Watch CBS News

2006: Philip Seymour Hoffman on 60 Minutes

“I got panicked for my life,” Philip Seymour Hoffman told Steve Kroft in 2006 about why he went into drug and alcohol rehab
2006: Philip Seymour Hoffman on "60 Minutes" 00:44

The great American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died today at age 46, and while the official cause of death has not yet been announced, sources have told CBS News that it was likely due to a drug overdose.

When we learned about Hoffman’s passing, we were reminded of Steve Kroft’s conversation with him back in 2006, when Steve visited the actor in his Greenwich Village home and, among other things, discussed Hoffman’s battle with substance abuse, video above.

Hoffman told Kroft that he went into alcohol and drug rehab at age 22 because he feared for his life.

Hoffman and Steve also talked about the actor’s career, including his award-winning portrayal of author Truman Capote. Here is the text of our 2006 interview with Hoffman:


With the Academy Awards just a couple of weeks away and this year's list of nominees dominated by small, independent films, it's fitting that Philip Seymour Hoffman is considered by many to be the front-runner for best actor. He's not really a movie star yet, and the name may not even ring a bell, but if you like watching movies, you'll recognize the face and recall some unforgettable performances. He's a character actor who's rarely called upon to carry an entire film on his shoulders. But he's carried "Capote" all the way to five nominations, including Best Picture. He's been considered one of the best actors in Hollywood and on Broadway for half a dozen years. Equally adept at silliness or Shakespeare.

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN: If you can go to the theater 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. And that's the thing that--that is a drug. That's a drug. That's something you--you get addicted to.

(Footage of Kroft walking and talking with Hoffman; NYU building)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Philip Seymour Hoffman would rather you remember the characters he's played than remember him. He insisted on meeting us at 8 AM 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 is girlfriend and their three-year-old son.

So why did you want to do this at 8?

HOFFMAN: I thought it'd be easier to talk and stuff and there wouldn't be as many people around.

(Footage of Kroft walking and talking with Hoffman)

KROFT: (Voiceover) He came dressed as though he might have slept in this park or wandered out of a homeless shelter. Yet we still got stopped by an admiring fan.

Unidentified Woman: You deserve the Oscar, Mr. Hoffman.

HOFFMAN: Thank you.

(Footage of "Nobody's Fool"; "The Talented Mr. Ripley"; "Scent of a Woman"; "Boogie Nights"; "Along Came Polly")

KROFT: (Voiceover) 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. Like the trust fund playboy in "The Talented Mr. Ripley," or the pernicious preppie in "Scent of a Woman." Or the gay, curious sound man in "Boogie Nights." Not to mention various turns as the obnoxious, overweight friend and a pre-op transsexual, 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?

Mr. HOFFMAN: No, this is me.

(Footage of Kroft walking and talking with Hoffman)

KROFT: (Voiceover) He's 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.

HOFFMAN: I think part of being an actor is staying private. I do think it's important. Part of doing my job is that they believe I'm someone else, 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.

KROFT: You want to be a mystery?

HOFFMAN: Well, you just want to be--you don't want people to know everything about your personal life or they're going to project that also on the work you do. It's impossible not to. If you know enough about somebody, it's impossible not to--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 you like, `Oh, that thing you did, that's just like that thing you do,' you know? They'll say that. And you know, you want to find a way to get to think you're someone else. And when--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.

(Footage of "Capote"; photo of Hoffman with Bennett Miller and Dan Futterman)

KROFT: (Voiceover) It was a challenge he faced every day in his portrayal of Truman Capote, who for 20 years was not only America's most famous writer but one of its most recognizable celebrities. The project was developed by two of Hoffman's oldest friends, Bennett Miller, the film's director, and screenwriter Dan Futterman. The three have known each other since they were 16. Bennett Miller says they all worried that the movie might end their friendship and Hoffman had other concerns.

HOFFMAN: I knew that this was going to be something that the risk quotient was high.

