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Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Human Character

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How To Bring Words Alive

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death over the weekend is one of those shocks we’re both used to and entirely powerless before. Any death is a shock, but for an actor at the peak of his powers, his sudden absence seems a stunning reversal of expectations.

I watched films where Mr. Hoffman appeared partly because of the topics and partly because he was in them. I knew his powerful portrayals would be riveting. And they were. How he could play both the higher-ed slacker David Davis in “Twister” (1996) and then authoritative but ultimately corrupted Lancaster Dodd in “The Master” (the 2012 Scientology send up) boggles my mind. His list of films and other work is extensive—far larger than I imagined.

As writers and communicators we think a lot about how to pull an audience toward and ultimately into a story or argument. It seems Mr. Hoffman’s answer to that question would be to explore the character beyond the monochrome rendering. Lancaster Dodd seemed good until he was clearly not. Doubt’s Father Brendan Flynn had diabolical layers and was a chilling portrayal given the current round of scandals. David Davis was an exact portrayal of many of the meteorology graduate students I’ve known.

Playing out the full-color, full-orbed, fully human version of a character remains an elusive goal. Fully illustrating a notion so it comes alive is something Mr. Hoffman was gifted in.

I’ll miss Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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Written by kirkistan

February 3, 2014 at 9:30 am

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