A true chameleon, able to display all the range and facets of the human condition, Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the greatest actors of our generation, and he is truly missed in the world of cinema. Here are 38 of the most interesting facts about the talented actor.
1. Importance Of Charity
Just because you’re one of the most lauded actors of your generation doesn’t mean you have to forget your roots. Hoffman knew the importance of helping others and he used his gift to give back throughout the years by going back to his high school in New York, Fairport High, to do personal workshops with the kids there.
2. Screen And Stage
Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t just a legendary screen actor but was also well known for his powerful stage performances. He was nominated for a Tony Award not once, but twice, for his work in the plays True West and Long Day’s Journey into Night.
3. Working Through The Flu
The show must go on, and when you’re as dedicated to your craft as Hoffman, that’s just the philosophy needed to get you through and push through the rough times. While filming Almost Famous, Hoffman caught the flu, but continued to work, and went on filming because he didn’t want to bring down a project which was bigger than him.
4. Professional Friendship
As one of the greatest living directors, Paul Thomas Anderson is famous for finding talent and giving it a platform. Anderson could see the immense talent of Hoffman, and while the actor was alive, Anderson made sure to utilize him in every film he directed, except for one—There Will Be Blood.
5. Meeting Your Lover
Hoffman spent the majority of his adult life in a partnership with Mimi O’Donnell, a costume designer, with whom he had three children. They met in 1999 while working on the play In Arabia We’d All Be Kings together.
6. Splitting Up
After Hoffman relapsed in 2013, the couple separated for some time, living in different homes. However, Hoffman still saw her and their children daily and remained a fixture in their lives until his last day.
7. In The Family
Hoffman’s first lead role came in the 2002 film Love Liza. What made this film special for Hoffman was that his brother Gordy Hoffman had written the script.
Eventually rising to their ranks, Hoffman idolized Meryl Streep, Daniel-Day Lewis, Paul Newman, and Christopher Walken as the actors he truly looked up to and was inspired by.
9. Teaching The Next Generation
Though Hoffman was a tremendously talented actor, he wasn't one to keep his gift to himself. In 2003, he took time off from his career to teach a semester at Columbia University, where he conducted a course titled “Directing the Actor” for their graduate program.
10. Capturing Capote
Hoffman’s role as Truman Capote in the film Capote catapulted his career to new, soaring heights as everyone took notice of his genius. He went on to win 23 different awards for the role, including the Academy Award for Best Actor.
11. Man Of Many Awards
Overall in his lifetime, Hoffman was nominated 127 times for his work and took home the prize 73 different times.
A true New Yorker, Philip Seymour Hoffman was a die-hard fan of the New York Jets and the New York Knicks. Perhaps this is why he was so good at tapping into a feeling of sadness.
13. Fortunate Injury
It can be hard to imagine Hoffman doing anything other than acting, however, he had hopes of being an athlete. This was crushed in high school, though, when he injured his neck wrestling. This may have been a blessing in disguise, as it allowed him to focus on his passion for acting. Though, he admitted, girls were a part of this decision to take up acting. Lucky for us.
14. Real Recognize Reel
Joining a long list of others who appreciated the genius of the show, Hoffman was on record stating that his favorite TV series was Breaking Bad. He also stated that his favorite film was the Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas.
15. Thank You, Mom
Hoffman was one of four children who was raised by a single mother. In his now famous Oscar acceptance speech, he made sure to thank her for all that she did in her life, as raising children alone is incredibly hard, but also for giving them the strength needed in life.
16. Law And Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman graduated from the highly prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 1989. Can you guess the first role out of college? Like many famous actors, it came in a Law & Order episode, in 1991. Interestingly enough, this episode experimented with the format of the series and broke the mold for what it could do by showing the prosecution sequence before the actual authorities investigation. Oh, and it shouldn’t surprise you that Hoffman played a character accused of misconduct, because, you know, Law & Order.
17. Life-Saving Skills
Genius doesn’t pay the bills alone. Before hitting it big and becoming widely acclaimed, Hoffman, like many artists, struggled to get by and took various customer service jobs, and even did a stint as a lifeguard.
18. It's Good To Be A Dad
Not many celebrities come out and say more about parenting then they need to for the media to eat it up, but Hoffman was different. He kept his private life extremely private, but he would often speak about how much he loved being a parent and raising his three children.
19. Childhood Impact
A pivotal moment of Hoffman’s childhood came when he was only 12 years old, after he saw a production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. He said that this changed him as a person, and stirred up the feelings that would develop into a love for the theater.
