Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 4, 2014

The Devil and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film,obituary — louisproyect @ 2:29 pm

Counterpunch February 04, 2014
Coming Off as Anybody

The Devil and Philip Seymour Hoffman


Most people probably had the same reaction to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death by heroin overdose that they did to Heath Ledger’s on painkillers in the same kind of posh downtown neighborhood. Why would somebody earning millions of dollars and the adulation of countless fans ever become a drug addict, and as was the case with both superstars, an alcoholic as well? The dirty little secret of the acting profession is that many people attracted to it are compensating for deep feelings of inadequacy that no amount of money or fame can relieve. When I was an undergraduate at Bard College, I became good friends with a woman who would become a film and theater star of some magnitude but most of the time she could not shake the feeling that she was not smart as the other students. When she was on stage being applauded, that was when she felt like a human being. Of course, when you are not on stage or on the silver screen, reality has a way of bringing you down.

Hoffman earned the kind of accolades that do not usually come the way of “character actors”. Most movie stars are the sorts of prime meat in their twenties and early thirties who end up on David Letterman’s sofa talking about the cute things their pet schnauzer does and promoting their next film, an exciting tale of Navy Seals rescuing San Diego from mutant flying sharks. Wikipedia says that the earliest known use of the term character actor is from the November 9, 1883 edition of The Stage, which defined it as “one who portrays individualities and eccentricities, as opposed to the legitimate actor who […] endeavours to create the rôle as limned by the author”.

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  1. Another good one, Louis. Thanx.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Comment by audradavid@aol.com — February 4, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

  2. I’ve only seen a few Hoffman performances, but, as you observe in regard to the Lumet film, there was something electric about him, a charge went through you every time he was on screen. In Spike Lee’s The 25th Hour, he and Edward Norton were amazing. Didn’t know about his political film.

    My response to his death wasn’t surprise, more like, he must have been very troubled. Shocked that it was him, but not surprised that he died in the way that he did. One of the things that you don’t mention is that actors and others involved in stage and film have a lot of personal autonomy, they don’t do the 9 to 5 thing. So, there can be space for them to suffer from their personal demons away from everyone else and less opportunity for intervention.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 4, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

  3. You guys may want to check out FourthEstateWatch.com as we also publish independent, aggressive journalism on a regular basis. Cheers!

    Comment by fourthestatewatch — February 4, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

  4. He certainly had an electricity about him.

    I am not sure about character as the main driving force. I enjoy some films that eschew character, for example Leone’s Westerns. My favourite bond film is on her majesty’s secret service, which is all style no substance. Sometimes art can be empty I think.

    I would draw the line at a film like Transformers though!

    Comment by theManWithNoName — February 8, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

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