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Cinema

Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014.

“‘For me, acting is torturous,’ Hoffman told the New York Times in 2008, ‘and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, That’s beautiful and I want that. Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great—well, that’s absolutely torturous.’ Philip Seymour Hoffman, 19672014.

A.O. Scott: “We did not lose just a very good actor. We may have lost the best one we had. He was only 46, and his death, apparently from a drug overdose, foreshortened a career that was already monumental…He had a rare ability to illuminate the varieties of human ugliness. No one ever did it so beautifully.”

Derek Thompson: “He could puff himself up and play larger than life, but his specialty was to find the quiet dignity in life-sized characters—losers, outcasts, and human marginalia. It’s not clear that there were roles Philip Seymour Hoffman could not do. He had so many lives within him — and more, undiscovered and unseen. Those are the lives, aside from his own, we’ve now lost.”

Ugh. Easily the most depressing early celebrity death since Heath Ledger, all the more because of the circumstances involved. Note this must-read piece: “There is a particularly chilling aspect to Hoffman’s death that only another recovering addict can feel. He had 23 years clean, and then went back out.”

And, as the testimonials above indicate, Hoffman was arguably the best character actor working today. (His only peers I can think of offhand: Paul Giamatti, Sam Rockwell, and Jeffrey Wright.) He will be missed. As one inspired commenter put it at AICN, “Strong men also cry…strong men also cry.”

Must-See Hoffman: The 25th Hour, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, The Big Lebowski, Capote, Charlie Wilson’s War, Happiness, MI:3, The Savages, Synechdoche, New York, The Talented Mr. Ripley.

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