Read & Watch Cameron Crowe's Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman
"That's what great art is about! Guilt and longing, and you know love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love..." We lost a very strong voice in cinema over the weekend, a beloved actor with so many memorable performances in his filmography, with films from directors of all caliber (read Ethan's full look back here). Early in his career Philip Seymour Hoffman took a role working with Cameron Crowe, who directed him in his semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous as small time rock journalist Lester Bangs. It may not be his most unforgettable role, but it is a good one in an outstanding film. At his recent death, Crowe wrote a very moving and brief tribute to Hoffman in a memo on his official site. "I'm always home, I'm uncool!"
Here's the letter in full by Cameron Crowe from The Uncool, along with two photos from Almost Famous.
My original take on this scene was a loud, late night pronouncement from Lester Bangs. A call to arms. In Phil's hands it became something different. A scene about quiet truths shared between two guys, both at the crossroads, both hurting, and both up too late. It became the soul of the movie. In between takes, Hoffman spoke to no one. He listened only to his headset, only to the words of Lester himself. (His Walkman was filled with rare Lester interviews.) When the scene was over, I realized that Hoffman had pulled off a magic trick. He'd leapt over the words and the script, and gone hunting for the soul and compassion of the private Lester, the one only a few of us had ever met. Suddenly the portrait was complete. The crew and I will always be grateful for that front row seat to his genius.
Thanks to the joys of the internet, we can embed the actual scene from Almost Famous he is referring to:
For more video tributes to Philip Seymour Hoffman and his tremendous acting career, watch this one by Nelson Carvajal and yet another one by Movie Mezzanine. Or just watch one of his many, many great films.
As Hoffman has worked with so many different people over so many years, numerous filmmakers and colleagues have spoken out about him. A Most Wanted Man director Anton Corbijn wrote a whole piece for The Guardian; Charlie Wilson's War and Death of a Salesman director Mike Nichols: "No words for this. He was too great and we're too shattered." Indeed. Even Robert De Niro (via BBC News) spoke up about his friend: "I'm very, very saddened by the passing of Phil. He was a wonderful actor. This is one of those times where you say: 'This just shouldn't be'." It means something that others speak so highly of him, and I'm more than happy to feature more praise for Philip Seymour Hoffman. Said best by Lester Bangs, "the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool."