Seymour Hoffman, who won the Oscar for best actor in 2006 for his portrayal of
writer Truman Capote in "Capote,” was found dead Sunday with what
officials said was a needle in his arm. He was 46.
Despite his outsized talent, he was relentlessly humble. Bennett Miller, his longtime friend and "Capote" director, once called him "a shaman-like actor."
It's no surprise that he eventually made his way to that greatest loser of all, Willy Loman. In a career peopled by sad sacks, "Death of a Salesman" on Broadway was a pinnacle.
Choosing five great performances from Hoffman's prolific but too-brief lifespan -- ranging from his passionate rock critic Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous" to his nasty rich kid in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" -- is an impossibility.
He was good in
Here, nevertheless, are a few highlights:
- "Hard Eight":
Hoffman's least known performance for director Paul Thomas Anderson was also
his first. In 1996's "Hard Eight," also titled "Sydney,"
Hoffman plays a loud-mouthed, mullet-haired craps player who clashes with the
more dignified gambler played by Philip Baker Hall. But he's quickly won over
by a ballsy bet, and cheerfully takes to calling him "Big Time." It's
the scene that began one of the most enthralling actor-director collaborations
in recent movies, running through "Boogie Nights" (as a pathetic
wannabe pornographer) "Magnolia" (as a dying man's nurse),
"Punch Drunk Love" (as a mattress store owner) and "The
Master" (as a cult leader).
- "Jack Goes Boating":
Hoffman's 2010 directorial debut, adapted from Robert Glaudini's play, is the
film I'm most moved to re-watch after his tragic death. In it, he plays a
painfully shy limo driver with the unlikely dream of working for the MTA. It's
the story of an exceptionally ordinary guy trying to improve himself.
Everything about the character and the film exudes the kind of downbeat modesty
- "Capote": One occasionally wished Hoffman had more frequently taken on big parts like Truman Capote that more obviously showcased his tremendous talent. In some ways, his most ambitious work went to Broadway: "Death of a Salesman," "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "True West." But though he gravitated more to regular guys, Hoffman's dapper, brash Capote is a master class in how to play an icon. Such roles are so often a collection of accent and manner - mere impression - but Hoffman's Capote was a full, soulful portrait.
- "Happiness" - Hoffman had dangerousness in him, too. His peeping pervert in Todd Solondz's 1998 drama was unforgettably daring. It remains one of the creepiest performances in American movies.
- "The Savages": In Tamara Jenkins' 2007 film, Hoffman and Laura Linney play a brother and sister struggling with adulthood and their father's decline in old age. It feels like the epitome of a Hoffman film: a mix of comedy and tragedy told with subtlety, bone-dry humor and flashes of grace.