actor with so much still ahead of him.
He leaves his longtime partner Mimi O’Donnell and three children.