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Obituary: Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has died aged 46, was one of the most well-respected actors of his generation.

He was known as an original and versatile performer who played a wide range of complex and often dysfunctional characters to high critical acclaim.

The screen star won 23 awards for the 2005 film Capote - including the best actor Oscar - for his portrayal of US author Truman Capote, whose works included Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Speaking to the New York Times about the role, the actor said: "Sometimes being an actor is like being some kind of detective where you're on the search for a secret that will unlock the character."

Hoffman, raised near Rochester in upstate New York, revealed that six months of preparation had gone into playing a real-life character that would bring him to the pinnacle of his achievement.

"I used everything I could get my hands on. It was then a matter of trial and error, an hour and a half every day," he told the BBC in 2006.

"The goal wasn't to mimic him but to capture his energy. I really wanted to get the essence of him, because I knew that would be more powerful," added Hoffman, who said he knew he was "carrying the movie".

In his Oscar acceptance speech, he thanked his mother Marilyn O'Connor, a civil-rights activist.

"She brought up four kids alone, and she deserves a congratulations for that," he said.

He said she took him to his first play and inspired him to follow a career in acting.

Hoffman trained at New York's Tisch School of the Arts, becoming a founding member of a theatre company called the Bullstoi Ensemble.

Soon after graduating he fell into drug and alcohol addiction, entering rehab at the age of 22. He is reported to have given up both for 23 years until a relapse in 2013.

Hoffman's breakthrough film roles came in the 1990s, notably with Boogie Nights and The Big Lebowski, in which he brought oddball characters memorably to life.

His other well-known appearances include The Talented Mr Ripley, as an obnoxious young socialite who shows nothing but contempt for the deeply troubled titular anti-hero, played by Matt Damon.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hoffman won best actor at the Venice Film Festival in 2012 for his role in The Master
Image copyright film company
Image caption Hoffman as rom-com sidekick in Along Came Polly
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The actor played a doting nurse in Magnolia (2000)

Latterly Hoffman became part of the Hunger Games franchise, with the majority of his final scenes for the next instalments recently completed, according to Variety.

He was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in The Master, inspired by Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard.

Hoffman garnered a total of four Oscar nominations for his acting prowess, including for Doubt, playing a Catholic priest opposite Meryl Streep, and Charlie Wilson's War.

Three of them were for supporting roles, but it was his only nod as best actor which converted into a coveted golden statuette.

But among his heavyweight dramatic roles were a clutch of appearances in populist box office hits including Along Came Polly, in which his character was "prone to falling on his ass" and deemed as nothing more than a "supporting clown".

Playing music critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, Hoffman was hailed by the New York Times for taking on the role with "guile and gusto", although it didn't amount to the movie-carrying role of Capote just five years later.

Hoffman's other turns in more knockabout roles included in Punch-Drunk Love alongside Hollywood funnyman Adam Sandler.

As well as numerous film accolades, Hoffman was a celebrated theatre actor.

He was twice nominated for Broadway's Tony Awards - in 2000 for a revival of Sam Shepard's True West and in 2003 for a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night.

He also won acclaim for his work as a stage director - including Jesus Hopped the A Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis - and co-artistic director of the LAByrinth Theater Company, a New York collective that specialises in new American plays.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

  • 1 best actor Oscar for Capote, 2005

  • 3 supporting actor Oscar nominations

  • 51 feature film releases, 1991-2014

  • 29 dramas, 21 comedies, 1 animation

  • 4 real life characters played: Lester Bangs, Truman Capote, Art Howe, Gust Avrakatos


His debut as a film director came in 2010 with the New York-set Jack Goes Boating, in which he also starred.

He is survived by partner, costume designer Mimi O'Donnell, and three children.

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