The late, greatly lamented Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Baxter Harris, in 1992's Scent of a Woman.
Stunned, shocked, depressed. He was not supposed to go this young. I confess I was not aware that he had a drug problem, so this news came completely out of left field to me.
What can one say about Philip Seymour Hoffman that hasn't been said a million times before? It's a banality to say that he is almost always the most vivid, interesting, surprising, intense, and entertaining thing in any movie that he appears in. A banality, but also true.
With the exception of his Oscar-winning turn in Capote, Hoffman wasn't a particularly transformative actor; his external mannerisms tended to be much the same from role to role, although his singular achievement was to bend those mannerisms to a wide spectrum of different personalities and stations in life. Whether playing a snotty private-school kid (Scent of a Woman), a repressed homosexual porn film technician (Boogie Nights), an ethically flexible businessman trying to keep his life from flying to pieces (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead), or a hyper-competent and socially maladjusted CIA operative (Charlie Wilson's War), Hoffman took his peculiarly dyspeptic temperament, his rapid-patter basso profundo voice that seemed sometimes to get lost between his diaphragm and his larynx before reaching his lips, and his flittering distrustful gaze, and made them absolutely appropriate for that character in that moment in that movie.
It is not the slightest exaggeration to say that, in terms of sheer on-screen incandescence, Hoffman is worthy to be ranked alongside Cagney, Brando, Dean, Pacino, and De Niro.
Hoffman's death is an incalculable loss to movies. I'm trying to temper my sadness at the contemplation of what he will not give us in the next thirty years, with appreciation of the tremendous value of what he did give us in the previous twenty. But it's damned hard to do that right now.