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February 02, 2014


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A genuine shock. I have surprisingly clear memories of Premiere magazine's 1999(?) interview with him, photographed with condensation on his glasses.

Chris L.

Words fail. I vaguely remembered a report about rehab a year or two ago, but didn't fathom he was in this much danger. As someone on CNN was saying, his devoted fans were not the gossip-seeking sort and knew little of his personal life. The work was what counted. And he made every line, pause and gesture count in every role.

God bless him.


Devastating. What a truly extraordinary talent. Hard to think of another actor of our time as effortless, with so much range. It's good I don't have The Master on disc yet, or I'd put on the "Slow Road to China" scene and start sobbing.


"Slow BOAT to China." But I'm sure you already knew that.


I know what you mean.

Without diminishing any other death, as all senseless losses of life are equal in heartbreak, I don't think I've ever felt more shock and sadness than I do today. This is the hardest I've ever taken a celebrity's passing. That he only ever let the speak for itself, as Chris L. said above, and that it felt like there was so much yet to come. That his presence was a sure a blue-chip sign of a film's quality as could be. They all have something to do with it, I'm sure. But deep down, it's really that, even when playing the scummiest of characters, you just fucking loved him. You loved him.

He was a great actor, and he dug deep, and had incredible range, yeah yeah yeah, all of that is true, but secondary to the fact that his talent inspired awe and his presence inspired love. To cite A.O. Scott's wonderful Before The Devil Knows You're Dead review, Hoffman's every performance was bursting with humanism. "The screen may be full of losers, liars, killers and thieves, but behind the camera is a mensch."


My first recollection of being excited by PSH's appearance in a film was, of all things, "The Big Lebowski." Upon seeing him in that film, I laughed but also remember thinking that "Lebowski" was going to be even better than expected. I'm not sure why I thought that because he didn't really star in any films up to that point. Looking at IMDB, I suspect it was his brief turn in "Hard Eight" that was in my mind at the time. Returning to that film a few months ago, his performance feels like a cameo even though he hadn't done much up to that point. (And a pretty good cameo it was, as he captured both the macho young gambler bravado AND the disappointment of a relative newby gambler at letting down what was, in his mind, a classy veteran.)

But maybe it was the collected works up to that point that informed my impression that PSH's presence in a film could do nothing but enhance it. Certainly "Scent of a Woman" was a minor roll, but even in that he could imbue decidedly cowardly behavior with understandable, if not defensible, humanity. (Contrast his performance with that of Chris O'Donnell's.) I only vaguely remember him in "Nobody's Fool," but it seemed like he took that character and turned him into a real person suffering minor injustices at the hands of Paul Newman's character while just trying to live his life. In other words, it wasn't a caricature of some sad sap punching bag who had it coming but rather a real person being forced to deal with an adult child's tantrums.

This is all just dim recollection, and though it may just be a case of speaking well of the dead, I think his more recent acclaimed work suggests that what he brought to the table was always on display but only gradually leveraged to cinematic advantage. That speaks well of his talent and commitment - even early on - to identifiable characterizations. You may not have liked the characters, but they were recognizable as human beings as opposed to chess pieces in the plot of a film.

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