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Published:February 7th, 2014 11:04 EST
Philip Seymour Doesn`t Act His Roles, He Becomes the Person, Such As Andy Hanson in 'Before the Devil!'

Philip Seymour Doesn`t Act His Roles, He Becomes the Person, Such As Andy Hanson in 'Before the Devil!'

By John G. Kays


Philip Seymour Hoffman`s death made me very sad, since he`s been my favorite actor for quite a few years. I`d say, it was since Almost Famous (2000); I had met Lester Bangs in the Fall of 1980, and had spoke with him in depth (about Rock "N` Roll) on a number of occasions. 


As such, I recognize that PSH had nailed the role playing the music writer character, Lester Bangs, whose thing (philosophical calling card) seemed to have been that Rock "N` Roll was destroyed by the record companies, stupid narcissistic rock stars, and even the music critics themselves (and don`t you forget Disco and the pompous Baroque Rock of Yes or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer!). After that time, I couldn`t get enough of Philip Seymour, who apparently could transcend his own being and become whoever he wanted to become!


It`s a slow and painful process sorting through these news stories, documenting Hoffman`s last few days, along with the sizable bevy of heroin bags found at his makeshift apartment in the Village; I read it, but it`s, at most, a partial register. Instead, I favor studying his films and Broadway career a good deal more.


I realize now, I have a lot to look forward to, since there are several films I`ve yet to see (although its not too many really). I viewed The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) on Netflix Instant Watch Wednesday evening (I`d seen it originally at a Cinemark theater here in Austin); PSH`s role is small, but it improves the film quite a bit, playing Freddie Miles, a Princetonian colleague to Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law).


PSH is perfect at Ivy League snob pretensions, and makes Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) look like a fool of a bumpkin on several occasions; but gets himself murdered when he suspects Tom has assumed Dickie`s identity, if not all his money and worldly possessions. Hoffman doesn`t have to be in very many scenes to enhance a film; he was a master at supporting roles, but could, of course, take on a leading role with an equal measure of focus and zeal. 


Yet, I wonder whether he saw his real life in the capacity of playing a role? I`m telling myself he didn`t, or wouldn`t, but now with his overdose in mind I`m not so sure. Was he playing a part of some sort when he wasn`t acting?


The answer is probably yes, although we don`t want to admit it; and that`s not something that can ever be proven, since we aren`t able to look into someone`s mind, especially when it`s in the past and they have passed. PSH did, however, play Bad or mischievous quite superbly; my favorite role of his is from 2007, Sidney Lumet`s Before the Devil Knows You`re Dead, where he plays a rotten son who rips off his own parents jewelry store, when he finds himself buried under a mountain of debt (largely because of a drug habit). 


The authenticity or credibility of his role as Andy Hanson, who has a serious substance problem, is beyond question; really, it reads more like a documentary, than it does a fictional dramatic thriller! Your nerves are frayed, you sweat from every pore, as Andy plays his desperate cards in the aftermath of a robbery that goes south rapidly. 


I`ll have to see that one again and soon, although it scared the bejesus out of me the first couple of times I saw it, and I believe, this time, knowing what I know now (knowledge is always an albatross on our shoulders), it may tip me over into a petrified oblivion! 


Yea, Philip is that good of an actor; you don`t think you`re watching a movie, you believe your eye (the camera`s) is watching a real life event. You simply have been privileged enough to get box seats, peering into a news reel of virtual life action, a crime, drug addiction, family issues, it`s all here in Before the Devil.


A good way of putting it, is Hoffman doesn`t play Andy Hanson, he IS Andy Hanson; Philip doesn`t play a role of Truman Capote, he IS Truman Capote! He becomes the greatest True Crime writer of all time! With this in mind, and this is not something I can say too easily or with relish, PSH also becomes the biggest, most zealous heroin addict he could possibly be.


I mean, 50 packets of heroin found in his apartment? Lester Bangs had a substance problem also; this might help to explain why PSH so perfected his role. Yet, survival as it is, dictates to me, I`ll need to brush this dirt under the rug; with time, only his Art will be left, so I`ll simply return to his movies and keep mum for the remainder of the day.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_the_Devil_Knows_You`re_Dead