Philip Seymour Hoffman, R.I.P.
Matthew Hennessey writes: Why is that when a talented and beloved actor dies, the tributes that pour forth always seem to make qualifying references to his or her “generation”? When news raced around the Internet yesterday that Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman had died of an apparent heroin-overdose at the age of 46, there it was again: He was one of the best actors . . . of his generation. It’s hardly fair to the artist—and nearly everyone seems to agree that Hoffman was an artist of rare ability—to imply that he was only one of the better ones to pop up in the last ten or 15 years. Hoffman was much better than that.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was orders of magnitude more talented than the other actors of his generation, who, like the well-known actors of most generations, tend to opt for the obvious over the obscure and a big paycheck over a big challenge. Most actors desire more than anything the respect that comes from making brave choices. But few have the horse sense to distinguish between a brave choice and a boring one. Fewer still have the commitment necessary to deliver on those choices. And almost none have the chops to pull off what Hoffman did in his too-short career. It’s no exaggeration to say that he was one of the greatest film actors of the last 50 years or more.
New York’s Friendly Neighborhood Smack Vendors: Suspected Heroin Dealers Busted in Hoffman Death ProbePosted: February 5, 2014
Authorities entered the Mott Street building and at around 7:30 p.m. and nabbed four people after getting a tip that the “Capote” star was sold heroin there a couple of months ago.
Washington Times‘ Jessica Chasmar reports: More details are surfacing about the apparent drug overdose of Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead inside his New York City apartment on Sunday, police said.
Mr. Hoffman, a 46-year-old New York native, won an Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of American author Truman Capote in “Capote.” He starred in many other notable films, including “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Master,” and the “Hunger Games” franchise.
Investigators found more than 50 glassine-type bags containing what is believed to be heroin in his apartment, along with several bottles of prescription drugs and more than 20 used syringes in a plastic cup, sources told CNN.
Mr. Hoffman reportedly had suffered from drug addiction for years. After 23 years sober, he admitted in interviews that he relapsed and developed an addiction to heroin. He checked into a rehabilitation facility last year.
Law enforcement officials said the actor’s body was discovered in the bathroom of his Greenwich Village apartment by an assistant and a friend, who called 911. Mr. Hoffman’s family called his death “tragic and sudden.”
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone,” his family said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving. Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers.”
Mr. Hoffman was not blessed with matinee-idol looks but his meticulous craft made him one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, able to straddle both the multiplex and the film festival audiences. He won raves for both franchise tentpoles such as the third “Mission: Impossible” film and a career-long collaboration with director Paul Thomas Anderson in such films as “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights.”
“Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t just a great actor in great roles. He was a great actor in crap roles. He took dead material and gave it life. Probably the best example is his turn as the baddie in [Mission: Impossible III]. As written, it’s an utterly empty, generic villain character.
From The Little Mermaid and Anna Karenina to Holly Golightly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Samantha Ellis examines the heroines written by men
I was delighted to see Truman Capote–the little freak was a genius–featured as an example of an author that excelled at writing woman characters. Holly Golightly is arguably one of the most compelling women characters in 20th century popular fiction.
Besides being a classic 1960s Hollywood movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a novella, a small book with a big character. Made famous, of course, by Audrey Hepburn. Which is unfortunate–many contemporary readers wouldn’t likely place Capote’s forgotten book on their must-read list. I came across it casually, in my 20s, and it was this exact thing that captivated me. The creation of this… indelible character. I almost felt like the detective in Laura, infatuated with a ghost. In this case, a fictional creation. The character is darker, more seductive, more melancholy, in Capote’s book, than the romantic, candy-coated version in the movie.
The other thing I found striking was that Capote was writing about himself. If we take the Holly Golightly character, and switch the gender, it’s a story of a young homosexual male from the south, hustling among the wealthy and famous in New York. Swinging between euphoria and depression, a sexual social climber, running from a troubled past. That’s a Truman Capote autobiography.
But we also know that Capote drew inspiration, like a reporter, from real women. One of Truman’s great talents was befriending talkative, wealthy, fascinating women. It’s said that he based the book on an actual young socialite in Manhattan (or a composite of a few women he knew) which involved discretion, misdirection, secrecy, and even threats of lawsuits, as the guessing game disrupted reputations and ignited rumors among New York’s elite. One wonders if the handful of society women in contention were insisting they were not her, or claiming that they were.
It’s also unfortunate that Capote was remembered more for his decadent celebrity, than his (regrettably thin) body of work. He was a writer of great promise who lost his way. After the obscenely-rewarding success of In Cold Blood (it made Truman literally the most famous writer on earth) Capote never wrote a serious novel again. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a forgotten little gem that gave us one of fiction’s great heroines.
Samantha Ellis poses a good question. She writes:
Can men write good heroines? Most of the heroines I write about in my book How to Be a Heroine are written by women. And most of the heroines I find most problematic are written by men. It’s very troubling to go back to Hans Christian Andersen‘s The Little Mermaid and find that it’s a story about a mermaid who gives up her voice for legs to get a man. And even as a girl, I was furious with Charles Dickens for letting Nancy get bludgeoned in Oliver Twist and, later, outraged that Samuel Richardson heaped pain and indignity on Clarissa and called her “an Exemplar to her sex” as though learning to suffer well made us exemplary.
It’s particularly distressing to see how male writers have punished their heroines for being sexually adventurous. Leo Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina throws herself under a train; Gustave Flaubert makes Emma Bovary pathetic even before she poisons herself. It’s striking that when Erica Jong wrote about an adulteress in Fear of Flying, she gave her a happy ending, in which she is reborn in a hotel bathtub, and summons her adoring husband back.
More than 50 years have passed since Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird, her gripping novel about racial injustice in deeply segregated Alabama. Now the town where Lee was born and raised, and which served as the inspiration for her best-selling book, has once again become the scene of an unsettling legal dispute that has divided the community.
This time Lee, who at 87 is profoundly deaf and almost totally blind, is not the author of the story but – on the surface at least – its protagonist.
In a move which has shocked Monroeville, Lee, who resides in an assisted-living facility in the town, is bringing a lawsuit against the local museum, accusing the small, not-for-profit institution of exploiting her fame and the prestige of her Pulitzer-winning book without offering compensation. The museum is fighting back, condemning Lee’s lawsuit as “false” and “meritless” and warning that the legal action could destroy an institution that honours the author’s legacy and provides an economic boost to the town.
It is the kind of ugly public dispute that Lee, an intensely private figure who has spent her life avoiding the spotlight, might have been expected to avoid. Unsurprisingly, Monroeville has been awash with with rumour about whether Miss Nelle, as the author is known locally, was personally responsible for the decision to sue the museum. Read the rest of this entry »
Life in a Famous House, From Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Townhouse to Jackie O’s Park Avenue Spread
Legends pass away, but their New York apartments live on, relics of an age when poets could afford Village townhouses and not-yet-famous painters could swing a Soho loft. Those were the days! Truman Capote’s contemporaries thought he was slumming it when he crashed in the 9,000-square-foot, 28-room house his friend owned. (You see, it was only in Brooklyn Heights.) How could those friends have known that a gaming mogul would pay $12.5 million for the place nearly 60 years later? Of course, a lawyer is now living in Andy Warhol’s Upper East Side townhouse, while a doctor and her billionaire hedgefunder husband now occupy Jackie O’s 5,300 square-foot place. What’s it like to sleep in a famous person’s former home? Rent Jean-Michel Basquiat’s place on AirBnB to find out—or read what the new owners of a handful of historic homes have to say. Read the rest of this entry »