More than 20 years ago, I saw a film called Scent of a Woman. Even though I was very young at the time, the affection I had even then for all things Al Pacino was legendary among everyone who knew me – something that has continued to this day.
However, there was a funny-looking minor character in that film who fascinated me. He played the role of a preppy spoilt brat so convincingly that I had trouble distinguishing between him and all the preppy spoilt brats I knew at the time.
A few years later, I saw a film called The Talented Mr Ripley – one that did not disappoint, owing to the exceptional performances from a glamour cast, under the impeccable direction of Anthony Minghella. And there he was again, a dirty blond dishevelled side character with a humpty-dumpty body and an annoying slit-eyed smirk forever etched on his face.
His name was Philip Seymour Hoffman – an actor that I have come to admire enormously ever since. Indeed, I can honestly say that I have watched the entire catalogue of his films, some of them even multiple times.
And the one film that really proved to me that I did not waste all that time appreciating his performances was Owning Mahowny. It was in this little-known film that Hoffman truly showcased his enormous acting talent, through the subtlety of his emotional display and the vulnerability in his verbal delivery.
When the headlines hit yesterday that Hoffman died from overdosing on heroin, a habit he had admitted to being addicted to previously, the only image of him that came to me was that of Dan Mahowny. He was the main character that Hoffman played in Owning Mahowny, one who was so addicted to gambling that his whole promising life crumbled around him.
For some reason, despite having witnessed all his talents ranging from comedic (The Big Lebowski) to dramatic (Boogie Nights), what keeps floating in my mind as I grapple with the shocking news is this small art house film – one which is filled with scenes of Hoffman/Mahowny in silent agony, fighting a losing battle against an addiction that was unmercifully tearing him apart.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was just 46 when he took his very last breath. Given his towering achievements to-date, one can only wonder the height Hoffman could have scaled had he continued in his chosen craft.
He may not have had the Hollywood looks, but there was something unmistakably authentic about Hoffman’s face.
He may not have had the chiselled body, but there was something undoubtedly genuine about Hoffman’s appearance.
Most importantly, while he may not have had the gravitas of more seasoned thespians, there was certainly something hauntingly mesmerising about his character portrayals.
Rest in peace, Philip.
I can’t speak for other people but your performances over the past two decades have amused, fascinated and at times even repulsed me. These are the very reasons why you will be sincerely missed by this tragic film buff.
Finally, thanks for introducing the term ‘sharted’ into my vocabulary – an elegant compound word that can only originate from a man of admirable humour such as yourself.
Keep on pounding.