I've known Philip Seymour Hoffman for almost two decades. The first time we met was in 2000, when he was playing rock critic Lester Bangs for Rolling Stone's own Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous. Brilliantly, of course. Brilliant was Hoffman's default mode. I've interviewed him countless times since. For our most recent TV talk, he arrived on a bicycle, in full sweat, minus publicists and groomers. He was just Phil. What you see is what you get. "I've got to lose this damn weight somehow," he'd shrug. I'd see him with his kids (he has three), walking near his home in Greenwich Village. He was an easy talker, laughing about being in a Hunger Games movie or how his mom was coming around to supporting Hillary Clinton. Silence only fell if you told him how good he was, like playing Willy Loman onstage in Death of a Salesman. Instant shutdown. He'd tell you how good someone else was. "Did you ever see Estelle Parsons do August: Osage Country on stage? Jesus, man, she was something."
Hoffman, 46, was really something. The news of his drug-related death on Super Bowl Sunday hit me like a gut punch. Not seeing him again seems unthinkable. Hell, he was just at Sundance. My heart goes out to his family. He told me how he struggled with addiction after college, but stayed sober for decades. It was a shock last year when he entered rehab for heroin addiction. But let's remember that Hoffman's mistakes didn't make him unique, his talent did. Moments from his movies keep swirling in my head. I'm sure you have your own. Here are mine.
By Peter Travers