At the beginning of this month, Philip Seymour Hoffman had two films in the can — Anton Corbijn’s thriller A Man Wanted and the crime drama God’s Pocket — and plans to appear in the next two Hunger Games films. He was preparing to star in a Showtime series, Happyish, and to direct Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal in Ezekiel Moss. He was primed to launch into the next phase of his already-brilliant career. “He wanted to be done with playing the sad-sack loser, the guy who’s jerking off,” his close friend, the playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, says.
But all those plans went to dust on Sunday, February 2nd. That morning, Mimi O’Donnell, Hoffman’s longtime partner and mother of their three children, texted David Bar Katz, another one of Hoffman’s playwright friends, because the actor hadn’t shown up to pick up their kids. Katz went to Hoffman’s temporary apartment, where he’d been living for a few months after falling off the wagon, two blocks away from his family’s home. That’s where he found a generation’s most brilliant actor — dead in the bathroom, a needle in his left arm.
Hoffman’s closest friends and colleagues remember the greatest actor of a generation in the new issue of Rolling Stone (on stands Friday), telling contributing editor David Browne intimate stories about an actor who “played those characters so well because he knew about guilt and shame and suffering,” as one friend said. Here are five revelations from the story:
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Hoffman’s Death Didn’t Come at the End of a “Downward Spiral”
The actor’s closest confidants say if anything, “he was on an upward spiral,” as Katz tells us. Hoffman “believed you don’t have to die with a needle in your arm to be a great artist,” Guirgis says. The actor was still immersed in his craft with an intensity that could intimidate his castmates.
Playing Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman Changed Hoffman
“That play tortured him,” says Katz, and close friends say Hoffman wasn’t the same after he threw himself into playing the tragic character — breaking into tears nightly — on Broadway in 2012. “He was miserable throughout that entire run. No matter what he was doing, he knew that a 8:00 that night he’d do that to himself again,” Katz says. “If you keep doing that on a continual basis, it rewires your brain, and he was doing that to himself every night.”
Ethan Hawke Never Saw Hoffman Take a Drink Until Salesman
Not long after that production, Hoffman told a friend he had been sober for so long — 23 years — that he felt he could risk drinking again “in moderation.” But by the next spring he’d checked himself into rehab.
Friends Say Hoffman’s Final Bender Wasn’t a Suicidal Streak, But a Relapse Turned Deadly
“The addiction was always trying to find a way back in, and it started with the idea that the kid was an addict, and now he’s an adult with incredible willpower,” says Katz. (Hoffman checked himself into rehab at 22 after spending college at NYU partying hard). “He was a guy in his midforties who said to himself, ‘I never had a drink in my adult life.’ So maybe the adult thought he could handle it.”
Friends Dispute the Police Report
Cops reported finding around 50 small bags of heroin in Hoffman’s apartment, some used and some unopened. “I don’t believe those reports, because I was there,” Katz tells us. “I didn’t go through his drawers, but I’d never known Phil to put anything in a drawer. He’d always put it on the floor. Phil was a bit of a slob.”
Also in this issue: Matt Taibbi on Wall Street’s most devious scam yet, Jonah Weiner hangs with Drake at the YOLO estate, Mikal Gilmore remembers Pete Seeger, Brian Hiatt profiles Seth Meyers as he prepared to take over Jimmy Fallon’s desk, and more.
Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, February 14th.