Sunday, February 02, 2014

Me and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Do I look like Philip Seymour Hoffman? I don't know. I never met the man. Devin Faraci once interviewed him and said it was disconcerting at first how close I seemed to resemble him. I take that as a yes.

The first I heard of Hoffman was when Scent of a Woman came out, and people told me there was an actor in that film that looked like me. When I finally saw the film, I got it, but there he was playing a bit of a shit and as we are both stocky, I wasn't happy about it. My brother... my brother, he looks like Matt Damon. Me? I get the weirdo. And so I had a vested interest as Hoffman built a career.  

When we matched up best was the late nineties, and he took a series of great roles that made me uncomfortable. Who wants to be told they look like Scotty J? The next year, I graduated from college, and started joining Portland's critical community. So how fun was it sitting next to a woman you found attractive while watching Hoffman's creepy masturbator in Todd Solonz's Happiness? Or the next year watching the performer who people say looks like you get murdered by the person who people say looks like your brother?

But as much as I might have resented the fact that Hoffman mostly played losers and assholes who creeped out girls more often than he got them, there was no denying he was one of the greatest actors of his generation, and someone who elevated every film he appeared in. The man was constantly working, someone sought after, and I was happy that if I had to have a cinematic doppleganger, he was at least a powerhouse, a towering performer who made everything that he touched better, even when he took the rare commercial project. Seriously, he even gave a great performance in Red Dragon. 

Eventually, I embraced the comparison. One year when I was feeling especially lazy about going out for Halloween I went as PSH from The 25th Hour, and by the time of the release of Capote, I practiced an impression of his Truman. Shortly after, Philip Seymour Hoffman's looks evolved and he would often sport a beard, so that passing resemblance seemed to fade, even though I have been approached at Amoeba (here in LA) and asked if I was the Oscar winning actor. Alas, I was not. Nowadays I get Jim Gaffigan more.

As someone who works in entertainment journalism, I always hoped to interview him, if only to see if I saw it, and if he saw it. But there's no tragedy in that never happening. As someone who loves movies, the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman is a devastating loss. As someone who has spent over twenty years being told we look alike, I have no idea how to feel about this.