February 2, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman, RIP

I'm still looking for online video of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Tex Avery-sized reaction shots to taking snorts of moonshine in The Master. These outtakes of another line aren't bad, though.

Hoffman was the greatest actor in English-language movies about a decade ago. He would have made the ideal Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces.

Back in 2005 I called him "the American Alec Guinness," but that was imperceptive. He was almost always conspicuous in character roles. I can remember watching Scent of a Woman in 1992 and wondering who is playing the other high school kid. Hoffman tended to cause elbow-nudging among audiences: Hey, look, it's what his name. This is going to be good! (Guinness was conspicuous too, of course, as is his heir Gary Oldman -- nobody goes into acting to be inconspicuous -- but Guinness wasn't conspicuously conspicuous.)

Lately, you could see a few problems. Before starting an article, I make up a page of random notes where I just jot down observations without attempting to fit them together. From my notes for my review of the recent Hunger Games sequel:
Philip Seymour Hoffman looked like he was needing the Big H to get through his dialogue.

Fat actor life expectancy:

P.S. Hoffman 46
James Gandolfini 51
Chris Farley 33
John Candy 43
John Belushi 33

Now my wife is worried about John Goodman. Oliver Platt, too. But, there's also:

Jackie Gleason 71
W.C. Fields 66
Sydney Greenstreet 74
      

102 comments:

exception that proves the Slimfast said...

Hey, don't forget Roy Dotrice.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought when I watch outtakes that it just can't be hard to "act" well for such short spurts as shots taken for movies and tv.

Oswald Spengler said...

Marlon Brando lived to the relatively old age of 80. Orson Welles to the age of 70.

However, both men had lackluster sunset years careerwise.

Anonymous said...

"P.H. Seymour 46"

P.S. Hoffman

Dave Pinsen said...

He was actually really good as the bad guy in one of the Mission Impossible movies.

Steve Sailer said...

The hurry up and wait side of shooting a single camera movie has its own challenges.

Jane Fonda talked about getting your adrenaline up for a rehearsal in the morning, then being told to go back to your trailer and wait an ill-defined number of hours for all the technical prerequisites of shooting the scene to be dealt with. Do you pace around your trailer trying to maintain your state of emotional agitation? Take a nap? Work out?

It's different from playing Willy Loman for 150 minutes a night, but it has its challenges.

In the middle, three camera sitcoms shot "live before a studio audience" seem like they'd be the easiest on an actor.

Anonymous said...

This sentence was in an article about his death: "Born in 1967 in Fairport, N.Y., Hoffman was an athletic boy, but a neck injury suffered while wrestling ended any hopes of a career in sports. He soon became interested in acting, mesmerized at 12 by a local production of Arthur Miller's 'All My Sons.'"
_____________________

Can't see him even at 10 or 11 as athletic.

Anonymous said...

He looked a lot older than 46.

Anonymous said...

Fat actor life expectancy?

How about heavy drug user life expectancy? (I don't know about Candy).

Steve Sailer said...

"How about heavy drug user life expectancy?"

Perhaps they're connected ...

Anonymous said...

How about heavy drug user life expectancy?"

Perhaps they're connected ...
_________________

Yeah, I was thinking that.

I was also thinking how acting draws to it certain people more prone to experiment with such activities as using drugs, too. Adventurous maybe? Uninhibited? Or people more prone, especially in their youth, to think in terms of being "cool" which leads them to all kinds of things.

I'm trying to work up some pity. Maybe it's just the mood I'm in, but I find myself pissed off at him. He left behind three kids. Drug use is so damned selfish.

Bill said...

Leaves behind three little kids and a "girlfriend."

I'm sorry, but as a dad who has paid his dues, I can't help but think the guy was an a-hole for that.

He could have at least made sure that the mother of his children could be a proper widow before he started booting up again.

Bone Daddy Dawg said...

"Fat actor life expectancy:

P.S. Hoffman 46
James Gandolfini 51
Chris Farley 33
John Candy 43
John Belushi 33"
---------------------------

As noted, all of the above except perhaps Candy had major substance abuse problems; Hoffman apparently died from a heroin OD, Belushi & Farley died from heroin & cocaine ODs. For a more representative group, add River Phoenix (scrawny, and heroin & cocaine OD) and Heath Ledger (thin, and Rx opioid and benzo OD)...

Education Realist said...

He was superb in Charlie Wilson's War, and took on a tough, unsympathetic part in Moneyball. Got raves in The Master, although I didn't see it. Was the only bearable thing in Ides of March. Wonderful in The Savages. So I don't know what falloff you're talking about. Also, Hoffman's never had huge issues with his weight. He was pudgy, but not obese.

John Goodman is 15 years older than Hoffman, and his weight has been a constant concern of his since Roseanne.

However, both men had lackluster sunset years careerwise.

