On Sunday, we bid farewell to one of this generation’s greatest acting talents, Philip Seymour Hoffman. His ability to capture the heart of so many characters was a thing of beauty to behold. With each role, Hoffman brought a tender strength that effortlessly personified our wants, and needs, and painful questions that we carry with us everywhere we go.
Here is our summation of Hoffman’s very best roles. He often portrayed the outsiders: the manic, the isolated, the tormented and the misunderstood. Yet, each performance was truly a gift. A glimmer of humanity and a brief, bitter taste of life’s universal truths.
10) The Talented Mr. Ripley – Hoffman had a unique ability to exemplify entitlement, wealth and blatant arrogance. As Freddy Miles he portrayed a spoiled, jazz-loving cohort of the picturesque Jude Law who caught on to Mr. Ripley’s (Matt Damon) devious scheme and paid for it.
9) Mary and Max – Although PSH merely lent his voice to this black-and-white animated film, he brought Max Jerry Horowitz a frailty that the film hinged upon. This wonderful film tells the story of an 8-year-old girl in Australia’s unlikely friendship with a morbidly obese man in New York City. By happenstance, the two become pen pals and dear friends.
8) Patch Adams – In a film about medicine and humor, Hoffman took on the roll of devil’s advocate, the naysayer who simply could not fathom Adams’ (Robin Williams) ability. But even as a poor sport, Hoffman grounded every scene in sheer authenticity.
7) Boogie Nights – As was often the case, Hoffman as Scotty J. was astounding and gut-wrenching. He was cast as a minor player in the world of ’70s/’80s porn, yet he regularly stole scenes with his vulnerability.
6) The Ides of March – In this savvy political thriller PSH and Paul Giamatti played two different sides of the same coin. Where Giamatti portrayed a clever, deceitful campaign manager, Hoffman was the overworked, candid torchbearer of integrity. Although this was a vehicle for Ryan Gosling, Hoffman’s performance raised the bar in every scene.
5) Almost Famous – Although PSH had very few scenes in this love letter to rock ‘n’ roll, his depiction of Lester Bangs as an intense rock journalist lent the film not just the character’s love of music, but Hoffman’s uncanny ability to deliver a line as if it has never been said before.
4) Magnolia – In yet another small role in a P. T. Anderson film, Hoffman portrayed Phil Parma, a male nurse caring for a cancer-stricken former TV mogul. Although this ensemble film is crammed with astounding performances, Hoffman’s quiet strength is devastating.
3) Synecdoche, New York – This film stars Hoffman as a theater director who undertakes a production so ambitious, it tugs at the fiber of reality. Director and writer Charlie Kaufman’s no stranger to juxtaposing misery and beauty, but this film still somehow manages to sneak up on you. Hoffman’s frankness is haunting.
2) The Master – In a seminal role as Lancaster Dodd, PSH took on the role of a controversial cult leader. He is charming and affable, yet there is always a storm just beyond the horizon in Hoffman’s performance. It is a dynamic portrayal of a character that is apt to leave you shaken.
1) Capote – To fill the shoes of a writer on the hunt for their greatest story is likely a joy, it is made all the better by someone like Hoffman, a unprecedented talent that captured the flamboyant and eccentric persona of Truman Capote in spades. Hoffman’s depiction of the quintessential New Yorker’s panache when sashaying into rural Kansas is a serious treat.