Philip Seymour Hoffman's Greatest Performances

It was one of those moments where you ask someone "I'm sorry, could you say that again"...you don't quite know the person, but they have, for a few hours at a time at least once in your life captivated you....a similar thing happened with such people as the late Heath Ledger and recently deceased Paul Walker. General disappointment overcomes you for whatever reason, for this person you have never known. Philip Seymour Hoffman was not known personally to most of us, but his characters were and for that we thank him. May he rest in peace as we remember his greatest roles.

Boogie Nights (1997)

New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

Hoffman’s breakout role as a gay porn movie PA showed just what he could do when he was handed a role with genuine substance. The scene where he futilely tried to woo Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler by first showing off a new red sports car and then diving in for a kiss was heartbreaking, but Hoffman never pushed to win over our sympathy. He knew he didn’t need to.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Gramercy Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

With so many enormous personalities fighting for attention in the Coen brothers’ cult comedy favorite, another actor may have faded into the background as the gofer of the title millionaire who shares a name with Jeff Bridges’ The Dude. But Hoffman was not just another actor.

Happiness (1998)

Lions Gate Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

As a man flooded with pornographic fantasies — who starts acting on them by making obscene phone calls to his gorgeous neighbor (Lara Flynn Boyle) — Hoffman manages to keep his character sympathetic and repugnant, which is another way of saying he kept him human.

Flawless (1999)

MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

The concept for this film — a pre-transition transgender woman (played by Hoffman) helps a homophobic cop (played by Robert De Niro) re-learn how to speak after he suffers a stroke — still begs credulity 15 years after its release. And yet Hoffman and De Niro’s performances were so grounded and genuine that it doesn’t matter.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Miramax Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

Hoffman had played the young monied asshole a lot by the time he took on the role of Freddie Miles, yet another young monied asshole who pegs Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley for a fraud the moment he lays eyes on him. He was just so damn good asthis particular monied asshole — “Watch the peeping, Tom” — that it’s telling he never really played one again.

Magnolia (1999)

New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

After a series of very showy roles, Hoffman’s turn here as an even-keeled hospice nurse taking care of Jason Robards’ dying paterfamilias was a small masterstroke of understated grace.

Almost Famous (2000)

DreamWorks/Courtesy Everett Collection

As the famed rock music critic Lester Bangs, Hoffman brought forth the kind of uncompromising love of music that was the beating heart of Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film.

Capote (2005)

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy Everett Collection

Ultimately nominated for four Oscars, Hoffman won for his (inexplicably) first nomination, playing the legendary writer Truman Capote as he embarked on what became a soul-crushing endeavor to write the “nonfiction novel” that became In Cold Blood. Hoffman transformed both his body and voice for the role, and remained in character throughout the production.

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Hoffman was so often called upon for his serious acting chops that it was rare when he was allowed just to be funny. As a perpetually pissed off CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, he was hysterical, and easily the best part of this rather ungainly fact-based dramedy from director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin about the clandestine effort to help Afghan rebels fight the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Doubt (2008)

Miramax/Courtesy Everett Collection

Based on the acclaimed play by John Patrick Shanley (who also directed the film and adapted the screenplay), the film is all about the capital-A Acting from its cast, all of whom earned Oscar nominations. The real fireworks, though, come from the final confrontation between Meryl Streep’s determined Catholic school nun and Hoffman as the priest she is convinced molested a young boy.

The Master (2012)

Phil Bray/The Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

In hindsight, this may be Hoffman’s last great performance, as Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a wannabe religion loosely based on Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard. His scenes with Joaquin Phoenix — playing a kind of feral human who comes into Dodd’s orbit — are electrifying pas de deux between two outrageously talented actors at the very top of their profession.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Murray Close / Lionsgate

After the exhausting work of Death of a Salesman and The Master, Hoffman took on a supporting role as the scheming gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee in one of the biggest movie franchises in Hollywood today, instantly bringing his pragmatic gravitas to the series. Hoffman had concluded his scenes for the sequel, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and had about a week left of work for Part 2. He also starred in two films that recently premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival — the spy thriller A Most Wanted Man, and the crime drama God’s Pocket — both of which will likely be released this year.

Hoffman clearly had many decades of amazing work that will now never see the light of day, including a Showtime dark comedy entitled Happyish that had only recently been ordered to series. Instead, we will have to relish the roles he did play, and played so marvelously.

[via buzzfeed]

Colin O'Dwyer
Article written by
Media graduate, music nut, musician and connoisseur of the skinny jean. Would've made a better Batman than Affleck!!

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