Film fans around the world were shocked and saddened yesterday by the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death at the age of 46. Critics, co-stars, and admirers flocked to social media to pay their respects and express their grief over the loss of the acclaimed character actor.
Hoffman was most recently seen on screen as Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the top-grossing film of 2013. He had almost completed work on the last two films in the Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2, at the time of his death. But these films are just the latest from his long and prolific legacy of stunning performances. For more than 20 years, Hoffman stole scenes and carried films by infusing every role he undertook with an unmistakable humanity. While it’s hard to choose just a few stand-out performances, here are six that truly represent his talents and range as a performer.
1. Boogie Nights (1997)
Philip Seymour Hoffman only had a few scenes in Boogie Nights, but they were undoubtedly memorable. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s ode to the 1970s porn industry, Hoffman plays Scotty J., a boom operator in love with the well-endowed star, Dirk Diggler. His affections are unrequited, and Hoffman’s raw, unadulterated portrayal of his pain makes his performance stand out in an ensemble of seasoned actors and put him on the map as a serious actor.
2. Flawless (1999)
It’s hard to steal the spotlight from Robert DeNiro, but Philip Seymour Hoffman did just that in this independent film. In Flawless, Hoffman plays a drag queen who befriends Walter, a police officer recovering from a stroke. Hoffman is convincing and enchanting as the flamboyant Rusty, whose personality stands in stark contrast to DeNiro’s disgruntled cop. He brings a vulnerability to the character and holds his own against a powerhouse Hollywood icon, creating an engaging dynamic that’s a delight to watch.
3. Almost Famous (2000)
Hoffman is completely captivating as real-life rock journalist Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film. He becomes a reluctant mentor to aspiring music writer William Miller, and the two bond over the crazy experience of living just on the edge of the rock and roll lifestyle. Hoffman’s Bangs is sarcastic and world-weary, but his self-deprecating delivery of lines like, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone when you’re uncool,” makes for some truly memorable and heartfelt cinematic moments.
4. Capote (2005)
Hoffman won several awards, including a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, and the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as the iconic author of In Cold Blood. The film centers on the writing and release of Truman Capote’s sensational non-fiction novel, and Philip Seymour Hoffman truly becomes Capote, breathing a complexity into the famed writer and recreating his mannerisms and unique inflections without ever making the popular author feel like a caricature.
5. Doubt (2008)
Some of Hoffman’s best career moments came when he took on characters that were morally ambiguous, and without question, one of the best examples of this was when he played Father Flynn in Doubt. The film tells the story of a hardened Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), who suspects the jovial religious figurehead of her parish and church has an inappropriate relationship with a young boy. Hoffman plays the grey area of the character, revealing both his warmth and a more sinister side, effectively leaving both Aloysius and the audience constantly wondering whether he is innocent or guilty. For his performance as Father Flynn, Hoffman was nominated for several awards, including a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and a Supporting Actor nod from the Academy Awards.
6. The Master (2012)
Philip Seymour Hoffman worked with a number of acclaimed directors, but his five collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson yielded some of the best performances of his career. In The Master, Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, the conflicted leader of The Cause, a cultish religious movement. He convinces a troubled war veteran, played by Joaquin Phoenix, to join his movement. In Dodd, Hoffman creates a character that is so charismatic, deliberate, and self-assured that it’s easy to see how he convinces the other characters to join his flawed movement. His masterful performance earned Hoffman another string of accolades, including his last Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.