Celebrity deaths rarely make an impact on me. It’s not that I’m heartless or unsympathetic to the family of the departed, but the passing of someone I never met is more often a curiosity or bit of information than a moment of reflection and mourning. There are exceptions, of course. I felt a profound sense of loss when Roger Ebert passed away last spring, and it seemed as though the whole world was filled was sad reminders of that fact for days and days. Similarly, I will spend this week being quietly reminded that Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent drug overdose on Sunday morning in New York City.
The news itself staggered me this afternoon. I was helping my wife make lunch when Travis texted me the news, and I ran to the computer to confirm. It seemed impossible that a man who was still so young, only 46 at his passing, with decades of more great performances waiting, should be gone so suddenly. The sad details of his struggles with drug addiction and the young family left behind will make for a lot of tabloid fodder. Personally, I didn’t know the man and can only be sympathetic about such things from a distance. What I wanted to write about for The Recorder is what I know Phillip Seymour Hoffman as: an actor of the highest order who improved every project he was in through his sheer talent.