KROFT: Why was it high risk?

BENNETT MILLER: Just the possibility of humiliation.

KROFT: Yeah, failing was high. Yeah, it was huge. People who knew he was. He's an iconic figure. I--just the fear, the nightmare or the fear of just being embarrassingly bad in the role was--was very real.

(Footage of "Capote"; book, "In Cold Blood"; footage of "Capote"; Hoffman, Miller and Kroft watching documentary on Truman Capote)

KROFT: (Voiceover) The film follows Capote over the six-year period in which he reported and wrote his ground-breaking masterpiece, "In Cold Blood," a work of nonfiction told in the form of a page-turning novel. It gave him the fame he so desperately craved and it ultimately ruined his life.

For Hoffman, the line between parody and perfection was razor-thin. He spent hours at Bennett Miller's apartment studying old documentaries of Capote.

HOFFMAN: He leans right in there. I mean, the guy's not even looking at him but he's...

MILLER: I mean, look at how he adjusts himself to the guy, you know.

(Footage of Truman Capote documentary)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Most of the footage they screened was from the 1960s, before either of them was born and when Capote was at the height of his powers: a brilliant, glib brocanteur who was one of the few openly gay personalities in the country.

Mr. HOFFMAN: He worked as much on promoting himself, putting himself out there, as he did on his writing, I believe.

MILLER: Yeah, yeah.

(Footage of Capote documentary)

HOFFMAN: You can see it. He's full of nervous tics. If you are really watching closely, you can see that his eyebrows are twitching, a lot of movement in his forehead. There's something about him that I can see was agitated.

(Footage of "Capote"; documentary on Capote)

HOFFMAN: What is it? What is his personality? What makes him tick? I knew deep down inside I had to understand it for myself in some personal way.

KROFT: How did you identify with him?

HOFFMAN: The ambition, the drive, the wanting to be the center of attention, the wanting to succeed.

KROFT: Those are all you?

HOFFMAN: Yeah. They're all inside me somewhere.

(Footage of class photo of Hoffman; photo of Hoffman putting on makeup for a performance)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Hoffman grew up in a middle-class household near Rochester, New York. In high school, he was a clean-cut, competitive jock who excelled in baseball and wrestling until a neck injury cut short his athletic career and hormones led him to acting.

HOFFMAN: This woman that I was just--had a mad crush on--woman, girl. She was in high school, walked by the other way. I said, `Where are you going?' And she's going, `I'm going to go audition for a play.' You know, and kept walking. `I think I'll go, too,' and I turned around and I followed her in. And I auditioned for the play and I got to be with her every day, you know what I mean? It was like you're a teenager and you have a crush, you know. And then, all of a sudden, it's not about the crush. All of a sudden, you realize you like doing theater and you like being an actor and you like hanging out with these people.

(Footage of photos of Hoffman in various plays; footage from films featuring Hoffman)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Over time, he applied the same competitive drive he had with wrestling to grappling with roles on stage and screen, steadily building an impressive resume with a stubborn, single-minded zeal for perfection that he doesn't seem entirely comfortable with.

HOFFMAN: If I don't think I'm doing well, I'm unpleasant. That's my neurosis. You know what I mean? If I don't feel like I'm doing the job well and I don't know how to get there or I'm too scared or whatever, I'm--I'm not a happy guy, and I'm not pleasant. I'm not pleasant to be around.

KROFT: You feeling all right about this?

Mr. HOFFMAN: About talking to you?

KROFT: Yeah, yeah. Is it going all right?

HOFFMAN: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. But I--I think that that--yes, actually I do feel right about it. I mean, this is me being pleasant, I hope.

(Footage of "Capote")

KROFT: (Voiceover) The depth of his commitment and his talent is apparent in one of the final scenes of "Capote." After six years of cajoling, befriending and seducing two killers into telling him a story that will make him famous, he says his final good-byes as they head off to the gallows.

