It was Superbowl morning 2014 and I was getting out of the New York subway on a short shopping trip to get some snacks for the nights game. The second I got reception back on my cell phone it started lighting up with messages from friends and families sending their condolences and I was so confused. Had something happened back home that I didn’t know about? I quickly scanned the messages to find some semblance of what the condolences were for when I saw, “I’m really sorry to hear about Phil Hoffman”. No, I was mortified, it couldn’t be that Phil Hoffman, my favorite actor of all time, who played my favorite character of all time. A quick google search validated it and hence reaffirmed that one of the most exceptional actors of our day had sadly passed away too soon. Philip Seymour Hoffman had such a varied range that it makes all his characters truly unique and memorable. In honor of him here are my list of his top 5 roles.
5. The Count (Pirate Radio)- In a supporting role Hoffman plays an American DJ set adrift on a illegal rock radio station off the British shores. The lone yankee blends right in with his rock and roll loving brethren. It is when his British predecessor rejoins the cast that his delicate balance of asserting his own dominance while not alienating the crew as a brutish American is played out masterfully.
4. Gust Avrakotos (Charlie Wilson’s War)- Matching up with heavyweights like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, Hoffman’s performance resonated in a big way in this Afghanistan war retelling. Gust’s temper and cantankerous behavior is embodied in every movement regardless of circumstance or audience. Hoffman turns this passed over CIA operative into the pushy side kick that truly belies the right hand of a Washington politician.
3. Phil Parma (Magnolia)- In what would be a very fruitful relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson, this second film he stared in had Hoffman as part of a multi-narrative ensemble cast that had him standing on his own against Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, and Julianne Moore. The male nurse charged with taking care of ailing Robards gets placed into the inenviable task of trying to reconnect him with his chauvinistic dating self help guru son Cruise. The sweet meek nature of Hoffman that in my opinion was a trademark of his more sensitive roles, is exemplified in this case more than others.
2. Truman Capote (Capote)-This stunning interpretation of the eccentric New York socialite and author earned Hoffman a much deserved Oscar. His deft performance encompasses Capote’s noted speaking style and quirks while creating a stunning connection with his main subject of famed novel In Cold Blood. This would be the first of 4 Oscar nominations and lone win, rightfully deserved.
1. Sanford “Sandy” Lyle (Along Came Polly)- I will 100% admit that this is a completely selfish pick. Sandy Lyle is a character unlike any other. A slovenly out of work child actor who grossly helps his recently cuckolded friend balance life getting over his philandering wife while navigating the dating game. Within the first minute of the movie he announces his presence with a phenomenal prat fall clad in a tailed tuxedo. Through all his sloppy and gross behavior the true pinpoint perfect acting is simply from one look given at his point of retribution at the end of the movie.