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Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rachel McAdams in "A Man Most Wanted." Courtesy Sundance Institute
Hoffman superior spy in ‘A Most Wanted Man’
First Published Jan 23 2014 09:30 am • Last Updated Jan 23 2014 09:30 am

Park City • Philip Seymour Hoffman’s new movie is a psychological thriller about terrorism, but he says it also has something to do with hitting a midlife crisis — and that’s what really drew him to the role.

"The story really moved me," said Hoffman.

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"A Most Wanted Man," based on John Le Carre’s 2008 book, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last weekend, with Hoffman playing a German operative heading up an anti-terrorism team in Hamburg, Germany.

Hoffman recalls reading it a long time ago and being draw to "everything about it."

"There is something about that story that spoke to me about where I am now in my life, though it’s not something I could really put into words," he said. "I read it and saw myself in it somehow. It’s about being in the middle of your life. It’s as much a story about that, than all of the other things. It’s about a man really confronted with what he’s passionate about pursuing and what that’s done to him."

The Anton Corbijn-directed film focuses on a Chechen-Russian immigrant, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who’s on the run in post-9/11 Hamburg, Germany. Hoffman, as spy Gunther Bachmann, develops Islamic sources. He believes Issa could guide him to more powerful culprits.

Taking a benevolent approach when examining the counterterrorist profession and those thought to be suspects, the film also stars Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright and Willem Dafoe.

"The story is such a tangled web and is very relevant," said McAdams, also at Sundance to promote the film. "I learned a lot about what human rights lawyers are doing in Hamburg and what a difficult position they are in. There are realities to the story that are very disturbing. Every character is dealing with moral questions. That stays with you."

After appearing in over 50 movies, 46-year-old Hoffman says working on "A Most Wanted Man" was one of the most satisfying movie-making experiences he’s had.

"Far more than most films I’ve done," he says. "These espionage-ish stories tend to get lost and I wanted people to be surprised emotionally. Everyone was on board with making this story believable, meaningful and human."

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