The world of cinema mourns. I feel terrible today, like I lost my best friend.
“In my mid-20s, an actor told me, ‘Acting ain’t no puzzle,’ ” Hoffman said, after returning to his seat. “I thought: ‘Ain’t no puzzle?!?’ You must be bad!” He laughed. “You must be really bad, because it is a puzzle. Creating anything is hard. It’s a cliché thing to say, but every time you start a job, you just don’t know anything. I mean, I can break something down, but ultimately I don’t know anything when I start work on a new movie. You start stabbing out, and you make a mistake, and it’s not right, and then you try again and again. The key is you have to commit. And that’s hard because you have to find what it is you are committing to.”
“I remember seeing Philip in ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,’ ” Streep told me. “He played a rich, spoiled snob, and I sat up straight in my seat and said, ‘Who is that?’ I thought to myself: My God, this actor is fearless. He’s done what we all strive for — he’s given this awful character the respect he deserves, and he’s made him fascinating.”
“I knew that it would be great, but I still took the role kicking and screaming,” Hoffman said now, as he ordered sticky pudding for desert. “Playing Capote took a lot of concentration. I prepared for four and a half months. I read and listened to his voice and watched videos of him on TV. Sometimes being an actor is like being some kind of detective where you’re on the search for a secret that will unlock the character. With Capote, the part required me to be a little unbalanced, and that wasn’t really good for my mental health. It was also a technically difficult part. Because I was holding my body in a way it doesn’t want to be held and because I was speaking in a voice that my vocal cords did not want to do, I had to stay in character all day. Otherwise, I would give my body the chance to bail on me.”
“I don’t know how he does it,” Mike Nichols, who has directed Hoffman on the stage (“The Seagull”) and in movies (“Charlie Wilson’s War”), told me later. “Again and again, he can truly become someone I’ve not seen before but can still instantly recognize. Sometimes Phil loses some weight, and he may dye his hair but, really, it’s just the same Phil, and yet, he’s never the same person from part to part. Last year, he did three films — ‘The Savages,’ ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ and ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’ — and in each one he was a distinct and entirely different human. It’s that humanity that is so striking — when you watch Phil work, his entire constitution seems to change. He may look like Phil, but there’s something different in his eyes. And that means he’s reconstituted himself from within, willfully rearranging his molecules to become another human being.”
I have commitment issues.
I need to follow through.