I’m ashamed to admit there’s still plenty of Philip Seymour Hoffman films I’ve yet to see, including the one that won him the Oscar, Capote. But if you’re someone like me who loves film, and sees movies almost every other weekend, you couldn’t avoid seeing this guy pop up in something. It felt like Hoffman was in just about everything, and I would imagine it’s because so many people wanted to work with him. Whether he was in something great, terrible, or just plain mediocre, Hoffman’s performance was never subpar – he was always memorable. While I haven’t seen all his films, I can safely say he elevated every movie he was in. It’s time to remember a truly phenomenal actor who left us at the top of his game.
Before Hoffman established he could be a leading man, he always seemed to crop up in these random little supporting roles. The one I always come back to is Brandt, the rich Lebowski’s right hand man in one of my favorite films of all time, The Big Lebowski. He took a completely throw away character who’s in maybe three or four scenes, and made him quirky and memorable. That’s what Hoffman did.
“That had not occurred to us dude.”
Seriously, that’s one of my favorite lines in the whole film. Even in something bad like Along Came Polly, Hoffman plays the type of character who would normally annoy me, but here he takes a shit joke, and easily makes it the best part of the movie. “I just sharted.” Not many actors could make that work.
Aside from his comedies, Hoffman’s versatility knows no bounds. In a film with Meryl Streep, he may have given the best performance in 2008’s Doubt. He made movies like The Ides of March that much better. Even in a film like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, he just added that extra level of gravitas to it, making it that much more enjoyable. That was his mantra. He just made films better.
I always felt Moneyball was mediocre at best, but I always appreciated whenever Hoffman popped up as Oakland A’s Manager Art Howe. While that film is about Billy Beane challenging the very nature of building a baseball team, I was always more fascinated by Howe being the guy who was the guinea pig for this, and who Beane didn’t even care about. He had to carry the brunt of this experimentation, and it was Hoffman who made that captivating.
But my favorite Hoffman performance was probably 2012’s The Master, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a conniving but powerful cult leader. One of the best scenes in the movie is when this random guy at a party finally calls Dodd out on his bull shit. As an audience member, I’m thinking to myself, “finally, somebody’s going to put this jackass in his place.” But Hoffman is so riveting, so convincing, so electric, he almost has me wanting to join his cult. His performance in The Master is pure charisma.
If you go to Hoffman’s IMDB page, you’ll see a resume of brilliance. Hoffman had decades left of elite performances in him, which tragically we’ll never get to see…but there’s no question he left plenty behind to watch for years to come.