Brando had four or five awesome movie roles and the rest of his career was lackluster. Welles never lived up to his promise, but was relatively happy in his last decade. Was at no point lackluster.

Steve Sailer said...

Or just about everybody who makes a career as an actor listens to all the people telling him to be thin, so the handful of famous fat actors tend to be:

- Highly talented
- Stubborn
- Self-indulgent

Or something like that.

Bone Daddy Dawg said...

"Or just about everybody who makes a career as an actor listens to all the people telling him to be thin, so the handful of famous fat actors tend to be:

- Highly talented
- Stubborn
- Self-indulgent

Or something like that."

---------------------------------

It's a bit more complicated than that--generally, pudgy actors are told to either 1) lose weight, or 2) gain quite a lot of weight and go for the full "fat-guy/woman character look"...

Anonymous said...

Or just about everybody who makes a career as an actor listens to all the people telling him to be thin, so the handful of famous fat actors tend to be:

- Highly talented
- Stubborn
- Self-indulgent
_______________________

Nah, Steve, true for actresses, not actors, esp. when so many actors like this one can get juicy roles without being romantic leading men.

"Self-indulgent" yeah. The profession draws people to it with those tendencies and if and when they make big bucks, it's even easier to be self-indulgent.

Auntie Analogue said...


- Norman "Chubby" Chaney, 21 (in "The Little Rascals" 1929-31; Wikipedia: "After leaving the series, Chaney returned to his native Baltimore and attended public school, where he excelled in his studies. He continued to gain weight and eventually topped 300 lb (140 kg), though he never grew beyond 4 ft 7 in. His weight continued to increase, and it was discovered that he had a glandular ailment. In 1935, Chaney underwent treatment for the ailment at Johns Hopkins Hospital; his weight then dropped from over 300 lb to less than 140 lb."

"Chaney became seriously ill afterward and died on May 29, 1936 at age 21. At the time of his death, Chaney weighed 110 lb. He was the first of the regular Our Gang alumni to die, and the only one not to live to see the end of the series in 1944.")

More:

- Victor Buono, 43
- Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, 46
- Curly Howard, 48
- Henry Calvin, 56 (Sergeant Garcia on 1957 TV series 'Zorro')
- Charles Laughton, 63
- Oliver Hardy, 65
- Peter Ustinov, 82

world ends; Sailer hardest hit said...

Philip S. Hoffman was the universal go-to option for fatty wisecracks on this blog -- being used as recently as 2 days ago, on the Remington Chase post -- so I'm at a loss to imagine his replacement, what with Patton Oswalt becoming your new e-friend and Jonah Hill looking so dorky in general apart from the lard quotient; I'm expecting possibly a turn to Kevin James or, so long as he stays a Republican, Chris Christie.

Joël Cuerrier said...

My favorite role of his was in Happiness. He played what is possibly the creepiest character I can think of... that isn't a psychopath-killer type.

TroperA said...

Burl Ives (Aka "Big Daddy" from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) lived to be 85 and he was on the large side. That kind of surprised me, considering how huge he was in that movie.

I think the all time champion survivor has to go to Leon Askin, who played the tubby general Brukhalter on Hogan's Heroes. He lived to be 97, far outliving most of his far skinner castmembers.

Paavo said...

Fat actors losing weight is a major career risk. We don't enjoy thin Jason Hill or Wayne Knight.

Otherwise these famous people having drug problems is probably caused high access to drugs and no regular 8-16 work ours and community to keep checks on extreme behaviour. People need a village to stay off drugs. Humans have poor defences against drugs if left to make their own choices.

Eric said...

How about heavy drug user life expectancy? (I don't know about Candy).

It was the '70s:

In 1971, he met fellow Canadian Dan Aykroyd, who urged Candy to audition for the famed Second City comedy troupe, home to future Saturday Night Live stars John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. "The next thing I knew," Candy told PEOPLE, "I was in Chicago, where I learned how to drink, stay up real late and spell 'd-r-u-g-s.' "

Not only did he do drugs, but all his male relatives died young of heart problems, and he was a heavy smoker. The guy was a ticking time bomb.

Anonymous said...

Make H legal and require that the potency be consistent, and we'd probably get a few more years out of our creative types, the ones who require some external "happiness" supplements. The ongoing misuse of anti-illness drugs like antibiotics poses a much greater threat to public health.

Certainly, he didn't die the worst death imaginable. He went to sleep and never knew what hit him. No diapers, rashes, UTIs, bedsores, dementia, paralysis, humiliation, impoverishment, institutionalization, rough handling, etc.
Is dying young, especially when you leave some dough behind, really any rougher on the kids than the burden of years of elder care imposed on them when they are middle-aged.

