who is philip seymour hoffman:
Scott Raab asks the questions for Esquire Magazine
SR: Last time I talked to my mother, she asks, "Who are you interviewing next?" I say, "Philip Seymour Hoffman," and she says, "Who?" I invoke Capote. "He won the fking Oscar," I say. She's in her 80s and lives in Cleveland, but she does watch movies. It's amazing that you've been able to have this body of work and maintain some anonymity.
PSH: I think about that a lot. I feel it cracking lately, the older I'm getting. I think I'm less anonymous than I was. And I think nowadays it's so easy for people to watch things. In the past five years, our images — yours, everyone's — are everywhere. No one's watching more movies. It's just that the images are being seen more. It's going to be more difficult for the young actors coming up today to keep a low profile. No one can.
SR: I don't know how many young actors want to keep a low profile.
PSH: I think some people don't, but I think some people do. And it's going to be very hard for those young people who do, because there's no way around it. It's not just actors. It's people in general. Everyone's being Twittered about.
SR: Do you read reviews?
PSH: Sometimes I take a temperature of things just because everyone else does. Especially when I'm doing a play. I want to know what people are thinking, positive or negative. So I take a temperature and then I stop. I'll read a couple and then skim a couple more and then, all of a sudden, that's it. Then I don't have the desire anymore. And that's true whether the response is good or bad. Mixed, bad, good — they all make you feel the same way. That's why you have to stop. Because none of them ultimately make you feel okay. But I think you're asking a lot of other people to be responsible for your feelings when you don't read anything. I don't know what you mean, I didn't read it. I don't know. It's like, C'mon, really? There's too many people I have to interact with, and I don't want them to have to worry about hurting my feelings.
SR: You said about Magnolia, "It's one of the best films I've ever seen and I will fight to the death with anyone who says otherwise."
PSH: It's true. It's a smorgasbord of pleasure, that movie. Filmed pleasures.
SR: Especially Jason Robards. He lived hard. He drank hard. And that was really the end for him.
PSH: That was the end. That was his last thing. That speech he has is like three times longer on the page. It's like an eight-page monologue. It's massively long. I remember he came in and they needed a 20-minute mag [film-camera magazine] to shoot it, because that's how long it's going to take for them to do it. And he did the whole thing. He didn't call for a line. Boom. I looked at Paul and he was gobsmacked. Wow, not only was that really well done, but he wasn't well at the time.
SR: Paul has an amazing eye for talent. I can understand recognizing talent, but to assemble it and let it rise and have its way, how many people can do that?
PSH: People who are honest about their humanity can do that. I think Paul's honest about who humans are. I think you gotta have an honesty and a humility about human nature and that it's not about you at the end of the day. He knows what he's good at. That's the thing about Paul. And what he's good at he's better at than probably anybody.
SR: Are you aware of [former Oakland A's manager] Art Howe's reaction to your portrayal of him in Moneyball?
PSH: Yeah. He's not very happy. I kind of hope I get to meet Art Howe one day and tell him, Listen, Art. I actively did not play you, okay? You should've taken your name off it.
SR: They did that with Jonah Hill's character, [Paul] DePodesta.
PSH: This wasn't enough of a part that it was gonna represent Art Howe at all. So I had to do a job. I was a tool. I had to play him a certain way to create a problem. But I knew there's no way I could fill out who Art Howe was with what was written there. And so he has every right. He needs to know. Art, I know that was not a fair representation of you as a person whatsoever. The story was about something else.
SR: I've read that you hate the thought of singing. But in both Magnolia and The Master, you sing.
PSH: It's a very nerve-racking thing for me to sing, though it's perfect for that scene in The Master. It was a very nerve-racking scene. I remember practicing that song just to learn how to sing it and not thinking about the scene at all. It's such anxiety. I can hold a note, but I have admiration and respect for the people who can actually do that in front of 2,000 people. It just blows me away. It's a vulnerable thing to do.
SR: Does working on a film like The Master create the same kind of vulnerability even though you're not on a stage?
PSH: What you go through with another actor in a good play or film, something that's well-written and that means something deeply to both of you, is a very intimate thing. It's like, I'm here for you, you're here for me. And you're silently pushing each other forward and up. You'll never look at those people the same way again for the rest of your life. I can go ten years and not see Joaquin Phoenix or John Reilly [Hoffman's costar in the play True West] or Andrew Garfield [his costar in Death of a Salesman], and then when I see them, the connection's immediate — and that connection might be awkward — but it's definitely going to be informed by the fact that we did something together that I'm not going to do with pretty much 99.99999 percent of people. Even people in my family. The really good actors go there — and Joaquin's definitely one of those people.
SR: He seemed older, thinner. He looked like a different human being.
PSH: He was something else while we were shooting. His commitment was unparalleled.
SR: Hope you don't mind if I look at my notes. I just want to make sure that I'm not leaving out anything important.
PSH: Oh, no. Definitely. I'm going to leave in five if that's cool.
SR: Oh, here's my favorite quote of yours. "It isn't easy to love something as much as you love a child."
PSH: The thing I realized when I became a father is why parents stay and why they take off. The love you feel and the responsibilities you feel, I can see why some people go. They think, I'm never going to make this. Because it puts all of the heartbreaks you've had in your life in perspective. You're like, Oh, I thought that was a broken heart. That's been my experience. Now I'm sure there are some people whose relationships with kids are different. My kids are just, uh, they're good. They're just good kids, man.
SR: Will they be able to see The Hunger Games, you think?
PSH: I don't know. Maybe.
SR: Boogie Nights?
PSH: No, no. Oh, God, no. You can't let them watch Little Bill blow his head off. That movie's so upsetting in that way. It surprises you every time. Oh, I forgot! You forget how upsetting that movie really is.
SR: Go, go. I don't want to keep you.
PSH: Let's, uh...
SR: No, the magazine pays. Thank you so much, sir. It was nice to meet you.
PSH: Thank you, sir. It was my pleasure.
SR: Keep on keepin'.
PSH: I'll try.
DATE OF BIRTH: July 23, 1967
BORN AND GREW UP IN: Fairport, New York, outside Rochester
PARTNER: Mimi O'Donnell (2002 to present)
WHEN THEY CAN SEE HIS WORK: "I don't think I've made anything my kids can watch until they're like 40.... It's funny, because I did a voice in an animated movie called Mary and Max.... And a guy like kills himself in it.... The one animated movie I make is for adults."
FAVORITE MOVIE: Bad News Bears
FORMER OAKLAND A'S MANAGER ART HOWE'S THOUGHTS ON HOFFMAN'S DEPICTION OF HIM IN MONEYBALL: "Philip Seymour Hoffman physically didn't resemble me in any way. He was a little on the heavy side. And just the way he portrayed me was very disappointing and probably 180 degrees from what I really am."
HOFFMAN'S TAKE: Agreed. (See interview.)
BASEBALL ALLEGIANCE: Yankees; grew up watching them at his grandparents' house.
DESCRIPTIONS OF HIS PHYSICAL APPEARANCE BY REPORTERS: "He came dressed as though he may have slept in the park." "Unshaven, nicotine-stained." "His demeanor and appearance are so fundamentally regular that it seems impossible that he has played such a vast array of anything-but-regular characters."
NUMBER OF PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON FILMS IN WHICH HE'S FEATURED: Five
TWISTER, HUH? "I was living in L. A. at the time.... and I knew if I took that job, I'd be able to move back to New York."
Posted by laure at 1:03 PM