Friday, March 28, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman by David Bar Katz

This is sad and beautiful at the same time.

From Philip Seymour Hoffman:

"I saw Phil almost everyday as he was preparing to play Willy Loman. I am both haunted and inspired by what he did to himself for that part. Phil and I once had an argument about who owns a play more, the playwirght or the actor in the leading role. He told me that after a few months it belongs to the actor. I didn't agree with him until seeing him throw himself into DEATH OF A SALESMAN. Reading and rereading it. Scouring through everything Kazan and Miller ever wrote about it. Asking how the children of Jewish immigrants spoke English. Researching what life was like for traveling salesmen of that time.

After he wrote DEATH OF SALESMAN, Arthur Miller walked away. I don't think Phil ever did. Miller went on to write other plays. But that was Phil's last stage role. He couldn't walk away from that play because he etched it into himself so powerfully that its drama and his own were forged together so that when Willy Loman bled, it was with Phil's blood.

He trudged to that theatre every night in dread. Like a prophesy, Phil couldn't escape the death that lay waiting for him in that theatre every night. He didn't want to go. Oh, how he didn't want to go. But every day, month after month, he walked onto the stage of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre so the audience could see the beauty and pain in how a man dies.

My heart broke over and over watching him in that play, but never more so than when I saw the look on his face when he had to stand up there for applause at the end. Phil's commitment to the truth of Loman's existence was more important to him than his own well-being. The fundamental quality of most men is self-preservation. But Phil wasn't most men, and he wasn't most artists. He was the acting equivalent of a perfect line of poetry.

I keep picturing his face lit up by the ball of flame he set off during that reading. His deep unstoppable laugh. And I remember what he told me about those perfect beautiful moments that happen only once in a theatre and then never, ever, ever happen again."

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