RIP PSH.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why The Derb doesn't like French Literature considering he write a book "We Are Doomed." This quote, from Michel Houellebecq, I think could apply to Hoffman's life if he weren't so successful:

I've lived so little that I tend to imagine I'm not going to die; it seems improbable
that human existence can be reduced to so little; one imagines, in spite of oneself,
that sooner or later something is bound to happen. A big mistake. A life can just as
well be both empty and short. The days slip by indifferently, leaving neither trace nor
memory; and then all of a sudden they stop.

Anonymous said...

George R. R. Martin, 65 and counting.

Come on guy, hang in there just a little longer...

E said...

@Bill: Hopefully he made provisions for her otherwise she is about to be screwed.

Anonymous said...

drug user life expectancy?

MJ was 50 when he died a fat man's death. Except the problem was drugs and trying to keep his dance career going, not his weight.

List of drug-related deaths

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_drug-related_deaths

Oddly I could not find a wiki list of fat people to compare to the drugs related death list.

Anonymous said...

1) Am I the first person on this thread to mention The Fat Man Himself - Alfred Hitchcock?

2) Speaking of Burl Ives, has anyone noticed how The Frankfurt School has written him right out of the history books on account of his testimony before the HUAC?

I bet that the younger readers at iSteve [or in the Dark Enlightenment more generally] have never even heard of Burl Ives.

Boy, I tell you what, The Frankfurt School plays for keeps.

You cross paths with The Frankfurt School, and they will do their very best to un-person your posterior straight into non-existence.

Even if it takes 'em 2000 years.

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/realestate/race-gap-on-conventional-loans.html?hp

Anonymous said...

What, no mention of The Big Lebowski?

MDR

Anonymous said...

http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2014/02/same-sex-marriage-and-the-jews/

Freman said...

Perhaps they're connected ...
Sure they are. We all have a image of junkies as extremely slim people, but that's what happens with "high-profile" opioids consumers. Low-profile consumers, such as the mythical Greg House, would suffer from two problems that could increase their body fat: a slow intestinal motility, and a descend in their testosterone levels.

In other words, being an occasional opioid consumer can make you a whale, unless you have some genetic advantage.

RAZ said...

"John Goodman is 15 years older than Hoffman, and his weight has been a constant concern of his since Roseanne."

Goodman, at least, appears to have a sunny disposition and in my quick think of his roles I'm not thinking of psychically heavy roles he played.
Don't think Gandolfini had a sunny disposition, and he also famously had to spend much time in his trailer psychically beating himself up to play the tougher parts of his Soprano role.

Don't think anyone mentioned PSH in Doubt, where he was also very good as the Priest who may (likely?) have had an inappropriate relation with a young boy.

Anonymous said...

Posterboy of fat blobby bland white dullness.

Reg Cæsar said...

Ives lived almost to 86, but he had thinned considerably in his last decade. Is this true of other long-lived big men as well?

Also, acting was Burl's side job. Are musicians different? Not Bob Hite or Mama Cass! But Al Anderson is as healthy as ever, and toned up after settling in Nashvillle-- no more road food?

Anonymous said...

A tremendously talented guy. My personal favorite performance of his was his loathsome Freddie Miles (Billy Bunter turned lounge lizard) in THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY.

syon

RobertW said...

Nice that you remember the greats from an earlier age like Sydney Greenstreet! There are some actors that could make a mediocre movie imminently watchable just by their presence. For me - and I am sure many others - one of them was Greenstreet. Any in that category for you?

X said...

> Before starting an article, I make up a page of random notes where I just jot down observations without attempting to fit them together.

On paper, or on screen? Have you written about your writing process before? Your ability to pump out thoughtful writing every day is truly impressive. I'm curious what other tricks you've picked up over the years.

Cail Corishev said...

I'd guess the thin actors and comedians are doing just as much drugs as the fat ones; but being fat takes a toll on your body, making it weaker and less likely to survive the damage from the drugs.

Another possibility: fat people are often depressed, and that has to be even more true when you live and work in Hollywood and feel out of place around the beautiful people, so maybe the fat ones sink more deeply into drugs to escape.

Anonymous said...

THAT guy was in Scent of a woman? I remember the role he was in but it wasn't all that. At the time, Chris O'Donnell certainly ws thought to have the better and brighter future.

I think a little bit of perspective is needed. The greatest English lang. actor in a decade? Honestly now. Come come now

By the way...
Speaking of Actors and their passing.

Last Saturday.

Steve, how could you NOT say something about the passing of Maximillian Schell?

Judgement of Nurenberg? Come on!

Now if you want to talk about an actor who impacted a part of the 20th cent, certainly would be considered him.

Come on. Maximillian Schell! Not a word?

I may not care for his type of acting but there's no way that Hoffman was better than Maximillan Schell. No way.

But to let HIS death go without any comment?

Come come now.

Kgaard said...

Seems to me Hoffman probably violated Keith Richards' cardinal rule of heroin shooting: Never try to "top up" a buzz. That's how Keith lasted so long. Apparently there were heroin bags all over Hoffman's apartment ...

