We don’t really get to pick the cultural icons for our generation. They are chosen by our vapid collective. This is why we have to endure the imbecilic bullshit of the Kardashians and the omnipresent smugness of George Clooney. But once in awhile we get it right. Once in a generation there’s a Philip Seymour Hoffman.
I was drawn to Hoffman because in many of his films he bears a striking resemblance to my younger brother. I’ve been a fan since he appeared as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. I typically choose a movie based on the story, not the actors, unless Hoffman is in it. If you’ve never seen The Savages, please do. There’s a scene in the movie where Hoffman sits down to a plate of eggs prepared by his girlfriend. Her simple kindness overwhelms him and he just begins to weep. It’s sublime.
His death is a greater loss than most will recognize. He played the losers, the outcasts, the drag queens, the morally ambiguous. We usually want a tidier star. We want Tom Cruise to save the world. We want David Beckham to take off his shirt. We want a happy ending.
It’s impossible to know the demons Hoffman battled. I pray I never have to suffer the pain of drug addiction. I’m not about to lecture those in its grip about free will and selfishness and hurtful choices. I just don’t know.
Is there a lesson in his death? I’m not sure. If there are any to be gleaned from his life it’s this: accept-even love-those who live on the periphery, who fight in the shadows, who are marginalized. Don’t fear your differences, your quirks, your fuckedupedness.
The only part we get to play is our self. Unfortunately, there’s no director, no script, no awards. As Philip Seymour Hoffman discovered, sometimes it’s the hardest role we’ll ever have.