Philip Seymour Hoffman's greatest roles

As the world mourns the celebrated actor, we pay tribute to his finest cinematic creations

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philip seymour hoffman

Yesterday, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment from a suspected drug overdose. He was 46. Already, some have heralded Hoffman as one of the greatest actors of his generation, if not the greatest. As Derek Thomas of The Atlantic notes, we all know a Daniel Day-Lewis performance when we see it: it's larger than life. Hoffman, on the other hand, was skilled at creating richly realised portraits of the outcasts and losers, whether they were dispensing life advice on how to be uncool in Almost Famous or falling into shameful and unrequited love in Boogie Nights. The Oscar-winner possessed nigh-on supernatural talents as an actor, somehow managing to disappear into each of his roles and leave nothing of himself on the surface. The world of film is a lesser place for his absence. Here, Dazed pays tribute to the actor's greatest roles. 

Lester Bangs in Almost Famous (2000)

Hoffman played the celebrated real-life Creem and Rolling Stone writer in Almost Famous, the film that made thousands of kids want to grow up to be music journalists. In most people's hands, this would have been a cliched, phoned-in portrayal of an older mentor to aspiring hack William Miller (Patrick Fugit), but not in Hoffman's. Who wouldn't want his infinitely wise, likeable Bangs to tell you how uncool you are? 

Allen in Happiness (1998)

By all rights, Hoffman's character in Todd Solondz's black comedy should be despicable. He's a heavy-breathing schlub addicted to making sexually abusive phone calls. But Hoffman's finely-tuned performance reminds us there's a little bit of Allen in all of us: delusionally hopeful, romantic in all the wrong ways and deeply lonely. 

Truman Capote in Capote (2005)

A true testament to Hoffman's skills of transformation. The 5"7 actor somehow seems to physically inhabit the body of writer Truman Capote, a tiny, diminutive and effete journalist who goes sniffing around a small town and charms everyone (murderers included) into giving him the goods for his magnum opus, In Cold Blood

Caden Cotard in Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Jury's still out on whether this film is screenwriter Charlie Kaufman at his elliptical best or his elliptical worst, but the entire film would have collapsed if not for Hoffman, who demands sympathy and attention as the deluded theatrical genius who puts on a life-changing play in the grounds of a New York-sized warehouse. 

Dean Trumbell in Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

"Shut up! Shut the fuck! Up! Shut up – will you shut, shut, shut, SHUT UP! SHUT UP! NOW. Are you threatening me, Dick?"

Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)

Hoffman stole this movie, no mean feat considering the cast includes Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Jude Law. As incorrigible snob Freddie Miles, Hoffman is only in a small part of the movie, which makes his brief appearance all the sweeter – you can pretty much smell the contempt oozing from his character in every scene he's in. 

Scotty J in Boogie Nights (1997)

We've all been there: desperately hoping against hope that some unattainable stud fancies us. Playing the mic operator helplessly crushing on porn star Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg), Hoffman channels humanity at its most love-ridden worst. 

Lancaster Dodd in The Master (2012)

This film, based on the life of L Ron Hubbard, could have gone so very, very wrong. After all, we're talking about the founder of Scientology, a science-fiction-writer-turned-prophet who believed in evil intergalactic aliens and inspired his own South Park episode. But as Lancaster Dodd, Hubbard's stand-in in the movie, Hoffman is brutally charismatic. 

Father Brendan Flynn in Doubt (2008)

It's the cinematic equivalent of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object: Meryl Streep versus Hoffman, with Streep as the prudish, uptight nun desperate to expose his cuddly Catholic priest as a vile paedophile. A masterclass in acting from two great actors. 

Brandt the butler in The Big Lebowski (1998)

Another scene-stealing performance from Hoffman as the rigidly uptight butler to the big Lebowski, the grumpy elderly millionaire who gives the movie his name. Also, the sheer awkwardness of this laugh is nothing short of genius. 

Phil Parma in Magnolia (1999)

In his third team-up with director Paul Thomas Anderson, Hoffman is the home nurse tending to a cancer-stricken television producer. It's a film about lost souls and drifters, but Hoffman plays the quiet but incorruptible moral centre of the film.  

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