Philip Seymour Hoffman Top Ten Roles PDF Print E-mail

by Wolf Gang

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a prolific actor, director and producer. His acting credits run to 55 movies. He once famously said that acting was easy but that doing it well was altogether more difficult. Those difficulties inevitably spilled over into his private life, culminating in his early death in 2014 at the age of 50. We are left with some mesmerising cinematic portrayals from an actor whose lifetime achievements rank with the greats.

1) His most celebrated performance was in Capote (2005). His portrayal of the troubled writer Truman Capote saw him honoured with an Oscar, a Golden Globe, Screen Actors’ Guild Award and BAFTA. Psychological trauma was a Hoffman speciality and Capote was his high water mark.

2) In only his second lead role - Owning Mahowny (2003) - his ability to express the intensity of anguish was established as a notable trait. Owning Mahowny may turn up more often in casino movie quiz lists than anywhere else but it is remains more than watchable for the mesmeric brilliance of Hoffman’s performance.

3) His biggest box office role was Mission Impossible III where he was credited with bringing gravitas and weight to an otherwise lightweight, formulaic production. Even so, $400 million at the box office put Hoffman firmly on Hollywood’s A list.

4) Earlier, Hoffman’s supporting roles had seen him grow in range and reputation. His stand out early performance came in Boogie Nights (1997). This was a celebration - if that’s the right expression - of the 1970s porn industry. It was here that he definitively turned to the darker side of characterisation.

5) The huge success of the Cohen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski owed a major debt to Hoffman’s support play. The film has of course gone on to become a cult classic but it is worth revisiting simply to appreciate the subtlety of Hoffman’s support work. He never quite steals the show - which is how it should be - but it certainly wouldn’t be the same without him.

6) Hoffman received another Golden Globe nomination for his performance in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead – which was director Sidney Lumet’s final work in 2011. If Hoffman specialised in unpleasant, hard to forgive characters, this, a depiction of a drug dependant fraudster, was possibly the defining role of his entire career.

7) Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) saw him in scintillating form. His role as a geo-political huckster earned him another glut of award nominations, including for the Oscar for best supporting actor and the Golden Globe and BAFTA equivalents.

8) In 2008, Hoffman divided critics with his performance in Charlie Kaufman’s off-beat Synecdoche, New York. Some loved it, some were baffled by it. All were struck by the intensity of Hoffman’s commitment to a part that was, perhaps typically, fearless in the way it opened up the less appealing aspects of his character.


9) Another Academy nomination followed for Doubt (2008), in which he played opposite Meryl Streep. If anyone doubted Hoffman’s stomach for difficult issues, his portrayal of a priest accused of historical child abuse dispelled all doubts. This was an actor who dared to explore depths that few others would dare to even contemplate.

10) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2012) saw Hoffman introduced to a whole new generation of filmgoers. Sadly, his work in the follow up The Hunger Games: Mockingjay was his last major role before his death. His legacy is a hugely powerful series of characters that have an artistic resonance that means even more than the huge box office returns those films enjoyed.