It took Hoffman nine months of his life to get the performance just right and when the shooting was over he was tapped out and done being Truman Capote.

HOFFMAN: I remember I immediately started talking like myself, like that, and I thought to myself, I'm never going to do that again. I'm not going to act like him anymore.


HOFFMAN: Because I was free, first off. So the minute you're able to walk away from that, separate yourself, you do. I do.

KROFT: So you can't even do it like one more time?


KROFT: Like drunk at a party?

HOFFMAN: Yeah. That might be, you know, if I start drinking again, you might be able to get me to do it.

(Footage of Hoffman and Miller)

KROFT: (Voiceover) That last comment was a small slip for someone who guards his privacy as closely as Hoffman. But it told us something about his past and his discipline.

You said you don't drink.

HOFFMAN: No, I don't.

KROFT: In fact you went into rehab at a fairly early age.

HOFFMAN: Yeah, I did, I did. I went--I got sober when I was 22 years old. Yeah.

KROFT: So this was drugs or alcohol or both?

HOFFMAN: Yeah, it was all--all that stuff, yeah. Anything I could get my hands on, yeah. Yeah. I liked it all. Yeah.

KROFT: And why did you decide to stop?

HOFFMAN: You get panicked. You get panicked. It was--I was 22 and I got panicked for my life. It really was. It was just that.

(Footage of Kroft interviewing Hoffman; Hoffman arriving at an event)

KROFT: (Voiceover) He said if he hadn't stopped it would have killed him and there were things he wanted to do. Since then, he seems to have accomplished a lot of them.

Unidentified Photographer: All right, Mr. Hoffman.

(Footage of Hoffman arriving at an event; footage of "Mission: Impossible 3"; holding Golden Globe statue; palm-tree lined street)

KROFT: (Voiceover) After years of acting with his name below the title, his career and his life were about to change. He's just finished shooting "Mission: Impossible 3" as the villain opposite Tom Cruise, and with the awards season in full swing, he's been spending a lot more time in Hollywood.

HOFFMAN: Yeah. There's a lot of dreaming that goes on out here. There are a lot of people that come to this town to, you know, to see themselves on a billboard, you know, to see their name in lights or whatever, yeah. That dream, you know.

KROFT: Speaking of billboards.

(Footage of Kroft, Hoffman, Futterman, Miller and Hoffman's older brother Gordy sitting around poker table)

KROFT: (Voiceover) He's quick to share credit for his work and wanted us to be sure to include his friends and collaborators, Dan Futterman and Bennett Miller, in this story. So we invited them over to the hotel for a few hands of poker, along with Hoffman's older brother, Gordy, who is also a film director.

What did you think when you first met Phil?

MILLER: Before I liked Phil, I noticed that everybody else liked him. I can't think of anybody ever saying a bad word about Phil.

KROFT: I thought you said he was a pain in the ass.

MILLER: But I liked him.

Mr. HOFFMAN: This wasn't such a bad idea.

(Footage of men playing poker)

KROFT: (Voiceover) The kibitzing was good natured. After all, Futterman, Miller and Hoffman are already big winners. Each has his own Oscar nomination for "Capote." They all said it doesn't matter if they win or not. But it was hard to tell if they were bluffing. One of them was concentrating on the poker game more than others.

HOFFMAN: I'm gong to put in $1 for you, Steve, because I know you're going to bet because saw what you have.

KROFT: OK, thank you.

(Footage of men playing poker)

KROFT: (Voiceover) So when you're making your pick for Best Actor in the office Oscar pool, you might think twice before betting against Philip Seymour Hoffman.

HOFFMAN: There's a low pair and that's a straight.

MILLER: Hello.

KROFT: You sand-bagged me.

Mr. GORDY HOFFMAN: Oh! All the time he knew, though. He knew he had you all the time.

KROFT: I'm working here and you're just stealing the money. All right.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.