Fans of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who passed away this week after a suspected drug overdose, will get another chance to see the acclaimed actor grace the big screen in the cinematic adaptation of John Le Carre’s 2008 book, ‘A Most Wanted Man’.
Speaking recently at the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Hoffman reflected on the challenge of playing the German spy, Gunther Bachmann: “Well, it’s the same challenge you always have, to do right by the story and to try to illuminate it in a way that hopefully is surprising.”
Even a cursory glance back over Hoffman’s wildly vibrant back-catalogue is enough to see that the actor certainly adopted this approach in each of his films.
Indeed, at 46, he was both one of the most accomplished working actors in America and one of the busiest.
After some startling early performances in smaller roles – in films like ‘Happiness’ and the ‘The Big Lebowski’ – Hoffman went on to dominate 1997 classic ‘Boogie Nights’, playing a lovelorn boom operator who lusts after the pornstar, Dirk Diggler, played by Mark Wahlberg.
Soon after, Hoffman brought his own workmanlike intensity to ‘Magnolia’, Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnificent fresco of lost souls in Los Angeles, before more critically acclaimed performances in ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ and ‘Almost Famous’.
Born in upstate New York, Hoffman won an Academy Award in 2005 for his careful, nuanced portrayal of another exotic piece of New York wildlife, when he played the writer Truman Capote. Equally plausible as a Falstaffian clown as he was as definitive leading man, Hoffman received another Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his role in ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’.
As the film critic Leonard Martin notes, it was Hoffman’s ability to play everything from lordly and charismatic, to sinister and insouciant, which set the actor apart: “It’s a tremendous loss because he is one of the great actors of our generation, and of his generation. And he is amazingly versatile. I don’t think there is anything he couldn’t do. He did comedic roles, tragic roles, and everything in between.”
His performance in ‘Doubt’ opposite Meryl Streep brought Hoffman more award nominations, but it was his star turn as the puckish cult leader, L Ron Hubbard, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’, which ultimately cemented his legacy.
More recently, Hoffman played game-master Plutarch Heavensbee in the latest installment of ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise, but died with just seven days left of the shoot for the last two chapters, due out in November 2014 and November 2015, respectively.
Philip Seymour Hoffman in ‘Capote’, 2005
Philip Seymour Hoffman in ‘The Big Lebowski’, 1998
Philip Seymour Hoffman in ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’, 2007