20. New Name
Hoffman’s debut feature film was the independent film Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole. In this film, he was credited as “Phil Hoffman". He only decided to change his name after the movie was released, though Seymour wasn’t a part of his actual name. Instead, he adopted Seymour to pay homage to his grandfather, whose name was...ding ding ding, Seymour.
21. Tragic End
Though he attended rehab, his 2013 relapse would be the beginning of the end. In February of 2014, Hoffman was found deceased by his friend David Katz, in a accident that was determined to be an accidental drug use. His blood tested positive for drug benzodiazepines, and amphetamines. His passing was eerily reminiscent of the passing of his character in the film Before the Devil Knows You’re Gone.
22. In Memory Of
David Katz is an accomplished writer for both screen and stage, and has established the American Playwriting Foundation in the memory of his friend Philip Seymour Hoffman.
23. Breakthrough Role
Though Boogie Nights was considered by the acting world to be his breakthrough performance, Hoffman considered Scent of A Women to be his breakthrough as an actor, as it was the first film where he earned a paycheque that could allow him to work full time as an actor.
24. Not About The Money
Though he passed with a $35 million fortune, which he left to his longtime partner Mimi O’Donnell, he was not interested in money as much as good acting. Of course, sometimes he took a big-budget film for the payout, but he always kept true to himself, saying "ultimately my main goal is to do good work. If it doesn't pay well, so be it".
25. The Price Of Art
Everyone who came across Hoffman and worked with him was aware of just how hard he worked, just how much of himself he put into his craft. As something that the average viewer may take for granted, Hoffman often tortured himself, both physically and mentally, because he loved acting with every ounce of his soul. As he once said, “that deep kind of love comes at a price: for me, acting is torturous, and it's torturous because you know it's a beautiful thing...Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great–well, that's absolutely torturous".
26. Learning From The Best
Acting alongside Robert De Niro can be an imposing job, but Hoffman used the experience to learn from the legendary actor and considered working with him in the 1999 film Flawless to be one of his greatest acting lessons.
27. The Ides Of Acting
The Ides of March was almost a slightly different movie, as Brad Pitt was originally cast as Paul Zara, before Hoffman came in and took the role for himself.
28. Part Of The Whole
The Charlie Kaufman directed film Synecdoche, New York, a cult favorite and known to be one of Hoffman’s most devastating movies, was named the best film of the 2000s by the one and only Roger Ebert.
29. Body Tax
Known for molding his body to a character, Hoffman lost an impressive 40 pounds for the role of Truman Capote. With the amount of awards he won, it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth it.
30. Quick Production
The film Capote was a taxing movie to produce, as not only did Hoffman lose a great deal of weight for it, but it was shot in only 36 days.
31. Match Made In College
When Philip Seymour Hoffman signed on to be in Capote, it may have seemed like he was taking a risk, as it was Bennett Miller’s first film. However, he had faith in Miller, as the two future Hollywood heavyweights had attended NYU together, and actually worked on projects together while studying at the Tisch School of the Arts.
32. Extraordinary Acting
Sidney Lumet is a luminary in the world of cinema. When he made his final feature film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Gone, he must have thought he’d seen it all. That was until he filmed the scene in which Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character has his breakdown in front of Marisa Tomei’s character. Lumet had said that the emotion and power behind Hoffman’s acting made the scene one of the most extraordinary things he had been a part of in the film industry.
33. Real Tears
The deathbed scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece Magnolia came from a real place of emotion. Feeling that the script wasn’t true enough, Tom Cruise improvised the scene with passing of his own father in mind. This led to Cruise actually breaking down, and Philip Seymour Hoffman coming in to comfort him was his own reaction, not one of his character in the film, as he said he could sense the purity of Cruise’s emotion.
34. Belief In Greatness
Hoffman believed the film Magnolia was so good that he once said he would fight anyone till the end who didn’t agree that it was one of the greatest films ever made. Seems like a good guy to have on your side.
35. Libel Funding
The National Enquirer once published an article saying that Katz and Hoffman had been lovers, however, this was false, and Katz successfully sued the tabloid for libel. The money he won from this lawsuit was then used to fund the American Playwriting Foundation, which dedicated an annual prize of $45,000 to the writer of a play which has yet to be produced with a theater.
36. Addiction Period
It was no secret that Philip Seymour Hoffman had struggled through a drug addiction in his youth, however, after going to rehab when he was 22 years old he got sober.
Hoffman would stay sober for the next 23 years of his life, more years than he had lived before he got clean. Sadly, he relapsed in 2013, before getting clean again by going to rehab to get over his addiction to prescription pills.
38. Consequential Party
Hoffman gave one of his most iconic performances in the production of The Master, but it came at the price of his sobriety, and potentially his life. At the wrap party for the film, he had a drink, which was his first in 23 years.