Anonymous said...

He was actually really good as the bad guy in one of the Mission Impossible movies.

I thought he was miscast in it. He doesn't come across as villainous enough.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

He played a junkie in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead[2007]. I wonder if he was one at that point.

Anonymous said...

Unappealing. No personality. A fat and slow Matt Damon.

Modern Abraham said...

Hoffman was the greatest actor in English-language movies about a decade ago.

*snort* Yeah, maybe in bizaaro-world where Paul Walker had decided to take his immense talents elsewhere and thus become the world's most beautiful nuclear physicist (no homo).

Anonymous said...

It seemed so obvious that Hoffman was a long time serial relapsing drug addict. Hoffman could be acting his ass off, I still found him unsettling to watch.

What was beyond me was how did Hoffman continue to land roles when most producers you would think would be hesitant to employ a chronic substance abuser who could cost them tens of millions in production cost if he died.

Yes, Hoffman was supremely talented but I had hard time watching him precisely because of his obvious drug dependency.

Oh well at least Hoffman was not just another annoying droopy eyelid pot head like James Franco, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Dunst.....

Anonymous said...

"Otherwise these famous people having drug problems is probably caused high access to drugs and no regular 8-16 work ours and community to keep checks on extreme behaviour. People need a village to stay off drugs. Humans have poor defences against drugs if left to make their own choices."

You offer a common response of "environment means almost everything," but consider the traits of the people who CHOOSE the profession that is OF this environment.



Mark Caplan said...

Hattie McDaniel 57

But Charles Coburn 84

Anonymous said...

"Make H legal and require that the potency be consistent"

Really? And how are you going to do that? And if people want the "freedom" to have more potent drugs who are you to tell them no?

Or do you want another drug war?

Anonymous said...

PSH never spouted any pro-Obama bullshit. I always liked his acting. RIP, too bad you had these demons haunting you, that heroin gave you some relief from. If it were up to me heroin dealers would get the death penalty. Via hanging. Cane the minor drug peddlers

Mark Caplan said...

Mario Lanza 38

Steve Sailer said...

Use 2 screens: Have your final draft in Word on your laptop screen right in front of you, and on a 24" or larger screen to your right, have your notes and a Chrome window open for research.

Modern Abraham said...

My favorite role of his was in Happiness. He played what is possibly the creepiest character I can think of...

Talented as he was as an actor, I don't think Hoffman spent the late 90's in the real-life role of Dylan Baker. Or was there an even creepier role in that movie besides the pedo-dad? John Lovitz also had a role, so that maxes out my creep memory for a single film.

I liked him in Capote, but he always seemed to speak in that same nasally monotone, somewhat limiting his range in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

NYC, the next Detroit.

Harry Baldwin said...

He was the first of the regular Our Gang alumni to die, and the only one not to live to see the end of the series in 1944."

Yeah, but Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's death in 1959 at age 31 was a lot more dramatic--he got shot in an argument over $50 he felt Moses Samuel "Bud" Stiltz owed him and went to his house to collect. From Wikipedia:

Once Switzer was inside the home, he and Stiltz got into an argument. Switzer informed Stiltz that he wanted the money owed him, saying "I want that 50 bucks you owe me now, and I mean now." When Stiltz refused to hand over the money, the two engaged in a fight. Switzer allegedly struck Stiltz in the head with a glass-domed clock, which caused him to bleed from his left eye. Stiltz retreated to his bedroom and returned holding a .38-caliber revolver, but Switzer immediately grabbed the gun away from him, resulting in a shot being fired that hit the ceiling. Switzer then forced Stiltz into a closet, despite Stiltz having gotten his hands back on the gun. Switzer then allegedly pulled a switchblade knife and screamed, "I'm going to kill you" and was attempting to stab him with it, but just as Switzer was about to charge Stiltz, Stiltz raised the gun and shot Switzer in the groin. Switzer suffered massive internal bleeding and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Glossy said...

"If it were up to me heroin dealers would get the death penalty. Via hanging. Cane the minor drug peddlers."

I agree, provided that caning would be an addition to current jail terms, not a substitute for them.

When I saw the headline announcing Hoffman's passing, I thought back on an article I once read about him living in Soho or the Village or thereabouts, made the connection between that area's trendy decadence and the earliness of his death, and thought "drugs".

Rob said...

If Richard Griffiths made it to 65, there's hope for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Lou Costello, 52

Anonymous said...

Word on the net is, he was given a hot shot by Scientology goons. He besmirched the Blessed Name of Elron. It was only a matter of time ...

Marc B said...

He first came to my attention playing an all too convincingly gay creep in Boogie Nights. I couldn't help but notice that his drug of choice was also the same as his Grunge generation contemporaries. I wondered if his drug use started as a way to fit in withe cool kids or just to feel like less of an oddball compared to his more glamorous Hollywood peers.

