City Journal Winter 2016

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Winter 2016
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Matthew Hennessey
Every Moment Was True « Back to Story

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Addiction is not a medical issue. It is a personal choice. You do not get addictoin like you get the flu or cancer.
I had never heard of this actor until his death. I am not sure if this says something more about me or of him. We all have "demons" of varying sorts, it is how we persevere that makes us who we are.
Hoffman was indeed one of the best - if not the best - actor in the last 50 years. We do not know what it took from him to produce these performances but we do know the havoc that a drug like heroin can wreak on an individual - any individual. The drug works in insidious ways in the brain and years and decades later its influence remains. Read the National Geographic article on heroin and the brain for understanding. The fact that Oxycontin is WIDELY, legally (and illegally) distributed only contributes to the problem because when it is not available, the unbelievably cheap and powerful heroin is always there. Ignore the commenters who post about Hoffman's death as a celebrity with their "who gives a rat's" attitude. It is a huge loss.
I agree with the last comment below---Ok, he was a marvelous actor. NOT OK is the plain fact that he he was also a heroin addict with three illegitamate kids, 'Nuff said...
Hoffman was Hollywood's darling and got good parts. The best of his generation? I think that's going a bit too far. He was a good actor, nothing more.
Addiction is not "his personal life."

And our failure to treat addiction as a medical issue, 100% a medical issue is what killed him as much as anything.

He failed. We are fools.
In praise of addicts, who very capably speak lines that others write - but contempt for Seeger the Communist who lived a commendable personal life. Do you feel right about this inconsistency? I hope not.
Hoffman was a marvelous actor, one that I didn't even notice until relatively late in his career. I identified with his schlumpiness and I wanted him to play me if they ever make a biopic about myself. He reminded me of me-- a well-kept secret, so I have been told. He was a mature adult and ought to have known much, much better. The man had "everything", I supposed. But apparently he didn't. He deserved better than to end up as just another dead celebrity junkie.

That he was, apparently, an utter failure as a man, in light of what we know about his children, relationships, etc., is sad, and very, very human. But also irrelevant. That's not the public paid him for.
I should think with his addiction, Samuel Taylor Coleridge at least made an everlasting impact, spanning the centuries. Unlike any actor, ever could.
Think of Heath Ledger, now Hoffman. Is heroin a sine qua non for the odd angle from which they projected their various persona on film? The (apparent) disdain for their craft, which is really half of their attraction?

Life is too high a price to pay to reach that plane..
I found Hoffman's persona off putting. The impression he made on me -- in every role in which I saw him -- was, "I'm way better than you, but you're truly lucky, because I deign to be among you and bestow my enormous talent on you." I was always conscious of the fact that I was watching a studied Hoffman, rather than the character he was portraying.

Seems to me that a truly great actor loses himself in the part, and the audience is then transfixed by the character he is playing. Not so with Hoffman, who, in my opinion, was always looking at himself in a mirror.
Favorite Hoffman role: the dissolute Freddy in "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Not far removed from his personal life, I now learn.

The only problem I have with actors is when they step out of their roles and lecture us on how we should be living. Or turn their lectures into roles (I mean you, Damon, Sarandon, Clooney, Robbins et. al.).

Speak the words as they are written for you, and you might create art.

He was brilliant, and seems always to have been restraining the urge to unleash something that could, and did, kill him.
I must assume he had no personal life - none mentioned here !
Many such as the dismissive "erp" seek to turn Hoffman's heroin overdose into a renewed call for upping the War on Drugs. But what is missed is that -- assuming Hoffman didn't intentionally overdose -- he died BECAUSE of this endless, disastrous, unwinnable war.

There are MANY dangerous -- even lethal -- drugs. But when one buys a dangerous LEGAL/prescription drug, one knows the proper dosage, while being confident that the drug is as advertised.

But, thanks to the War on Drugs, when you buy an illegal drugs (even MJ), you are playing Russian Roulette with your life. You don't know the how pure or diluted the drug is, or what the drug was cut with, or combined with. You have no legal civil recourse to the seller or anyone else in the drug chain -- and the links in the chain know this.

Most of the casualties in the illegal drug world are claimed to be the result of access to the drugs. But if you take each claimed undesirable consequence of drug "abuse," you'll find that most of these bad results are due to the PROHIBITION of the drug, not the abuse of the drug.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm in no way saying that legal access to such drugs (especially heroin, cocaine, etc.) is not without risk -- quite the contrary. Drug abuse is very real.

But the harm from these illegal drugs pales into significance compared to the harm from the PROHIBITION of such drugs.
Powerful and understanding tribute to a great actor!
I just watched The Late Quartet with a group of people in a Bereavement Class which emphasized experiencing loss. It was beautifully acted by all, particularly PS Hoffman.We will certainly miss him.
Whatever you might appreciate about Hoffman's acting, the fact is that as a man he was a failure. He married, but was so self-absorbed that his marriage failed. He fathered children, which he rarely bothered to see. The day he died, he was supposed to see his children for visitation. Instead, he chose to stick a needle (actually, multiple times it now appears) in his arm. If Hoffman's life were only those moments captured on film, he was brilliant. But off-the-lens, he was self-indulgent, narcissistic, and ultimately a tragic failure to himself and his family.
A Late Quartet is the first movie I saw where I actually noticed Hoffman. He made my chest hurt with unshed tears. I loved the intensity and the focus he brought to the story. I loved his vulnerability and his grief as his marriage collapsed. I think he must have truly, deliberately understood just how vital the role of drama is to society, in the classical sense of what drama is and what it's supposed to accomplish, culturally. I also hear from a friend who's a playwrite that Hoffman was a great supporter and encourager of newcomers to the theatrical experience, especially new writers. May he rest in peace.
Philip Seymour Hoffman made every film he acted in worth watching and inevitably, worth talking about and remembering. I was simply spell-bound by his incredible talent. I am heartbroken that he will no longer be around to offer up such fine performances.
Admired his acting very much - not much of a movie buff nowadays, but would make an effort to see him in any role. He was always memorable. Feel sadness that I'll never have that pleasure again except in retrospect. A personal favorite - "The Savages" - funny, warm, poignant - actually purchased it - that sure doesn't happen very often. At any rate, thank you for a fine, thoughtful article.
Not fair to whom? Maybe those who appreciated his acting so much? In hearing the accounts of talented people who had near-death experiences, it seems that their awards, trophies and jobs meant absolutely nothing after leaving this plane.
He didn't "die." He overdosed on heroin. No better than any other junkie.