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Greatness Lost: A Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman


It isn’t a stretch to say that Hoffman was one of the greatest living actors of our time. Tragically, the man of many faces was found dead in his New York apartment this week.

At only 46 years old, Hoffman had performed in all genres of film, from the Hollywood blockbuster (Mission: Impossible III) to unsettling dramas (Doubt). Some of his crowning achievements were his portrayal of the eccentric maladjusted writer, Truman Capote in Capote, for which he won an Academy award, the anguished playwright Caden Cotard in Synecdoche, New York, and the deceptive cult leader Landcaster Dodd in The Master, to mention but a few.

Hoffman had a remarkable ability to disappear into the characters that he portrayed, such that all the audience would recognize was Hoffman’s shadow. In a 2008 New York Times piece, director Mike Nicols (Charlie Wilson’s War) marveled at Hoffman’s talent, and said, “I don’t know how he does it. …Again and again, he can truly become someone I’ve not seen before but can still instantly recognize. …And that means he’s reconstituted himself from within, willfully rearranging his molecules to become another human being.”

Hoffman threw himself into his craft, even if it meant it would be to his own detriment. “For me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing,” he stated to the New York Times before hauntingly revealing, “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.’”

Hoffman has joined the ranks of the lost great artists, and though he is no longer with us, his work will endure.

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