“Ever since I was a child, folks have thought they had me pegged, because of the way I am, the way I talk. And they're always wrong.” - Capote
When Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away on February 2nd, there can be no doubt that Hollywood lost one of the most natural and gifted actors ever to hit the big screen. Hoffman proved to be a valuable asset to the film industry, far surpassing his initial status as a character actor to become a household name of acting legends. With a career that spanned a period of over twenty years, the 46-year old actor left behind a diverse oeuvre of roles ranging from Oscar-winning dramas, independent films, comedy films, and blockbuster action films. But it was not until the year 2005 when Hoffman made the transition from a character actor in supporting roles into the widely praised, Oscar winning genius that audiences knew him to be at the time of his death. That film was called Capote.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as the late Truman Capote can be considered as one of the greatest performances of all time. Central to the success of the film, the audience is drawn to his eerily perfect portrayal of a man whose greatest career achievement was also his greatest personal tragedy. The film in many ways showcased his talent as an actor and his ability to convey an astounding array of emotions as if they were his own. The film’s heartbreaking and unflattering depiction of the author’s manipulative and selfish ambitions in pursuit of writing one of the greatest non-fiction novels of the 20th century is heavily reliant on Hoffman’s representation of the character. Appearing in nearly every scene in the film, his magnetic presence draws the viewer closer and closer to the character as the film progresses. The actor is able to maintain the viewers’ interest through the employment of dramatic pauses, flamboyant body language, infectious laughter, and the ability to evoke the appropriate emotional responses from the audience through his uncanny delivery and facial expressions. And despite the adequate performances by a well-known supporting cast, our fascination with this unique and arousing titular character cannot be diverted for even a moment.
Capote is a character whom you initially admire for all of his eccentricities and flamboyant behaviour, but as the film progresses and the character begins his journey to pen the novel In Cold Blood, our sympathy for the writer begins to wane. As the film’s plot progresses, the viewer forgets that they are watching an actor playing a role in the film. The viewer begins to develop a mind frame in which he or she is watching the trials of a real-life figure whose life is being recreated on the silver screen. However, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance prevents the viewer from complete dislike of the character, allowing us to remain invested in the plot of the film throughout. At the film’s conclusion, the viewer will therefore view Capote as a tragic figure rather than a manipulative and utterly selfish individual.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s success as an actor lay in his ability to take on the role of a diverse range of characters with apparent ease, as though he himself were the embodiment of that character. There was never a noticeable pattern which one could use to discover either the types of characters he liked to play or that would indicate a similarity to the actor’s true personality. Indeed, at the time of his death, very little was known about his personal life and the demons he fought. Many, in fact, were shocked to hear that the actor was a victim of drug abuse. Hoffman acted as though no one was watching him. His mannerisms and articulations are subtle in his embodiments of characters such as Capote, which contribute to a realism that we would see in the characters if they existed in our world. Throughout his career, Hoffman, whether it be on stage or on the silver screen, was always a formidable presence in the acting world. He had earned the respect of both his peers and his audience members.