Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Phillip Seymour Hoffman remembered

By Alexa Hoyle

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On Sunday, Feb. 2, Phillip Seymour Hoffman died from an apparent heroin overdose at 46 years old. The news was met with shock for the way he died and how young he was, but mainly because one of the greatest American actors of our time would never grace our screens again.

Hoffman has been one of the most venerable actors of our time for the last two decades. Not all of his films have been classics, of course, but no matter the film, it was impossible to overlook Hoffman. His roles were frequently challenging and bold. He wasn’t the star of “Boogie Nights,” but he sure stole all the scenes he was in. Some of his best roles have been periphery characters who aren’t meant to steal the stage, but often do all the same.

Hoffman wasn’t afraid to go wherever a role may take him. He invoked legendary rock critic Lester Bangs seamlessly in “Almost Famous.” He introduced himself to a whole new generation as rebellious Plutarch Heavensbee in “The Hunger Games” movie series and he wowed us all in his Oscar-winning turn as Truman Capote in “Capote.” This is a mere sampling of a long and impressive career. Ten different people can mention 10 different movies as Hoffman’s greatest and none of them would be wrong.

His death has led to reflection on his career in recent days and it has exposed a startling revelation – we lost one of the greatest actors of the modern age. Anyone could have said it when he was alive and it would have held true. But in death, his prowess holds much more weight. Now his talent can only be experienced in roles that have been experienced millions of times before. There is next to nothing new to be shared with the world. We will never know how much farther he could have pushed himself or how many more diverse roles he could have mastered, and that is a shame.

But that isn’t the true shame of the situation. The world knows how he died. It’s sad, complicated and immensely controversial. But his death isn’t the biggest part of his story. It’s more important to note the years he spent battling his addictions than the time spent falling prey to them. Sometimes the most brilliant people are the most troubled, and Hoffman proved fallible to his brilliance. But does it change how fans feel about his bombastic screams of “SHUT UP” in “Punch Drunk Love?” Does it make him any less raw and jarring in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead?” No, it does not.

At the time of his death Hoffman was in the middle of shooting the new Showtime series “Happyish” and was almost through shooting his scenes for the last “The Hunger Games” film. Along with those projects he had already finished work on the films “God’s Pocket” and “A Most Wanted Man.” While “Happyish” may not see the light of day, his last film roles will. The idea of seeing Hoffman on screen a few more times can perhaps provide some solace to the fans that loved him so.

Hoffman once said, “I’m afraid I’ll be the kind of actor who thought he would make a difference and didn’t. Right now, though, I feel like I made a little bit of difference.” This is one fear that was unwarranted, because Hoffman did make a difference. And not the “little bit” he assumed. He made a difference to the actors he called his peers, to the film world and to the viewers that loyally followed his storied career. He showed the world how truly great acting can be, and for that, he will always be remembered.

Alexa Hoyle can be reached at [email protected]

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