John Y. Brown, III: R.I.P. Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Phillip Seymour Hoffman mesmerized me every time his character walked onto the screen.

He was, in my opinion, one of the greatest actors in my lifetime, and I am sad he is gone from us.

He died of a drug overdose with a needle stuck in his arm at the young age of 46.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman in addition to being one of our greatest artists was also a garden variety drug addict who got help in his early 20s and stayed clean for 23 years before falling of the wagon last year.

He thought he could pull off the performance of a lifetime by using drugs again even though he was an addict.

All addicts are actors, of course. They have to be to juggle their double-life until they get help or time runs out.

And that applies to even one of the very greatest actors among us. And today time ran out on him.

I am sad Phillip Seymour Hoffman died. I never got to meet him but he meant something to me. My heart went out to him every time he appeared on screen. His presence would remind me of something missing in me and I would be reassured that I would be alright since he seemed to be.

But that scary something missing in him –and missing in so many of us–can sometimes get the best of us. If we don’t know what to try to fill that void with.


My favorite role ever for Phillip Seymour Hoffman was, ironically, Owning Mahowny, based on a true story about a mild-mannered banker who is a gambling addict who stealthily gambles away $22M he embezzles.

He gets clean in the end and in the final scene with a therapist is asked, “How would you rate the thrill you got from gambling on a scale of 1-100?”  Mahowny (Hoffman’s character) answers, “100.”

Then the therapist asks “And what about the biggest thrill you’ve had outside of gambling?” Mahowny answers “20.”

The therapist then asks the deadeningly piercing question all addicts, I believe, have to ask themselves, “How do you feel about living the rest of your life with a max of 20?” Hoffman answers resignedly, “OK. 20 is OK.”

Apparently, Hoffman answered his own version of that question with an “OK” for 23 years. Until “20” –or whatever the number was for him– was no longer enough.

I felt Hoffman’s performance as a gambling addict was Oscar-worthy. Better than even James Caan in The Gambler, which I thought was impossible to ever top.

Perhaps because Hoffman knew his character too well.

Here is the movie trailer followed below by the final scene:


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