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Honoring Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Birthday: 5 Great, Lesser-Known Roles

On February of this year, the world suffered a major loss with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the most talented actors that Hollywood has ever seen. This Wednesday, July 23, the great actor would have turned 47 years old. 

Hoffman’s career spanned more than 60 roles (including television) in 23 years and with each character, no matter how big or small, he gave a piece of himself away. In his time as a working actor he jumped around film genres with ease, and always delivered his best – from drama (“Almost Famous,” “Capote,” “Doubt”), to comedy (“The Big Lewboski,” “Along Came Polly”), to adventure (“Mission: Impossible III,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”), to romance (“Jack Goes Boating”), and anything in between. Hoffman was never a one-note actor and relied on raw talent to give the world some of the finest performances of our time.

There are few actors that are able to display such skill and diversity, and he did it with such excellence that many referred to him as a chameleon. This week, rather than mourn his loss, we here at ShowBizCafe want to celebrate the legacy he left behind. Though many of his most praised roles such as his portrayal of legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous” and his Academy-Award-winning depiction of Capote tend to obscure a few of his other works of art, that doesn’t mean they were any less impressive, detailed and authentic. You’ve already heard about his most acknowledged roles, so now here are 5 of his lesser-known-but-nevertheless-stellar-roles:

5. Steven Hanauer – “Law & Order: The Violence of Summer” (1991)

The character: Young thug charged with gang rape.

Why it’s great: This is his very first on-screen role and as brief as it is the fresh-faced Hoffman makes a strong impression.

4. Jacob Elinsky – “25th Hour”

The Character: In this film the actor plays Jacob Elinsky, a withdrawn high school teacher with a crush on one of his 11th grade students.

Why it’s great: In this Spike Lee directed-joint, Hoffman offers what Roger Ebert refers to as “pitch-perfect” performance noting that the way he transitions from a drunken sobriety state is invisible. And as we all know that invisibility is the magic of film and what makes his performance seem authentic.

3. Officer Raymer – “Nobody’s Fool” (1994).

The Character: Raymer is a young small-town bumpkin police officer who sends the main character to jail after he gets punched by him.

Why it’s great: This was one of Hoffman’s earlier films, but by no means does he let big names like Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith scare him. He is an equal delight to watch and is absolutely hilarious.

2. Sean – “Next Stop, Wonderland” (1998)

The Character: Erin’s whose activist boyfriend, Sean, walks out on their relationship to help a Native American tribe fight off a land development deal.

Why it’s great: This is one of the film’s that truly speaks of Hoffman’s devotion to a character no matter how small. He appeared on screen for a total of 4 minutes yet created a character so immediate and vibrant, that it denies you the chance to forget about the actor for an instance.

1. Wilson Joel – “Love Liza” (2002)

The Character: Wilson Joel is a widower whose wife unexplainably commits suicide. One night he discovers a sealed letter from her, grief-stricken and stressed, rather than opening it he deals with the pain by becoming addicting to huffing.

Why it’s great: The film was received with mixed reviews, but Hoffman was hailed for his strong performance, which helped the film to not completely sink. In this role, Hoffman let’s the audience experience madness, depression, addiction, and immaturity in a deep level.

Do you know any other lesser-known yet great Seymour Hoffman roles? Share them in the comments below. 

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