I’m perhaps the 800,000th person to publicly mourn the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman. We grew up in the same town, went to the same high school (“Once a Raider, Always a Raider”) and walked a similar path in theater and drama, until mine led away from New York and more towards… well, dramatically different things.*
I never knew Phil, so I hesitate to even use his first name in such a familiar way. That said, I know a lot about where he came from, because frankly… I came from the same place, offset only by about 4 years. We never met, but many people who helped shape who I became did the same for him. Maybe that’s why his death matters more to me… more than just being a fan of his work over the course of his vast and diverse career.
Of all the things said since his passing, Aaron Sorkin’s words have rung the most true to me:
Phil Hoffman, this kind, decent, magnificent, thunderous actor, who was never outwardly “right” for any role but who completely dominated the real estate upon which every one of his characters walked, did not die from an overdose of heroin—he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.
He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed—he died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a y in it.
Heroin has stolen yet another artist who had years left in the tank, and that larceny includes all of his performances that will never be.
*Not to mention I don’t have one millionth the talent he had. Although it might be the one thing Google fails to confirm, I understand he won the Scott Buckingham Memorial Award, Fairport’s version of the Tony, for his legendary performance in the 1985 FHS production of Death of a Salesman. I won the same award in 1989 for Romeo and Juliet. It’s one of my prouder moments because my friend Mike killed it on stage in that year’s The Sound of Music and was as deserving of the award as anyone that year.