Anonymous said...

Seems that Abraham Lincoln was our first black president after all.

Obama looks less and less inspiring as time goes by.

Anonymous said...

"Don't think Gandolfini had a sunny disposition, and he also famously had to spend much time in his trailer psychically beating himself up to play the tougher parts of his Soprano role."

I read about his "beating himself up to play the tougher parts of his Soprano role" a long while back and I realized then that if an actor has to do this to play a role, he's not really suited emotionally to act.

I watched all the seasons of the Sopranos and I simply believe that if a person can't separate himself from a villainous character, he ought not be an actor to begin with. The problem, though, is that a lot of people with problems go into acting.

It isn't the acting or the role that causes the problem; it's the emotionally or physically (or both) unhealthy person who often winds up in the profession that is the problem and for many, things don't end well.

Anonymous said...

always liked his acting. RIP, too bad you had these demons haunting you, that heroin gave you some relief from
__________________________

Seems to have led a good childhood. When he first began taking drugs (whatever that drug might have been) I seriously doubt he had "demons" that he felt the drugs would briefly relieve him of.

The drug IS the demon. Why don't people understand the biologically addictive nature of this stuff.

I get really sick of the potheads still arguing that pot is harmless, what with how strong the stuff has gotten.

Speaking of which, I was sickened by Obama's seemingly lack of knowledge about pot. On the other hand, if he IS not unknowledgeable about it, then he's even more a detestable prick than I thought, only interested in keeping his damn "base" with him.

Anonymous said...

OT, but Zuck is at it again. His forward.us group is supporting Americans for a Conservative Direction, who have been running ads on Rush's radio show all day today saying the House GOP leadership has a plan to fix our broken immigration system. This is purely astro turf and I hope the Rush-bots don't fall for it.

vanderleun said...

He's a junkie and he won;t long be missed.

Get over your infatuation with the class of the "great pretenders" among us, Steve.

Pattern Analyzer said...

Steve Sailer said...
"Use 2 screens: Have your final draft in Word on your laptop screen right in front of you, and on a 24" or larger screen to your right, have your notes and a Chrome window open for research."

Wow, that's exactly my setup for (scientific) writing.

BTW, PSH has an important role in the third movie of the Hunger Games n-logy. I wonder if they finished filming the relevant scenes...

Fisk Ellington Rutledge III said...

Entertainers in general seem to be emotional spastics. If that's coupled with substance abuse I think it's pretty rare for them to recover. They go for self-destruction like a Golden Retriever after a bouncy ball.

As for W.C. Fields, it's hard to use him as an example. His career started in the 1890s and for a couple of decades he was one of the highest-paid vaudeville performers.

His act was as a tramp-clown juggler. By all accounts he took very good care of his health in those days in order to keep his edge. Also by all accounts, he was unbelievably great.

Fields didn't start drinking in earnest until his late-Broadway/early Hollywood days in the late-20s/early-30s when he was already well into middle age.

But he still had some of his old juggling chops even then. I strongly urge you all to CHECK THIS OUT:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytgPGr6JhLo

Anonymous said...

He could certainly make character roles memorable. He was pretty much the only assistant tornado chaser you remember from "Twister", and that was a pretty solid crew of character actors in a bad movie.

Anonymous said...

"George R. R. Martin, 65 and counting.
Come on guy, hang in there just a little longer..."

Given his pace it's unlikely he finishes the series, which is sad. When he dies, leaving it unfinished, no one will ever bother reading it again.

Anonymous said...

"I think a little bit of perspective is needed. The greatest English lang. actor in a decade? Honestly now. Come come now"

And instead you would name ...???

Anonymous said...

"Hoffman was the greatest actor in English-language movies about a decade ago. He would have made the ideal Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces."

Holy cow, you're RIGHT, Steve! A friend and I were arguing about this a couple of weeks ago. That is a very hard role to cast, but Hoffman would have been perfect.

Welp... I guess we go back to arguing again.

Anonymous said...

"Hoffman could be acting his ass off, I still found him unsettling to watch."

Master of dullness. Strong oatmeal.

pat said...

I stumbled across an obscure web site a dozen or so years ago. I don't remember the real name. I always called it 'The Dead Wrestler Web Site".

It had a remarkable number of wrestlers who never made it to forty. Along about age thirty five their hearts would just blow up.

Time for another one of my crack-pot theories.

It seems that humans are not normally equipped for a lot of public viewing. We know that most people fear public speaking. Maybe our brains are trying to warn us of the dangers of being on public display.

Public acclaim seems to kill rock stars, TV comedians, and all sorts of celebrities. Those who can withstand fame without drugs, booze or bad driving are rare.

I feel bad about Hoffman but not surprised.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

"I wondered if his drug use started as a way to fit in withe cool kids or just to feel like less of an oddball compared to his more glamorous Hollywood peers."

