Thursday, January 24, 2013

ACTING SCHOOL: Philip Seymour Hoffman

The latest session of "LAMB Acting School 101" shines the spotlight on one of our best actors today - Philip Seymour Hoffman. He is undoubtedly one of the most dependable actors around, as he always gives a solid performance. I love that he's not afraid to take a supporting role and make the most of it. As usual for this blog-a-thon, here are my 3 favourite scenes featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman:

#3 - Doubt

As a Meryl Streep diehard fan, it pains me to say this but Doubt is one of those instances where I agree that other actors upstage her. As her character confronts Hoffman's in this scene, he puts his talent for portraying anger to good use. Streep is good here, using jittery physical affectations to get her point across. Hoffman is a bit more effective though, using his vocal power as his only retort to her accusations. Without explicitly showing it, you just know he's ready to knock her out. You can feel the annoyance and rage building up from within.

#2 - The Master

I actually wanted to use the famous "processing" scene (it would have been my #1 scene), but it's understandably unavailable. This scene is also strong however, as it shows the fascinating dynamic between the characters played by Joaquin Phoenix (Freddie Quell) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lancaster Dodd). He's so calm and alluring in this scene. It's no wonder that Freddie (along with other cult members) gets sucked into his world. Juxtapose this clip with those brief moments of intense rage and I'm sure you'll understand the brilliance of Hoffman's work here.

#1 - The Ides of March

For me, this is a perfect example of why Hoffman is the quintessential "supporting" actor. Give him a juicy scene and he'll play it for maximum impact. What makes it more impressive is his ability to be so natural rather than over-the-top or eccentric. Just look at his nonchalant posture in the beginning of this scene. He's slouching, arms crossed, stomach out. His speech is a different story altogether though. He really rips Ryan Gosling's character a new one, giving him a quick crash course on how real world politics works. For my money, it's one of Hoffman's most underrated performances.


  1. Great picks. One of my favorite scenes with PSH is in Boogie Nights when he shows off his car to Dirk. Also, I love him in Capote and The Talented Mr. Ripley. He's incredibly versatile.

    1. Thanks. He's great in all of those films too. Very versatile indeed.