Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

Always when I write an epitaph, I feel a misgiving, that the epitaph writer is placing focus on themselves rather than the mourned. What I write here, however, is only an expression of selfish feeling: I wanted more. Like just about everyone, I first saw Hoffman in one of his early, very small roles, for me it was Hard Eight, and like those others, I immediately thought, who is that? The movie is not about him at all, he is entirely a tangential character, with nothing to do with the story outside the scene, but he creates an enviable electricity that others work so hard at and fail. That he would go on to achieve prominence, an Oscar, starring roles, the whole shebang, does not now feel like a fortuity, but an inevitability; you re-watch those early roles and think, even the mole rats of Hollywood must pick up the radiation here. Of his life outside his work, I am ignorant and entirely indifferent. I am not animated by fandom or faux intimacy. I have an animus towards idolatry, “The Ten Ways Actress X Is The Greatest,” which reduces you only to a worshipper. I write this out of the selfish urge of a member of the audience where the magician performs one astonishing trick after another, only to collapse to the ground halfway through the show. We live in an age of hoaxes, where every photo is shopped, every article is an advertisement, every agent is a double, and I briefly wish for that now, that this is one more worldwide illusion, and we’ve been taken in, the dead man is actually alive. I want to make unreal the obituaries of the man who managed to make everything real. Who is that? That’s Philip Seymour Hoffman. That the apostrophe must now be read as a was, rather than an is, contains a vast emptiness, of things that would wow me, but won’t be.

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