The worst thing that could have happened to the film community did on February 2, 2014: Philip Seymour Hoffman, the great actor who transcended every project he graced, died alone of a drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment. Everyone remembers where they were when the news broke. His death was a shock to the system of all his collaborators and everyone in the creative community, but he left behind an Oscar-winning, untouchable body of work that, whenever revisited, gives the consistent feeling that he’s still among us.
Though Hoffman won his Academy Award for his etched-in-stone portrayal of a great American writer in “Capote,” Bennett Miller’s film is hardly the best work he ever did. The mid-’90s saw Hoffman begin a too-short of a lifelong collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson, working together on films like “Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights,” and “Magnolia” before playing a charismatic cult leader who sings “On a Slow Boat to China” to a weeping Joaquin Phoenix in 2012’s “The Master.”
More from IndieWire
But also in those early days, he cemented his range, playing a stormchaser in the blockbuster “Twister.” There was also his 1999 role as Creem and Rolling Stone journalist Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous,” whose young co-star Patrick Fugit he made a deep impression on. Hoffman went on to bring extraordinary range and depth to so many characters, from a misanthropic, overambitious playwright in “Synecdoche, New York” to a murderous sad sack in “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead” and the villain of “Mission: Impossible III.”
You could tell from his celebrity-packed funeral how adored he was by all — Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Mike Nichols, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, and Michelle Williams among them. And he seemed to wear his personal struggles against addiction and despair on his sleeve in every performance, as his characters were often at the gulf of some terrible crossroads, but not without a restless search for hope.
It may seem crass to celebrate Philip Seymour Hoffman on the anniversary of his death when all he did merits celebrating every day. Here, though, we look back on his best performances.
With editorial contributions by Christian Blauvelt, Wilson Chapman, Alison Foreman, and Christian Zilko.
Best of IndieWire