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Millennium Post

The actor prepares an exit, unprepared

Like David Foster Wallace, the last ‘great American novelist’ with a breadth, depth and scope surpassing any other of his generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman died at 46, suddenly. And with that the actor penned and enacted the last scene of his stupendous career on and off screen, all the while battling depression, addiction and a lethal passion for his art. Hoffman, who would have been an ideal choice to portray the chronic emotional distress of a contemporary artist like Wallace’s, the unimaginable trauma of recognising the everyday anomie of the human condition, yet also the quintessentially American phenomenon of serialised and broadcasted atrophy – hospitalisations, rehabs, therapies strung along routine acting and its myriad convulsive epiphanies – has mirrored the author in death. Consumed by their burning passion and search for depth, they have stumbled upon the ultimate detox – death itself.

If Hollywood’s shocked excesses of posthumous eulogies are anything to go by, Hoffman, discovered dead in his New York City apartment after having succumbed to a drug overdose, is perhaps someone who has compulsively awed his filmic fraternity with his casual brilliance, taking on roles and transforming them with every fibre of his ample body, flouting Hollywood’s cardinal rules of rugged handsomeness or groomed plastic perfection. Hoffman had been uncategorisable, whether it’s Magnolia, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous, The Ides of March, Charlie Wilson’s War, Moneyball or even the latest blockbuster The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In fact, Hoffman’s flab had a screen presence of its own, yet it was for portraying the elfin Truman Capote that Hoffman won his much deserved Oscar, reveling in contradiction and biting irony as always. In an industry which ritually favours the meticulous method of a Daniel Day-Lewis who humanises king-size characters, Hoffman made large the bit-size ordinary bloke, impressing with the unimpressive, revolting with a shrug. His guttural, bearish embrace of life was also a waiting upon death. An actor, he prepared for his last act of an unprepared exit.
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