Seconds before pressing ‘send’ on the original version of my newspaper column this week, the news about Philip Seymour Hoffman broke.
At the moment, we know very little, other than he was found in his home, and it’s suspected he died of a drug overdose. Over the coming days there are going to be thousands of newspaper stories, website articles, radio phone-ins and TV debates speculating about his life, death and mental health. I’m not going to take up your time with anything like that, but I’d be remiss to overlook the story completely.
Some celebrity deaths fall out of the sky and are so shocking, so jarring, that it throws your mind out of balance for a period of time. Refresh the news page for more info, log back onto Twitter, refresh the news page again…
But this isn’t the case with Philip Seymour Hoffman. With a history of drug abuse, it’s perhaps the absence of shock that makes this death all the more tragic. And even though Hoffman wasn’t a celebrity-wastrel, courting attention by turning up inebriated to premieres, it always felt like this was something that was more likely to happen than not.
The occasions where he publicly spoke about his problems were rare and conducted with a measure of seriousness, but even when speaking about ‘past’ problems, there was an air that he was on the same path. But it’s easy for people like me to project (and feel vindicated in having) those kind of ideas, when his body has just been found.
Hoffman was one of the few actors whose appearance alone would be enough to make me watch a film.
Even in awful comedies like Along Came Polly, he seemed to give real thought to the thinly-sketched characters he was given, but it was in heavy dramatic pieces that he really shone. Nonetheless, despite commanding the screen – and the viewer – with incredible performances in films like Love Liza, Capote, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and Happiness, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that his best was yet to come.
Now we’ll never know.