I wouldn't know, but people interested in and serious about acting start hanging out with other kids, young adults, adults interested in the same thing long before they make it around anyone "glamorous" in HW.

DR said...

"When [George R.R. Martin] dies, leaving it unfinished, no one will ever bother reading it again."

The HBO show runners already know the planned ending to the series. If George dropped dead tomorrow the series could still be finished the way he intended. All that would be needed is to actually commit the planned plot to paper.

There's a million talented writers who can do dialogue and description. Many would jump at the chance, since writing the final books of Game Of Thrones would be far better for your career than turning out some obscure novel.

jody said...

"Make H legal"

knew it was coming. never fails in a drug thread.

Art Deco said...

I wondered if his drug use started as a way to fit in withe cool kids or just to feel like less of an oddball compared to his more glamorous Hollywood peers.

By some accounts, the drug problem was in full flower as early as 1989, about two years before he had any screen credits and nine years (?) before he had more than supporting roles.

Art Deco said...

"I wondered if his drug use started as a way to fit in withe cool kids or just to feel like less of an oddball compared to his more glamorous Hollywood peers."

He and I grew up more or less at the same time and the same place. Heroin use was quite rare.

DR said...

"The drug IS the demon. Why don't people understand the biologically addictive nature of this stuff. "

That's absolutely ridiculous. Millions of Americans take painkillers for medical issues every year. Virtually none become addictive.

And no there's not anything special about heroin versus other painkillers. Heroin (diacetyl morphine) is pharmacologically inactive, it only has an effect when it's converted to morphine in vivo. So there's no biological difference between shooting up H and the tens of thousands of who get morphine pumps in the hospital every year.

Even among recreational users addiction is very rare. Only 6.7% of people who have used heroin in their lifetime used in the past month. The vast majority of people who try heroin have no problem stopping. Addiction is virtually always a conscience choice by the user who's well aware of the path he's going down.

Only a small proportion of people are prone to opiate addiction. And of them most have underlying mental illnesses that they're self-medicating. A much higher proportion of humans, especially among the mentally healthy, are pre-disposed to addiction to simple sugars, saturated fats and calorically dense food. McDonalds is far more of a demon than heroin.

DR said...

"And if people want the "freedom" to have more potent drugs who are you to tell them no?"

It's not the potency, it's the impurity. With pharmaceutical grade heroin it's virtually impossible to overdose. Try to find any record of heroin related deaths prior to 1914 when it was sold by Bayer at the grocery store. The lowest estimate for the LD50 of heroin for zero tolerance is 29 mg/kg, or 2 grams for a 150 lb. man. You cannot dissolve nearly that amount of heroin in even the largest medical syringes.

Heroin, or any opiate, related deaths were virtually unknown in the medical literature until the 1950s. The primary reason being the drop off in purity. Particularly the use of quinine as an adulterant by unregulated black market sellers. Quinine is much more toxic than heroin.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Several people including our host have mentioned the "obvious" signs of Hoffman's drug dependency. I had no idea just as a viewer of his film performances that Hoffman was a heroin user. What signs did he show?

Anonymous said...

I think it is highly unlikely that he was clean for 20+ years and then relapse in middle age as a successful, (presumably) financially well-off family man.

Also, the main reason why so many celebs get drunk or drugged is that they are bored. They have enough money to live very well, but between jobs they really have nothing to do.

Glossy said...

"Addiction is virtually always a conscience choice by the user who's well aware of the path he's going down."

Drug dealing is also a conscious choice by the dealer who's well aware of the path he's going down. By your "logic", dealers wish to end up in prison. Why should society deny their wish? If there were no drug laws, these people would get their wish in some other way, by breaking other laws, right?

Of course your premise is wrong. Drug users almost never start out thinking they'd get hooked and drug dealers almost never start out thinking they'd get caught.

But in the process of making your disingenuous argument you advanced the false claim that addiction is "virtually always" a conscious choice. The argument that drug dealers WISH to end up in prison and that it's illiberal for society to refuse to grant them this wish is of the same (low) quality as the argument you made about addiction. You see, addiction IS a prison, and many of the arguments you make about one can be as easily applied to the other.

"That's absolutely ridiculous. Millions of Americans take painkillers for medical issues every year. Virtually none become addictive."

None of the painkillers I've ever taken produced any sort of a high. And yes, I've had morphine after major surgery. It just made me sleepy. The pain went on as before. I used to have chronic kidney stones, so over the years I've probably been legally given everything that's out there. No highs.

Of course chemicals that produce a high will be more likely to be addictive than ones that don't. Banned drugs are more likely to produce a high than legal painkillers. That's one of the reasons many of them got banned.

"McDonalds is far more of a demon than heroin."

