Please, don’t let this year be a re-run of 2008. That was the year we lost Anthony Minghella, who made two of my favourite films, The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley. And then Heath Ledger went as well, a profoundly talented actor with a superlative career ahead of him.
Today we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman at the age of just 46. Whatever the cause, it leaves a massive gap in the Hollywood acting fraternity. He didn’t have those archetypal film star looks and he proved that they simply didn’t matter when you had talent on his scale. Just think of some of those roles. Capote, his Oscar winner. The brilliantly funny Gust Avrokados in Charlie Wilson’s War, a film he stole from under the noses of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Paul Zara, the warhorse political campaign manager in The Ides Of March. And more …..
But there are two that will always stand out for me. The sweaty, drug addicted elder brother in Sydney Lumet’s last film, the underrated thriller Before The Devil Knows Your Dead. And Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr Ripley. As he roared into an Italian piazza in his open top sports car, he made one of the most memorable entrances in cinema history – and that was also thanks to Minghella.
A couple of years ago, he made one of his all-too-rare visits to this country and was interviewed at BAFTA by Francine Stock. I got lucky that day and was in the audience, watching as a chunky guy in chinos and a check shirt ambled down the gangway. You could have walked past him in the street and not noticed him. He was a fascinating interviewee, funny and obviously very bright and perceptive. Stock is a first rate interviewer but, on the couple of occasions when her questions fell a touch below her usual standard, he gave her a quizzical, almost surprised look, as if he was asking whether she really expected him to give an answer or not!
The Sundance Film Festival, which finished last weekend, included two of his last films, God’s Pocket and A Most Wanted Man (The Hunger Games:Mockingjay is likely to be his final appearance on the big screen). With luck, they will both get distribution deals so that we’ll be able to see them.
Whatever the role, whatever the film, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s name meant you knew you would be watching a master at work.
There’ll be a tribute on my movie show, Talking Pictures, this Thursday on Turquoise Radio at 10 pm. In the meantime, Philip Seymour Hoffman RIP. We will miss you.