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This story first appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When Philip Seymour Hoffman appeared at the American Film Market in 1999, he was almost famous. In the 10 years since his graduation from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1989, the actor had alternated theater roles with memorable turns in such indie films as Boogie Nights and The Big Lebowski and was building a following as one of the industry’s finest supporting actors.
But 1999 would see Hoffman give the likes of Robert De Niro and Matt Damon a run for their money with indelible character portrayals in three consecutive releases: Magnolia, in which he played an emotional hospice nurse; Flawless, where he took on the role of a drag queen in an unlikely friendship with De Niro’s New York City policeman; and The Talented Mr. Ripley, as an upper-class snob whose identity is stolen by Damon.
The then-32-year-old caught the attention of Hollywood with his ability to turn a minor role into a grand performance and give an honest voice to even the most dysfunctional of characters. “Phil was able to bring people alive from all walks of life,” William Horberg, producer of The Talented Mr. Ripley, tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Just a few years later, Hoffman would play the lead in his old friend Bennett Miller‘s Capote (the two had met as teenagers at the New York State Summer School of the Arts), earning him an Oscar for best actor in 2006.
By the time of his death this past February at age 46 from an accidental drug overdose, the actor had accumulated three more Academy Award nominations for supporting roles and left a permanent mark on Hollywood that wasn’t dependent on screen time.
“Whether it was the two minutes he gave in Ripley or the two hours he gave in Synecdoche, he gave his characters unforgettable moments in movies,” says Horberg. “He was immediately someone we knew was going to be the defining actor of his generation.”
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