Absolutely ridiculous. Drugs routinely kill the young. Obesity does that rarely. Think how much longer Hoffman, a fat man, would have been actuarily predicted to live if not for drugs. The number of years lost per average user must be many times higher for drugs than for a high-fat diet.

"Heroin, or any opiate, related deaths were virtually unknown in the medical literature until the 1950s..."

Highly improbable, though I'm at work and can't check this at the moment. What I know without looking up is that in 19th century literature opium was often described as a menace and addicts as ghouls. And of course China fought a couple of wars over it.

Anonymous said...

Anti-Gnostic,

Remember PSH being interviewed in the around time of Boogie Nights on TV and on NPR. It was obvious he had substance issues. He looked and sounded trashed but still fairly well-spoken. Reminded me a bit of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Burton from the early seventies. Few years later I heard it rumored he was a heroin addict.

Anonymous said...

The way people can still shill for hard drug legalization after what happened to China as a result of opium is truly appalling. I honestly believe a large segment of drug enthusiasts would happily set the stage for a Great Leap Forward if it meant protect their fix.

Anonymous said...

who will play him in the biopic?

DR said...

"And yes, I've had morphine after major surgery. It just made me sleepy."

"Once in the brain, it then is deacetylated… to morphine, which bind to μ-opioid receptors, resulting in the drug's euphoric, analgesic (pain relief), and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects; heroin itself exhibits relatively low affinity for the μ receptor."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroin#Pharmacology
Whatever you felt from a morphine pump is exactly the same you'd feel from an equivalent dose of heroin. Congratulations you've exactly confirmed what I said: getting high off heroin (i.e. morphine) isn't a freight train. Your experience itself confirms that you would not become addictive to heroin even if you used occasionally. Based on what you yourself said It's an incredibly subtle qualitative feeling, that's certainly far less intoxicating than alcohol or marijuana and for many people even caffeine and nicotine.

In fact in the UK heroin is approved as a medical painkiller and regularly used in hospitals. Guess what? There's no epidemic of middle class British junkies who got hooked after a stint in a hospital.

It's amazing that a bunch of Internet nerds can sit here and pontificate on how incredibly addictive and powerful heroin is when they've never even tried it, or really any other recreational drugs for that matter. Then when you reveal that the "minor" painkillers they've had is the same pharmacologically as "evil" heroin, they stammer and mutter about how, "Gosh gee, it just has to be different. Science be damned."

Anonymous said...

DR Said:

"There's a million talented writers who can do dialogue and description."

Actually, no. There's not. Writing excellent dialogue is not a common trait among screenwriters.

Anonymous said...

Glossy Said:

"Absolutely ridiculous. Drugs routinely kill the young. Obesity does that rarely."

You're off your rocker. Obesity kills more people per year than AIDs and cancer COMBINED!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Said:

"who will play him in the biopic?"

Patton Oswalt–if it's a musical.

Harry Baldwin said...

None of the painkillers I've ever taken produced any sort of a high. And yes, I've had morphine after major surgery. It just made me sleepy. The pain went on as before. I used to have chronic kidney stones, so over the years I've probably been legally given everything that's out there. No highs.

Our daughter had a heroin problem so we had to educate ourselves about it. When you are in physical pain, the effect of opiates is only to deaden it. If you take the opiates when you are not in pain then they act upon the pleasure receptors. That is the high that addicts are looking for.

Our daughter had to have a tonsillectomy and the only painkiller the doctor considered adequate was an opiate. At NA meetings we had heard of recovered addicts who relapsed after being prescribed opiates, so we were very concerned. However, by tapering off the pain medication as the pain lessened, our daughter never got the high. Also, she didn't want to get hooked on the drug again so she was cooperative.

Anonymous said...

Also, the main reason why so many celebs get drunk or drugged is that they are bored. They have enough money to live very well, but between jobs they really have nothing to do.

Im sure theres some truth in that. Its one reason I admire Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) holding down a job as a regular airline pilot between tours and recordings.

And setting up an aircraft maintenance business too. A real business employing skilled people, not some essentially pointless vanity project.

He's got millions in the bank but doesnt sit around at home pissing it all away.

Glossy said...

"Whatever you felt from a morphine pump is exactly the same you'd feel from an equivalent dose of heroin. "

It's widely known that heroin produces an intense high, at least at doses used by junkies. You're just not going to acknowledge that? As I've told you, prescribed doses of medical morphine didn't give me any positive feelings whatsoever. You're just going to ignore that difference?

"It's amazing that a bunch of Internet nerds can sit here and pontificate on how incredibly addictive and powerful heroin is when they've never even tried it, or really any other recreational drugs for that matter. "

You've just implied that you've tried them. That's a lot worse than being a nerd. It's low-class and stupid. There's absolutely nothing to be proud of there. If you had any sense, you'd be ashamed of it.

Harry Baldwin said...

It's widely known that heroin produces an intense high, at least at doses used by junkies.

