Monday, February 3, 2014


"Jim Morrison? He's a drunken buffoon posing as a poet."
The world lost a great actor yesterday and it's a true bummer. Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his Manhattan apartment, most likely of a drug overdose.

I don't have anything profound to say about addiction and my "It's all in the game" attitude towards drugs and their consequences is probably a little on the insensitive side. That's only because I've never had problems with addiction and neither has anyone in my family. The worst thing I've ever had to deal with is male-pattern baldness and poor hearing. Those two things are a walk in the park compared to addiction - and I can get some great jokes out of them, too.

Sad to see Hoffman go out that way and that early in life because he was one of the greats. I remember a few years ago, I was visiting some friends in New York City. My friend Dan took us to his office on the Lower East Side near the Hudson River. As we wandered around the neighborhood, we stopped at a coffee shop. Dan went inside and I leaned back against a railing outside. There was an old, battered road bike locked up right next to me, and I pulled out my phone to check Twitter.

I heard a guy say "Excuse me," and I realized it was his bike and I was blocking the way. I said "sorry" and moved aside, still mostly paying attention to my phone. Gardner nudged me, I looked at him and he nodded towards the guy. It was Philip Seymour Hoffman whose bike I was standing next to. He unlocked it, put on his bag and rode off as Gardner tried to pull out his phone to take a photo. He just blended right in to the rest of the people wandering around NYC, and I suspect that's how he liked it.

My favorite performance (and one of his best, arguably) was as Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe's best movie (no argument there) ALMOST FAMOUS. Crowe took a few minutes to write about the genius of Hoffman this morning on his blog (The Uncool). It's one of the highlights in a film filled with them, but I'll never forget some of the things that Hoffman as Bangs said, because they rang true then and still do (to an extent) today.

He was a great actor and he'll be missed. As Sean O'Neal from The AV Club said last night:

Here's what Crowe had to say. If you've never seen ALMOST FAMOUS or if it's been a while since you have, I'd say it's time to change that. You can even borrow my copy if you want. Just not today. I'll be watching it myself later on.
My original take on this scene was a loud, late night pronouncement from Lester Bangs. A call to arms. In Phil’s hands it became something different. A scene about quiet truths shared between two guys, both at the crossroads, both hurting, and both up too late. It became the soul of the movie. In between takes, Hoffman spoke to no one. He listened only to his headset, only to the words of Lester himself. (His Walkman was filled with rare Lester interviews.) When the scene was over, I realized that Hoffman had pulled off a magic trick. He’d leapt over the words and the script, and gone hunting for the soul and compassion of the private Lester, the one only a few of us had ever met. Suddenly the portrait was complete. The crew and I will always be grateful for that front row seat to his genius.

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