February 26, 2014 8:26am PT by Hilary Lewis
Philip Seymour Hoffman Friend Says Actor 'Was Not a Partier,' 'Not Self-Destructive in Any Way' (Video)
Philip Seymour Hoffman's friend, playwright David Bar Katz, is speaking out about the late actor, whom Bar Katz found dead in his Greenwich Village apartment.
Although Hoffman was found with a needle sticking out of his arm and surrounded by several envelopes of heroin, used and unused syringes and prescription drugs, Bar Katz says reports that made it seem like the actor was partying and descending into a spiral of drug addiction are not accurate.
"I think a lot of this has been totally overblown," Bar Katz said on CNN's New Day on Wednesday. "It gives a false picture of him, because he was focused. He was working. He was focused on his family. He was not a partier. He was not someone that was in a spiral. He was not self-destructive in any way … Phil was not that guy."
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Bar Katz emphasized that Hoffman had been sober for many years.
"I know that he was rigorously sober most of his adult life, and that this unfortunately was just one relapse at this time," Bar Katz told CNN's Chris Cuomo. "But he maintained his sobriety and helped so many other people maintain theirs. And that's who he was. And that's what he did."
Bar Katz said Hoffman's family was "doing the best they can," adding, "Everyone's just focusing on taking care of everyone."
Bar Katz also discussed his settlement with the National Enquirer, which printed a false story saying that he and Hoffman were gay lovers and that Bar Katz had seen Hoffman freebase cocaine the night before his death and that he'd seen Hoffman use heroin. After Bar Katz quickly filed a $50 million lawsuit against the publication, it was reported Tuesday that the two sides had reached a settlement.
Bar Katz told CNN that he filed the lawsuit after coverage of the Enquirer's story got out of hand.
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"When it blew up, and it was like, this is now becoming this story and I was being chased by photographers and it became a thing where I unfortunately had to deal with it in the midst of dealing with more important things," he said. "And that's when -- luckily, I was friends with someone that's the kind of person that handles this sort of thing. And we did the lawsuit and forced the Enquirer to admit that they totally screwed up."
Reiterating what Bar Katz and his lawyer told The New York Times, the playwright confirmed that the Enquirer spoke to the wrong David Katz, who fed them the erroneous story. Bar Katz told New Day that the Enquirer realized pretty quickly that they spoke to the wrong person.
Bar Katz is using the settlement funds to launch the American Playwriting Foundation in Hoffman's honor, with the Enquirer taking out an ad in Wednesday's New York Times to apologize for their error and announce that they're awarding a gift of $45,000 annually to a playwright to make an unproduced play. Bar Katz said his decision to establish the foundation was created out of him thinking about what Hoffman would want.
"Well, you know, through this process, I'm constantly dealing with what would Phil want? You know, Phil's voice in my head," Bar Katz said on New Day. And so how can I do something out of this that he would like? And Phil loved theater and loved playwrights and loved plays, so creating a foundation that is dedicated to his spirit, and an award that allows plays to be written that wouldn't maybe otherwise be written because it gives playwrights, that are generally a disenfranchised group, some money so they can focus on writing."
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As for what the Enquirer's apology and donations to the foundation mean to him, Bar Katz said, "All it really means is I'm happy that this changes the way they do business so other people don't have to go through this. And I'm happy that some playwrights are going to get something out of this. Obviously, using the word 'happy' about any of this is, like, in 10 years from now when some plays that wouldn't have been written maybe are, I can talk in those terms, because I'm pretty miserable about every aspect of it. But I really didn’t know what else to do."
Bar Katz also revealed that after losing another friend of his (and Hoffman's) and a member of the Labyrinth Theater Company, Ed Vassallo, the foundation is planning to launch the Ed Vassallo Relentless Reading Series of whichever play wins the foundation's prize. The award will be called the Relentless Award, because of Hoffman's "relentless search for truth," Bar Katz said.
Watch video of Bar Katz's New Day interview below.