This is true. Read any memoir of a junkie. When they had their first hit of heroin it was like they found God.

Peter the Shark said...

As the population at large keeps getting fatter and fatter, aren't thin actors and actresses going to start looking conspicuously anachronistic? Maybe this explains why we get so many fantasy and period pieces.

Anonymous said...

from his NYTimes obit: "With a versatility and discipline more common among British performers than Americans..." wth? that's (whatever the word for racist but for nations is) ethnonationalistcentric-ism?

pat said...

The commenter known as DR has smart brains.

The addictive power of opiates is wildly overstated in the media. I have a bottle of morphine pills in my medicine cabinet. It's been there for more than a year. There are some pills left in it but I feel no overpowering compulsion to take them. The same is true for the hydrocodone pill bottle.

I developed a bad back the old fashion way. I fell off a cliff. I spent a year not going out of the house. I was chair ridden. I started taking more and more opiates to deal with the pain.

But eventually my back healed enough that I could get up and walk again. And the dope? I just quit. No big deal.

When I was a teenager I smoked. At 19 I was smoking two packs a day. I read the British Medical study and decided to quit. I did but it was hard. After a year without tobacco I reverted. So I had to quit again. It was much, much harder than dropping morphine or hydrocodone.

If quitting operates was really hard, I would be an addict. I'm just not that tough. Yes they stop the pain and yes they give you a buzz, but it's no big deal. It's easy to quit.

I understand my experience is typical. Returning vets from Viet-Nam who had daily taken heroin during the war just quit when they came home.

Hoffman wasn't an innocent normal person who was 'captured' by a evil 'devil drug'. He was in some way abnormal. I don't know just how.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

"The addictive power of opiates is wildly overstated in the media."

It's like food and alcohol. Different people have different personalities. Some are obsessive, some are not. Why do some people become degenerate gamblers while others don't?
Why do some women become groupies addicted to sex while other women do not?
Why do some men have to watch sports all the time while others don't?

Different addictive natures. Just like there's wild variation in human nature, same goes for addictive nature.

Anonymous said...

Hoffman won't be remembered for much. Mostly playing bland losers, he didn't have Big or colorful roles like Deniro in Raging Bull, Brando in On the Waterfront, or Nicholson in Chinatown.

Hoffman was usually good, but even if his performances were memorable in terms of technique and control, his characters were not. And in the end, people love the characters. Most Brando roles have been forgotten but On the Waterfront, Viva Zapata, and Godfather are still remembered because they were larger-than-life roles.

Dustin Hoffman isn't a big actor but his Ratso Rizzo character was memorable. We still have people going, "I'm walking here! I'm walking here!"

But did Philip Hoffman have any iconic roles? Even in The Master, he was good but dull. He was like a big white blob that disappeared into his roles. And who wants to remember movies like Happiness? It's so icky.

Anonymous said...

Libertarians who seek to legalize all drugs are crazy.

If libertarianism is about freedom and individual choice, it should support policies and rules that protect freedom and individual will(or self control). While some drugs are tolerable, others are highly addictive and dangerous. They rob the addict of his personal will, freedom, and individual self-control. He is made into an emotional, mood, and sensual slave of the substance. He craves the drug so much that he's even willing to sacrifice his health, sanity, and self-control for another dose of false heaven that is really a hell.
They are essentially mental slaves or soul slaves. They may be legally and physically free, but their minds and souls are chained to the need for another fix.
Such people are no longer able to think rationally or responsibly, so all the ideals of libertarianism doesn't apply to them. They've surrendered their individual will and self-control to a substance that keeps their souls chained.

Pleasure is what keeps people alive. Pleasure drives people toward sex that produces kids. Pleasure drives people to eat that keeps them living. But pleasure can be maximalized into a pathology, and drugs often do that--though food and sex can have the same impact on some people, which is why some people are grossly obese and some people, especially homos, have to bang everything in sight.

Libertarianism says it's about freedom to pursue happiness, but what if excessive happiness robs one of self-control and sense to think and act rationally?
Just look at the state of our culture with Smiley Circus and other rot. Kids addicted to junk like Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and video games.

Look at the dufuses in SPECTACULAR NOW and THIRTEEN, interracist films where white kids surrender to Negroes in their mindless abandonment to PC and ultra-hedonism rolled into one.

Sick.

Now, DAMSELS IN DISTRESS is a thoughtful movie about the neurosis of obsession. Ironically, the effort to wean oneself from dangerous obsessions can be a dangerous obsession in its own right.

Harry Baldwin said...

Different addictive natures.

This is true. Some people try heroin and don't like the nature of the high. I know of others who decided to try it and liked it so much they realized they would never dare try it again, out of their sense of self-preservation. There are others who try it and it instantly becomes the sole focus of their existence. Artie Lange's book, "Too Fat To Fish," provides quite an account of what it's like to be a slave to heroin.