“He does still surprise me and he makes me hungry to work with him and see what he does and comes up with. [The Master] was something that I came up with because I wanted to spend more time with him. We’d worked together a lot, five times. But it was never enough. It was a supporting part or something like that. It never felt like we’d gotten super dirty enough together" - Paul Thomas Anderson
It’s almost 15 years ago to the day I met Phil Hoffman. Paul had a rehearsal day for everyone who worked with Julianne Moore on MAGNOLIA. Myself, Julianne, Michael Murphy, Don McManus, Meagen Fay, Paul and Phil. ‘You’re my favorite actor,’ was the first thing out of my mouth. He smiled and graciously said thank you. That day was one of the greatest days of my professional career. 12 hours at a table with some of the greatest giants the cinema has ever produced. I’ll never forget it.
About a week later, I was running on a treadmill at the YMCA. Without my glasses on, I cannot see distance too well. I saw a blurry, blonde figure waving at me. Then more vigorously. I squinted but to no avail. Then the figure approached and Philip Seymour Hoffman emerged like Auda Abu Tayi from the desert. ‘Hey! Do you remember me? I’m Phil!’ he said excitedly. Thus began our friendship. I saw him a lot at the Y. Usually playing racquetball with our friend Kevin Breznahan. We always talked about something or other. He always at least stopped to say hi.
We didn’t see each other much because he was busy and we lived on different coasts but it was always a joy to run into him. He always seemed as happy to see me as I was seeing him and wanted to know what I was up to. I would occasionally get a call or an email because he would see an episode of NCIS or CHICAGO HOPE that I had done in a hotel room somewhere and he wanted to tell me how good I was. I was touched beyond belief because without hyperbole I think he is hands down the greatest actor of my generation.
I am also close friends with Phil’s brother Gordy and have worked with him and spent many long hours talking about everything under the sun. My heart breaks for him and his sisters.
Most of all, my heart breaks for Phil’s mother, Marilyn. When my brother Jim moved to Rochester, NY in the early part of the last decade to work at The George Eastman House, he and his then fiancee Katie became fast friends with her. She is one of the all-time great ladies. Our families became very close. As a family court judge(and also a close friend), Marilyn ended up marrying Jim and Katie at The Little Theatre in Rochester in 2003.
I hadn’t seen or spoken to Phil in a very long time. I speak to Marilyn and Gordy fairly regularly. But I just don’t know what to say. I think I will leave it here for now.
There is a tendency in writing these things to make the tragedy about ourselves somehow. I am trying hard not to do that. Forgive me if I stray from my purpose.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the greatest actors who ever lived. I feel fortunate to have known him and I am terribly saddened that he is gone. I feel anguished for his partner Mimi and their children. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
These are some marvelous performances: SCENT OF A WOMAN, TWISTER, BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, OWNING MAHOWNY, THE MASTER, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, CAPOTE, NOBODY’S FOOL, HARD EIGHT, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, HAPPINESS, FLAWLESS, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, ALMOST FAMOUS, STATE AND MAIN, LOVE LIZA, 25TH HOUR, THE SAVAGES, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD, SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK, DOUBT, MONEYBALL. And pretty much every time he ever appeared in something is gonzo fucking genius.
RIP Phil. You will be missed terribly.
Don’t watch this if you’re soaked in gasoline because it will warm your heart and you will burn to death and die.