Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead in New York City home: Oscar-winning actor dies, aged 46, from 'apparent drug overdose'


David Usborne
Monday 03 February 2014 04:00 GMT
Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, was found dead in his New York City apartment
Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, was found dead in his New York City apartment (Getty)

Philip Seymour Hoffman, the award-winning actor and director whose range and accomplishment was the envy of all his peers, was found dead in his fourth floor West Village apartment in Manhattan on Sunday aged 46.

While no official cause of death was offered, New York Police said his death was likely caused by a drugs overdose. Several media outlets also cited anonymous sources saying that the 46-year-old actor had been found on the floor of his bathroom by his friend David Bar Katz shortly before noon with a needle sticking out of his arm.

"I saw him last week, and he was clean and sober, his old self," Mr Katz, a playwright, told the New York Times. "I really thought this chapter was over."

Police later confirmed in a statement that Hoffman was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor of his Greenwich Village apartment after officers responded to a 911 call.

CNN, citing a law enforcement official, reported that the actor was last seen alive at 8pm on Saturday and had been expected to pick up his children on Sunday but failed to show up.

Officials also told The Associated Press that envelopes containing what was believed to be heroin were also found with the actor.

Mr Hoffman was a favourite among audiences worldwide for his work in films beginning with his break-out role in the 1997 film Boogie Nights. He won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as the writer Truman Capote in the 2005 film Capote. Through his career he was also nominated for a Best Supporting Actor three times.

But he was also a strong force in the New York theatre scene, starring for instance in a 2012 Broadway production of Death of a Salesman and directing others including, In Arabia, We’d All be Kings in 1999. He was also a regular presence in theatre stalls around the city as he took in the works of his fellow directors and actors.

Police sources confirmed his death early in the afternoon. The screenwriter was also a personal friend who had become concerned when he had been unable to reach him by telephone. He found his body at roughly 11.45 am at home in a luxury apartment building on Bethune Street in the West Village and immediately called emergency services. His body was still in the apartment as the investigation into its circumstances began.

Last year, Mr Hoffman had publicly revealed that he had admitted himself into rehab for ten days in May for treatment for heroin abuse. He also spoke in interviews at the time of having "fallen off the wagon" after remaining free of drugs for 23 years after earlier struggles with addiction. Only on Saturday, his press relations team was forced to issue a denial of an internet report that he had died that day, asserting that it was a hoax.

He leaves behind his partner of 15 years, Mimi O'Donnell, and their three children.

Seymour Hoffman's family said in a statement: "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone.

"This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving. Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers."

Comedian and actor Steve Martin paid tribute by praising Seymour Hoffman’s 2012 Broadway performance in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. He said: "Shocked to hear of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death. If you missed him as Willy Loman, you missed a Willy Loman for all time."

Hollywood star Jim Carrey said: "Dear Philip, a beautiful beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart."

"A truly kind, wonderful man. One of our greatest actors – ever," the actress Mia Farrow said on Twitter. The music star and actor Justin Timberlake said that he was "devastated" by the news. "What an amazingly gifted actor. RIP," he tweeted.

Jeff Bridges, who starred with him in The Big Lebowski , wrote on Facebook: "I'm so shocked, and so sad hearing of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death. I enjoyed playing with him on the Big Lebowski. He was such a wonderful guy, and so damn talented, a real treasure. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

The Screen Actors Guild Foundation, which had honoured Hoffman with awards, said: "We are saddened by the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Our deepest condolences go out to his loved ones."

A spokesman for BAFTA said: "”We’re shocked and deeply saddened to learn that Philip Seymour Hoffman has died."

One of the actor’s neighbours, who attended the same gym as him, said she regretted not inviting him to yoga classes: "I always thought I should get him to join. He looked lonely."

Fans of Mr Hoffman will have their own favourites among his multiple roles. Among his most admired were his performances in 1999’s Magnolia and The Big Lebowski, released the year before. He was also a looming presence in The Master, released in 2012 and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, as the manipulative leader of a religious cult. Also in his repertoire was the role of Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr Ripley from 1999.

The news of Mr Hoffman’s death spread sorrow through New York City on a day that was meant to be about the Super Bowl about to be played just across the Hudson River in New Jersey. For some film-goers it elicited instant memories of the passing in 2008 of Australian-born Heath Ledger from a drug overdose in an apartment only few blocks away in the SoHo neighbourhood. Mr Ledger was only 29 years old.

Not built like your regular Hollywood heartthrob, the stocky and sandy-haired Mr Seymour’s extraordinary talent and the empathy he drew from his audiences meant he never starved for attention from studios and casting agents. Nor did he necessarily scorn pulp blockbusters, taking the part of Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which he was due to repeat in a two-part sequel, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, now in the works. He also worked in Moneyball, as Art Howe, the grumpy manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.

Mr Hoffman, who was born in Fairport, in upstate New York, caught the acting bug at an early age, studying the art as a teen at the New York State Summer School of the Arts and the Circle in the Square Theatre. He also read drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Reviewing the 2012 production of Death of a Salesman, Associated Press critic Mark Kennedy said that Hoffman had been "heartbreaking" as Willy Loman, one of the iconic roles in American theatre. He went on: "Hoffman is only 44, but he nevertheless sags in his brokenness like a man closer to retirement age, lugging about his sample cases filled with his self-denial and disillusionment. His fraying connection to reality is pronounced in this production, with Hoffman quick to anger and a hard edge emerging from his babbling."

A master of screen and stage

1991 Makes film debut in 1991 as “Phil Hoffman” in the indie production Triple Bogey on a Five Par Hole.

1992 Gets his break in a first major cinematic release playing George Willis Jnr in Scent of a Woman.

1997 Breakthrough role as Scotty Jnr, the film boom operator in Boogie Nights.

1998 Plays Brandt, the worshipful assistant to the other Lebowski in The Big Lebowksi.

1999 Performs alongside Tom Cruise as the nurse Phil Parma in Magnolia and in the same year Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr Ripley.

2000 Wins Tony Award for the role of Austin in the True West play on Broadway.

2003 Wins Tony Award for James Tyrone Jnr in Long Day’s Journey into the Night on Broadway.

2005 Wins Oscar for Best Actor for the part of Truman Capote in the biographical film Capote.

2007 Academy Award nomination for best supporting role after playing CIA operative Gust Avrakotos in Charlie Wilson’s War.

2008 Academy Award nomination for best supporting role as Father Brendan Flynn in Doubt.

2008 He plays the lead role of Caden Cotard in the drama Synecdoche, New York.

2010 Makes feature film directorial debut with Jack Goes Boating.

2011 Plays manager of Oakland Athletics, Art Howe, in Money Ball.

2012 Another Academy Award nomination for best supporting role as Lancaster Dodd in The Master.

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