Posts Tagged ‘The Master’

NewsTalk 1010: Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman dead at 46 by Siobhan Morris

Hoffman at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014
(Danny Moloshok/AP)

Critically-acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday from a suspected drug overdose.

The 46-year-old was found dead in his Greenwich Village home in New York Sunday morning. Hoffman has three children with his partner of 15 years, Mimi O’Donnell.

Sources tell the Associated Press Hoffman had a syringe stuck into his arm when he was found by a friend who called 911. There were also envelopes of heroin in the apartment. An autopsy to determine Hoffman’s cause of death is expected to take place Monday.

Hoffman spoke candidly over the years about his past struggles with addiction. After 23 years sober, he admitted to falling off the wagon with prescription pills and heroin. That led to a stint in rehab.

In a 2011 interview with the Guardian, Hoffman described his addictions as “pretty bad”. “I had no interest in drinking in moderation. And I still don’t”, he told the paper. “Just because all that time’s passed doesn’t mean maybe it was just a phase.”

Hoffman’s family released the following statement Sunday afternoon.

“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.”

Movie critic Richard Crouse told Newstalk 1010 Sunday Hoffman had “an incredibly diverse career and knocked it out of the park virtually every time.”

Hoffman won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic “Capote”. He received three nominations in the Best Supporting Actor category for The Master, Doubt and Charlie Wilson’s War.

Crouse says Hoffman brought a soulful-ness and a believability to his performances. “When you saw him on screen, there was nothing really false about it, you never really saw the acting.”

One of Hoffman’s breakthrough roles was as a gay member of a porno film crew in “Boogie Nights”, one of several movies Paul Thomas Anderson-directed movies that he would eventually appear in.

Hoffman often took on comic, slightly off-kilter roles in movies like “Along Came Polly”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Almost Famous”, in which he plays real life rock critic Lester Bangs. Crouse says Hoffman’s turn as Bangs is his favourite performance by the actor.

“He seems like such a huge part of it and he’s just such a great shining white light in the middle of this movie, even though it is a relatively small part. And that’s a testament to his talent”, says Crouse.

Hoffman was set to reprise his role as Plutarch Heavensbee in the next instalment of the “The Hunger Games” franchise, “Mockingjay. Showtime recently announced Hoffman would star in “Happyish,” a TV comedy series about a middle-aged man’s pursuit of happiness.

Crouse says in interviews, Hoffman wasn’t interested in talking about his craft as an actor, but would speak passionately about books.

Hoffman began his acting career on stage. He studied theatre 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’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Hoffman performed in revivals of “True West,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “The Seagull”, a summer production that also featured Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. In 2012, he was more than equal to one of the great roles in American theatre, Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”.

Hoffman was three times nominated for a Tony, but never won.


the-master-dvdfabIt’s impossible to deny the correlation between “The Master” and the origins of Scientology. No story about a midcentury mystic starting a religion based on sci fi could avoid the comparison, but Tom Cruise and John Travolta needn’t boycott the film. Director Paul Thomas Anderson simply uses the birth of the religion as a backdrop for a study in extreme behavior focusing on two troubled men, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix).

Quell, a WWII vet with a taste for gut rot hooch and post traumatic stress disorder drifts through life until he meets Dodd, a self described “writer, doctor, nuclear physicist, theoretical philosopher [and] hopelessly inquisitive man.” Dodd is the godhead of a new movement called The Cause aimed at maximizing human potential. His disciples, who believe his mix of sci fi and religion will rid them of past trauma, call him the Master.

Quell is invited to join the group with the welcome, “leave your worries for a while. They’ll be there when you get back. Your memories aren’t invited.” The bewildered sailor agrees, becoming a pet project for Dodd, who “processes” him to cleanse past lives and free his spirit. What follows is a beautifully choreographed ballet of loyalty, deceit and betrayal with Quell and Dodd taking turns leading the dance.

Giving away too much more isn’t fair to the movie or the viewer. The relationship between the men is complex. It’s doctor-patient, or perhaps father-son, maybe almost oedipal. It’s been suggested that Quell is a Tyler Durden character; that he doesn’t exist except as a manifestation of the rage that Dodd manages to keep in check most of the time. I don’t buy that. They may be two sides of the same coin, but they are definitely two different people.

As Quell Phoenix is a raw twitching nerve, part Brando, part Bukowski. He’s restless, disturbed and feral. The kind of man who enjoys drinking a home brew made from paint thinner, picking fights and crying when he thinks of lost love. Emotionally damaged, he’s unpredictable and Phoenix embodies him. It’s an astonishing, revelatory performance that recalls “Raging Bull” era De Niro.

As untamed as Phoenix is, Hoffman is controlled, handing in a performance brimming with confidence, power and charisma. Imagine Orson Welles as a wannabe prophet and you get the idea. He’s a charlatan with a silver tongue, a true believer who presents his wacko ideas “as a gift to homo sapiens,” and, alongside Phoenix a lock for an Oscar nomination.

The leads are joined by an impressive cast of supporting actors, notably Amy Adams as the steely wife of the Master and Laura Dern as an early disciple.

“The Master” won’t satisfy those who like their stories tied up in neat bows. It is an enigmatic story about impenetrable people; an opaque, singular experience that is best thought of as a tone poem about man’s aspirations and failures.