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Philip Seymour Hoffman: An actor of uncommon subtlety and grace

Philip Seymour Hoffman at the 69th Venice Film

Philip Seymour Hoffman at the 69th Venice Film Festival on September 1 , 2012 Photo Credit: Getty Images

When it's practiced at the highest level, acting is more than a craft or a profession. It's a spiritual pursuit, really, offering a window into our collective soul, a chance to intimately experience the world from a perspective that's not our own.

On stage and on screen, in a remarkable career spanning more than two decades, Philip Seymour Hoffman embodied that higher purpose. He had a special talent for drawing out the subtleties in complicated figures, imbuing parts such as Truman Capote ("Capote," for which he won an Oscar), a priest suspected of an unspeakable crime ("Doubt") and a charismatic cult leader ("The Master") with a common humanity that forced us to consider and re-consider what we thought we knew.

On screen, he could be funny and terrifying; bawdy and morose; wickedly smart and poignantly vulnerable. His stage career was no less accomplished: His LAByrinth Theater Company is a pillar of the downtown theater scene and he earned multiple Tony and Drama Desk nominations.

Hoffman was an extraordinary collaborator. Stories abound of his generosity on sets and his eagerness to share his perspective with his A-list peers and up-and-coming actors. His commitment to the art of storytelling never wavered and consequently he's destined to be remembered among the giants of his profession.

The best way to think about Philip Seymour Hoffman, then, is to remember what he told The New York Times Magazine in 2008 about what he looked for in a part:

"... when a writer can deftly describe the human experience in a way that you didn't think could even be put into words. That doesn't happen often, but it gives me something to play inside. Too much of the time our culture fears subtlety. They really want to make sure you get it. And when subtlety is lost, I get upset."


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