"Where do we begin, where will he end? Philip Seymour Hoffman does not — he must have been told this often enough — seem like a movie star. He’s boyish but untidy, a little overweight, hopelessly immature. He’s all of those things as Freddie, the prep-school thug in The Talented Mr. Ripley (99, Anthony Minghella). Yet I’m not sure there’s been a better performance in recent years — so nasty yet so vulnerable, such a cross of Mussolini and Billy Bunter.
Freddie is onscreen not much more than twenty minutes, and it’s easy to foresee Hoffman as a brilliant supporting actor. But in the year after Ripley, he alternated lead roles in Sam Shepard’s True West with John C. Reilly on Broadway; and he played the flamboyant drag queen in Flawless (00, Joel Schumacher), a film that had little purpose but to showcase a great actor.
That’s further proof, if anyone still needs it, of the gap between working for a Minghella and a Schumacher. Hoffman could be turned into an institution — but never properly tested. He is so good that only the best material is going to help build out sense of him. Meanwhile, search him out, as you might Kevin Spacey. There is the same very dangerous talent at work — astounding, yet so pronounced it could help make its own prison.”
—- David Thomson, The New Biographical History Of Film, 2004
Michael Musto: Congrats on a deft performance, Phil. How did you avoid descending into caricature or mere impersonation?
Philip Seymour Hoffman: That scared the shit out of me when I was offered the part. What an esay guy to just mock or mimic. It would have come off kind of foolish. I worked hard to make it more about the story than just him. His character is incredibly important to that story, but ultimately what transpires is the story of an artist at the pinnacle of his career. It could be any writer standing at the gallows at the end of that film.
Musto: Capote is certainly not your introduction to playing gay. Are you drawn to gay projects or do they find you?
Hoffman: When I play somebody gay, I never think of it as “I’m playing a gay character.” It’s interesting to play all the different aspects of the character. There’s something else about the character that’s pulling me there that I identify with. With Flawless, it’s not that he was gay—I found it more interesting that he thought he was a woman. With Capote, it’s the story that he had as an artist. And in Boogie Nights, he was so completely stunted I don’t even think he knew his attractions were of a gay nature.
Musto: Are you ever frustrated that you’re cast as fringe characters?
Hoffman: It’s never really frustrating. I don’t judge the characters I play nearly as harshly as the people who watch them. I don’t see them as so fringy. But I guess you’re right. I’ve played a lot of people who live on the outside of things. The great thing about playing Capote is he was on the outside of things, but on the inside of everything. He was the it guy, the center of the party and attention. he was rubbing shoulders with Gore Vidal, Normal Mailer, and George Plimpton, for God’s sake, and riding on yachts and hanging out with Babe Paley. This isn’t Allen [the serial masturbator] from Happiness.
Musto: But I bet Capote made some obscene calls.
Hoffman: Yeah, to reviewers that did him wrong!
— Michael Musto interviewing Philip Seymour Hoffman, Out Magazine, 2005
"When Hoffman was in a movie, you knew there would be at least one thing to recommend it—usually more than one, because he tended to choose oddball, interesting projects and, when they were less than perfect, to elevate them with the commitment and craft his presence always ensured. He could turn a small part in a dumb movie into a Bonsai-scale character portrait (cf. the gonzo weather nerd he played in 1996’s Twister, a ridiculous action thriller that I secretly adore, in large part because of the glee with which PSH sells its demented tornado-chasing premise). When he had a small part in a good movie, like the lovelorn, closeted, painfully needy Scotty in Boogie Nights, you left the theater remembering him as one of the film’s key players no matter how many lines his character had. And when he got a crack at a great leading role—Willy Loman, Truman Capote, the Master—he could turn in a performance so definitive, so nuanced and mysterious, that it was a struggle to imagine the part ever belonging to anyone else.
He could be equally plausible as an exemplar of Falstaffian bluster (The Master, Charlie Wilson’s War) or abject self-disgust (Synecdoche, New York, Boogie Nights.) He could minister to a dying old man with the tenderest care (Magnolia) or drip with icy homophobic contempt (The Talented Mr. Ripley). He could play the famously fey Truman Capote (Capote) without queening it up. His unusual actorly physiognomy—the ruddy, transparent skin, the bulky but far from graceless body, the beetling blond eyebrows—lent itself to all manner of physical and gestural shape-shifting. But he didn’t transform in the manner of, say, a Christian Bale, by slimming down, bulking up, donning prostheses and voice filters, becoming “unrecognizable.” Rather, he sculpted his characters from the pliant clay of the voice and body he already had, making himself lumbering and clumsy in one role, sinuous and self-contained in the next.
Accomplished as he already was, Hoffman’s career nonetheless had a distinct feeling of being nearer its beginning than its end—he was the opposite of an artist in decline. It’s easy to imagine him performing into his 80s, challenging himself and surprising us in ever-different ways as he grew older, playing Winston Churchill or Falstaff or Captain Ahab or King Lear, directing and producing both for the stage and the screen, mentoring younger actors. That we’ll never get a chance to watch that lifelong creative flowering makes me want to destroy a roomful of furniture with the cold, methodical rage Hoffman’s betrayed jewel thief displayed in Sidney Lumet’s final film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. It’s a bravura moment that seems to cite the famous room-destruction scene in Citizen Kane, but with a performance that, in some ways, surpasses Welles’. For years to come—as long as I’m still around to watch movies, which right now feels like a very lucky position to be in—I’ll see other actors playing roles that should have belonged to Hoffman, and feel his loss anew.”
— Dana Stevens, “PSH, RIP,” Slate.com, Feb 3 2014
Tasha Robinson: Is there any project you’re particularly glad to hear people bring up?
Philip Seymour Hoffman: What I like is when you run into a person you might make an assumption about, and then they tell you which film of yours they like, and you’re like, “Oh really? Wow!” That’s a moment that’s very pleasurable. You meet someone and you think they’re just going to bring up Mission Impossible III, and they talk about Owning Mahowny. That’s satisfying, because then you’re affirmed about films you make that you might be proud of, that you think people aren’t seeing, or that a certain kind of people aren’t seeing. And it turns out that they are. It does have impact, and it does have this effect, it does live on. In those moments, I get affirmed, in those moments, it isn’t… These things don’t go out into the abyss of darkness, never to be seen again.
— Tasha Robinson interviewing Philip Seymour Hoffman, The A.V. Club, Sep 15 2010