Philip Seymour Hoffman may not have been the best actor of his generation, but it’s hard to think of anyone who was better.

The news that he had died, and even worse, of a stupid, senseless, drug overdose, came to me via a brief cell phone check during a snack stop on a hike along North Vancouver’s Lynn River. Nothing seemed quite so exhilarating after that, and we talked about Hoffman much of the way back.

In any movie I saw that he was in, I can’t think of a scene when the superbly-gifted Hoffman wasn’t, well, basically perfect. He was a master of the acting chops.

Yet Hoffman made it with no matinee looks, no lithe, lean frame, granite jaw or great abs. Rather, he was a shuffling bear of a man with unruly hair and an often quizzical expression, who just seemed to melt into his parts. He was always in character.

I was lucky enough to have seen Hoffman on stage in New York City. He and the equally great John C. Reilly shared the main roles of 030900truewest3jmSam Shepard’s tough, riveting, often hilarious play, True West. They played two very different brothers – one hard, one soft, but both scarred victims of their dysfunctional family. Each performance, they switched brothers. Watching these gifted young actors take over the intimate theatre in such meaty roles was mesmerizing. And unforgettable.


Now, we will never have Philip Seymour Hoffman to mesmerize us again. His loss is made even more tragic by the manner of his leaving. A needle sticking out of his arm. Heroin scattered about. A goddamned drug overdose.

Hoffman had been clean and sober for 23 good, long years, only to relapse last year for who knows what reason. The agony of the addict is a daily struggle, the sweet seduction of heroin so difficult to resist. One is left to speculate whether, with more progressive drug policies, Hoffman’s deadly overdose might never have occurred.

So we are left to mourn the passing of a brilliant artist. To weep, but also to rage against the dying of the light of Philip Seymour Hoffman, lost to drugs and medieval attitudes to harm reduction. What a bloody shame. What a bloody waste.




  1. After hearing the news, I popped “Magnolia” into the machine last night. Hoffman and, as you noted, the equally great John C. Reilly anchored the story as the care givers to a group of people living and dying with the consequences of their actions and those of their parents. Hoffman disappeared in the role of a caring palliative nurse. It is so sad to see such a talent gone and for a family to loose a loved one to a drug like heroin.

    I’m thinking of watching the Big Lebowski tonight. Thanks for the post.

  2. Doing things is difficult. Acting is difficult. Writing is difficult. Living day-to-day is difficult. Human nature is immutable. Mistakes are made. Wonderful accomplishments are achieved. I can’t go on; I’ll go on.

    I like your work, Mr. Mickleburgh.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s