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Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead in his Manhattan apartment

Published February 4, 2014 9:22 am

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

New York • Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won the Oscar for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote and created a gallery of slackers, charlatans and other characters so vivid that he was regarded as one of the world's finest actors, was found dead in his apartment Sunday with what officials said was a needle in his arm. He was 46.

The actor apparently died of a drug overdose, said two law enforcement officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case. Envelopes containing what was believed to be heroin were found with him, they said.

Hoffman — with his lumpy, heavyset build, his disheveled look and his limp, receding blond hair — was a character actor of such range and lack of vanity that he could seemingly handle roles of any size, on the stage and in movies that played in art houses or multiplexes.

He could play comic or dramatic, loathsome or sympathetic, trembling or diabolical, dissipated or tightly controlled, slovenly or immaculate.

The stage-trained actor's rumpled naturalism brought him four Academy Award nominations — for "Capote," "The Master," "Doubt" and "Charlie Wilson's War" — and three Tony nominations for his work on Broadway, including "Death of a Salesman." He was as productive as he was acclaimed, often appearing in at least two or three films a year while managing a busy life in the theater.

Hoffman spoke candidly over the years about his past struggles with drug addiction. After 23 years sober, he admitted in interviews last year to falling off the wagon and developing a heroin problem that led to a stint in rehab.

"No words for this. He was too great and we're too shattered," said Mike Nichols, who directed Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Death of a Salesman."

The law enforcement officials said Hoffman's body was discovered in a bathroom at his Greenwich Village apartment by his assistant and a friend who made the 911 call.

Late Sunday, a police crime-scene van was parked out front, and technicians carrying brown paper bags went in and out. Police kept a growing crowd of onlookers back. A single red daisy had been placed in front of the lobby door.

Hoffman's family called the news "tragic and sudden." Hoffman is survived by his partner of 15 years, Mimi O'Donnell, and their three children.

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

Tributes poured in from other Hollywood figures.

"Damn, We Lost Another Great Artist," Spike Lee, who directed him in "25th Hour," said on Twitter.

Kevin Costner said in an AP interview: "Philip was a very important actor and really takes his place among the real great actors. It's a shame. Who knows what he would have been able to do? But we're left with the legacy of the work he's done and it all speaks for itself."

Hoffman was a spoiled prep school student in one of his earliest movies, "Scent of a Woman" in 1992. One of his breakthrough roles came as a gay member of a porno film crew in "Boogie Nights," one of several films directed by Paul Thomas Anderson that he would eventually appear in.

He played comic, slightly off-kilter characters in movies like "Along Came Polly," "The Big Lebowski" and "Almost Famous." And in "Moneyball," he was Art Howe, the grumpy manager of the Oakland Athletics who resisted new thinking about baseball talent.

He was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in "The Master" as the charismatic, controlling leader of a religious movement. The film, inspired in part by the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, reunited the actor with Anderson.

He also received a 2009 best-supporting nomination for "Doubt," as a priest who comes under suspicion because of his relationship with a boy, and another best-supporting nomination as a CIA officer in "Charlie Wilson's War."

Many younger moviegoers know him as Plutarch Heavensbee in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," and he was reprising that role in the two-part sequel, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay," for which his work was mostly completed.

Lionsgate, which distributes the adaptations of Suzanne Collins' multimillion-selling novels, called his death a tragedy and praised him as a "singular talent." The last two "Hunger Games" movies are scheduled for release in November 2014 and November 2015.

Just weeks ago, Showtime announced Hoffman would star in "Happyish," a new comedy series about a middle-aged man's pursuit of happiness.

Born in 1967 in Fairport, N.Y., Hoffman was an athletic boy, but a neck injury suffered while wrestling ended any hopes of a career in sports. He soon became interested in acting, mesmerized at 12 by a local production of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons."

He studied theater as a teenager with the New York State Summer School of the Arts and the Circle in the Square Theatre. He then majored in drama at New York University.