Philip Seymour Hoffman Gets Candid

Actor Talks About Getting Help For Substance Abuse

With the Academy Awards just a couple of weeks away, and this year's list of nominees dominated by small independent films, it is fitting that Philip Seymour Hoffman is considered by many to be the front runner for best actor.

He is not really a movie star, yet, and the name may not even ring a bell, but if you like watching movies, you will recognize his face and recall some unforgettable performances.

He is a character actor rarely called up to carry an entire film on his shoulders, but he has carried "Capote" to five nominations, including best picture. He has been considered one of the best actors in Hollywood and on Broadway for a half a dozen years, equally adept at silliness or Shakespeare.

Correspondent Steve Kroft reports.



"If you can go to the theatre, and you're in a room with a bunch of other people. And what's happening in front of you is not happening. But you actually believe it is. If I can do that, I've done my job," says Hoffman. "And that's the thing — that is a drug. That's a drug. That's something you get addicted to."

Philip Seymour Hoffman would rather you remember the characters he's played than remember him. He insisted on meeting Kroft and the 60 Minutes crew at 8 a.m. in the heart of New York's Greenwich Village, which has been the center of his world for the past 20 years. He went to drama school at New York University and still lives somewhere in the neighborhood with his girlfriend and their 3-year-old son

Asked why he wanted to do the interview at 8 a.m., Hoffman said, "I thought it would be easier to talk and stuff and there wouldn't be as many people around."

He came dressed as though he may have slept in the park or wandered out of a homeless shelter, yet he still got stopped by an admiring fan.

"You deserve the Oscar, Mr. Hoffman," the female fan told him.

The familiarity comes from being in almost 40 films in just 14 years. Working with major stars and A-list directors, he's taken small supporting roles and transformed them into memorable characters.

Some of his roles included the trust fund playboy in the "Talented Mr. Ripley," the pernicious preppy in "Scent of a Woman," and the gay-curious sound man in "Boogie Nights."

Not to mention various turns as the obnoxious overweight friend, in "Along Came Polly," and a pre-op transsexual in "Flawless."

All of which beg the question about the scruffy wardrobe.

"Is this the real Phil Hoffman? Or are you now preparing for some other role?" Kroft asks.

"No, this is me," says Hoffman, laughing.

He is totally without vanity, unless the role calls for it, and despite his success at age 38, he is still very much the struggling artist, consumed with the craft of being an actor, grateful for the recognition, but suspicious of fame and celebrity and how it might change him and what he does.

"I think part of being an actor is staying private. I do think it's (an) important part of doing my job — is that they believe I'm someone else," Hoffman explains. "You know, that's part of my job. And if they start watching me and thinking about the fact that I got a divorce or something in my real life. Or these things, I don't think I'm doing my job."

Asked if he wants to be a mystery, Hoffman says, "Well you just want to — you don't want people to know everything about your personal life, or they're gonna project that also on the work you do.

"Like my friends, who I've grown up with, and know me very well, I know they watch my films different than anyone else. I know they come up to me and like, 'Oh, that thing you did, that's just like the thing you do.' You know they'll say that," Hoffman says, laughing. "And I'll be like, 'Oh.' You know, 'cause you want to find a way even to get them to think you're someone else. And when you get that person that knows you that well, to think you're actually someone else, and lose themselves, then you've really done your job."

  • Daniel Schorn

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes