Note: Some of the video clips featured below contain foul language and may be NSFW.
The first movie I ever watched Philip Seymour Hoffman act in was Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights. In the film he played Scotty, a quiet, gentle man who worked sound on Jack Horner's (Burt Reynolds) porn films. Like so many of Hoffman's roles over the years, Scotty was struggling with his own demons; in love with a male porn star (Mark Wahlberg) who embodied everything he wasn't, and unable to piece together the appropriate parts to make him whole. He was a rejected soul; a loner. A man no one completely understood because he didn't really understand himself.
Scotty wasn't the first character Hoffman played for Anderson; their longtime collaboration began on Anderson's first film, Hard Eight, where Hoffman played a loudmouth casino craps player. They met in that Reno casino during Hoffman's only day of filming, but would later strike up a friendship that would lead to Hoffman portraying characters in five of Anderson's six movies, with There Will Be Blood being the one exception. "There just wasn't a part for me," Hoffman explained in the ABC interview featured below. Nevertheless, these two formed an on-screen bond that would span almost two decades, giving us one memorable performance after another.
When I look back at the career of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I recognize roles in movies that will always be admired among fans (specifically his brief part in Almost Famous, which will forever speak to the "uncool" of the world), but I will always return to the movies of Paul Thomas Anderson for what I feel represents the very best of his work as an actor. A wide-ranging cornucopia of intense men who all expressed their feelings in unique, agonizing ways.
And with the exception of his stunning take on the leader of a philosophical movement with shifty motives in The Master, Hoffman didn't spend a whole lot of time in Anderson's movies, mainly playing supporting characters who'd linger just long enough to leave their mark. He bookended his softer, quieter, more intimate roles in Boogie Nights and Magnolia with these jerks who were completely full of themselves in Hard Eight and Punch-Drunk Love. It's almost as if his final PTA performance in The Master was this culmination of all his PTA performances all rolled up inside one character who's at times caring and sincere, and then completely unwieldy ("pig f*ck!").
Anderson brought out the best in Hoffman, and vice versa. Their relationship on-screen and off revealed the true power of collaboration in cinema, not just because it lead to some great movies, but also because it highlights the importance of loyalty in any friendship. The notion that you're there for another person; that you're willing to give yourself over to their vision, no matter where it takes you.
Here's the tiniest taste of their friendship in this clip, which features Hoffman and Anderson sharing a laugh on the set of Magnolia.
Also, upon release of The Master, Hoffman sat down with ABC to talk about his relationship with Anderson over the years.
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