Hollywood’s euphoria from awards season was brought to a crashing halt Sunday by news that Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had been found dead — apparently from a drug overdose.
Law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that Mr. Hoffman was discovered with a syringe in his arm. They said glassine envelopes they suspect contained heroin were in Mr. Hoffman’s New York City apartment.
Those items are being tested after Mr. Hoffman’s body was discovered by a friend, who called 911, and the actor’s assistant.
Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman talks 'Hunger Games'
Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." Courtesy of Lionsgate
Just 46, he was a performer who seemed to shrink in size (yes, weight, but also height) to play Truman Capote in “Capote” and who mastered menace as gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in “The Hunger Games” movies, the last of which is still being filmed.
Mr. Hoffman checked himself into rehab in 2013 for a detox after snorting heroin. He had acknowledged previous addictions to drugs and alcohol and his weight also fluctuated, given his roles.
The actor, born in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., is known to younger fans for his recent role in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” His character also appears in the final two movies of the franchise, and his death could present producers with the same sort of problem “The Fast and the Furious” makers had after Paul Walker’s death in a car crash.
Mr. Hoffman dropped 40 pounds to play the effete New York intellectual who became obsessed with the 1959 murder of a farm family in Kansas and wrote the groundbreaking nonfiction novel “In Cold Blood.”
In accepting his Academy Award in March 2006 for “Capote,” Mr. Hoffman reserved his biggest raves for his mom, who was in the audience.
“She brought up four kids alone and she deserves congratulations,” he told the black-tie crowd and millions watching at home. “She took me to my first play and she stayed up and watched the NCAA Final Four. Her passions became my passions and … be proud mom, cause I’m proud of you.”
He later was nominated by Oscar voters for supporting roles in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Doubt” and “The Master.” He also had a list of distinguished stage credits including as Willy Loman in the revival of “Death of a Salesman,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “True West.”
Jim Carrey tweeted on Sunday: “Dear Philip, a beautiful beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart.” Steve Martin weighed in with this tweet: “If you missed him as Willy Loman, you missed a Willy Loman for all time.”
The Post-Gazette’s Bob Hoover reviewed “Death of a Salesman,” directed by Mike Nichols, and wrote: “Hoffman, dressed in suit and vest and crowned with a gray shock of hair, the same look Lee J. Cobb presented audiences in 1949, speaks in a similar gravelly voice, raising the question, ‘Is this just a respectful revival of a great but dead work?’
“As the action builds in the first act, however, and the self-delusions and lies crawl to the surface, the Nichols-Hoffman ‘Death of a Salesman’ shakes off the dust of the original production to stand on its own.”
Mr. Hoffman, Linda Emond who played his wife and Andrew Garfield as son Biff, were nominated for Tonys for the production which won for best revival off a play.
It often seemed as if he could do anything, and actress Catherine Keener, who appeared alongside him more than once, echoed that while doing interviews for “A Late Quartet” during the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie featured Christopher Walken as a cellist diagnosed with early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease on the eve of a famous string quartet’s 25th anniversary season.
Mr. Hoffman played the second violinist and Mr. Walken told a small knot of reporters, “Phil could actually play.” Ms. Keener added, “Phil, honestly, made me realize if he continued to play for a year he’d be great.”
In one of his earliest films, he was cast as a spoiled prep school student in “Scent of a Woman.” One of his breakthrough roles came as a gay member of a porno film crew in “Boogie Nights,” one of several movies directed by Paul Thomas Anderson that he would eventually appear in.
He often played comic, slightly off-kilter roles in movies like “Along Came Polly,” “The Big Lebowski” and “Almost Famous.”
In “Moneyball,” a closely shorn Mr. Hoffman — his stomach straining against his uniform fabric — turned up as A’s manager and Shaler native Art Howe. “Mission: Impossible III” left watchers wanting more of him as a reprehensible villain who allowed no room for sympathy or empathy.
Just weeks ago, Showtime announced Mr. Hoffman would star in “Happyish,” a new comedy series about a middle-age man’s pursuit of happiness. In 2013 he filmed a pilot for the show, which the network gave a 10-episode series order to in January. In the pilot episode, which co-stars Kathryn Hahn ("Parks and Recreation"), Mr. Hoffman's middle-age ad executive feels out-of-touch with his younger co-workers and appears to have fever dreams about the Keebler Elves.
Showtime executives showed TV critics clips from the pilot episode at January's Television Critics Association winter press tour and some deemed it one of the more promising TV projects of 2014. Variety reported Sunday that Showtime executives were reeling from the news of Mr. Hoffman's death and would not comment on what will become of "Happyish."
Nevertheless, his work will outlive him, given his recent appearance at the Sundance Film Festival to promote his new films, “God’s Pocket” and Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man.”
Born in 1967 in Fairport, N.Y., Mr. Hoffman was interested in acting from an early age, 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’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Mr. Hoffman is survived by his partner of 15 years, Mimi O’Donnell, and their three children.
Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen and the Associated Press contributed. Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies. First Published February 2, 2014 2:00 PM