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Philip Seymour Hoffman leaves extraordinary legacy

By Hillel Italie

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 3 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

With a range and discipline more common among British performers than Americans, Hoffman was convincing whether comic or dramatic, loathsome or sympathetic, powerless or diabolical.

In one of his earliest movie roles, he played a spoiled prep school student in "Scent of a Woman" in 1992. A breakthrough came for him as a gay member of a porno film crew in "Boogie Nights," one of several movies directed by Paul Thomas Anderson that Hoffman would eventually appear in. He played comic, off-kilter characters in "Along Came Polly" and "The Big Lebowski." He bantered unforgettably with Laura Linney as squabbling siblings in "The Savages." He was grumpy and idealistic as rock critic Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous." He was grumpy and cynical as baseball manager Art Howe in "Moneyball."

In "The Master," he was nominated for a 2013 Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as the charismatic, controlling leader of a religious movement. The film, partly inspired by the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, reunited the actor with Anderson.

He also received a 2009 supporting nomination for "Doubt," as a priest who comes under suspicion because of his relationship with a boy, and a best supporting actor nomination for "Charlie Wilson's War," as a CIA officer.

Many younger moviegoers know him as the scheming Plutarch Heavensbee in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and he was reprising that role in the two-part sequel, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay," for which his work was mostly completed. The films are scheduled for November 2014 and November 2015 releases.

Just weeks ago, Showtime announced Hoffman would star in "Happyish," a new comedy series about a middle-aged man's pursuit of happiness.

Born in 1967 in Fairport, N.Y., Hoffman was an athletic boy, but a neck injury sustained while wrestling ended any hopes for a career in sports. He soon became interested in acting, mesmerized at 12 by a local production of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons." He studied theater as a teenager with the New York State Summer School of the Arts and the Circle in the Square Theatre. He then majored in drama at New York University.

In his Oscar acceptance speech for "Capote," he thanked his mother for raising him and his three siblings alone, and for taking him to his first play. Hoffman's parents divorced when he was 9.

On Broadway, he took on some of the stage's most ambitious parts — Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman," Jamie in "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and both leads in "True West." All three performances were Tony nominated.

Last year, Hoffman crossed to the other side of the footlights to direct Bob Glaudini's "A Family for All Occasions" for the Labyrinth Theatre Company, where he formerly served as co-artistic director. Hoffman has also directed "Jesus Hopped the A Train" and "Our Lady of 121st Street" for the company and received Drama Desk Award nominations for both productions.

Hoffman is survived by his partner of 15 years, Mimi O'Donnell, and their three children.

Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Deepti Hajela, AP film writer Jake Coyle and AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy in New York, and Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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