Unfortunately I was telling a friend about writing on this topic the morning that Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead. I am devastated in a particular way in regards to his death. Here was a character actor, not a hollow Hollywood model guy but an every-man who could convey the ambiguities and sensitivities of complex and/or simple characters and on top of that, do so naturally. One of us. A representative of people in whatever circumstance the story he was acting in dictated. He took despicable characters and made them human and seemingly normal characters really frightening. He really did the job of an actor…despite how he made it look, it is not an easy job. He was one of the special ones. I think a common mistake is to say actors blur the lines of reality in their work so much so that that is a danger to their psyches. That may be the case for some but for the most part I disagree, if anything, actors are more aware of those lines than the average movie watching, fantasy indulging, video game playing, television series following public. The audience uses performance as a diversion from themselves or as a means to recognize the human condition while the performer sinks in and uses his/her self and is fully invested (well the good ones like Philip Seymour Hoffman). Perhaps that’s why actors are so lionized on one hand and maybe not trusted on the other. Who can trust someone who can become someone else? I think a necessary danger in acting (if there is one) is giving over to the moment. The moment is wild and unpredictable and exciting and terrifying as hell. There are countless acting students who come home after rigorous classes with mysterious bruises. A lot of acting has to do with identity and therefore confronting fears of a self and motives for behaving as the playwright has the character behaving. Trusting an impulse, an instinct, is a rare ability. Imagining and inhabiting a set of circumstances is a gift. Philip had an abundance of artistic resources.
I think some artists use drugs as an exploratory tool, some as an escape, some as punishment. Artists put themselves out into a world that for the most part is indifferent and at worst uncaring, suspicious and cold. This can turn a person bitter, angry and resentful. Yet it is essential for them to continue making/reporting for the sake of our identity and as a result of their identity. You are what you make. Further, things can be what you make of them. The world is often an uncomfortable place for sensitive souls. I think there are some pains which we cannot escape and some mistakes we can never undo. Maybe creative people see the world with a depth that is incommunicable and this only enforces their feeling of separateness. As incomplete as it may feel, we are left with an astonishing body of work. Goodbye Philip Seymour Hoffman and thank you.