Sunday, February 02, 2014


Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

Once Philip Seymour Hoffman first registered on my radar screen (as Scotty in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights), it seemed as if he never disappeared from my thoughts for long, rather showing up in small roles or large ones. Hoffman's death at 46 takes a talented actor away from us far too soon, but some demons just win in the end.

Boogie Nights marked Hoffman's second film with Anderson following Hard Eight. They would team again in Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and The Master, which earned Hoffman an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor, his fourth overall. He also received supporting nods for Doubt and Charlie Wilson's War and won on his first try, his only nomination in the lead category, for Capote.

Though his film career only began in 1991, it proved to prolific. Once his fame and reliability grew, even if some of the films he appeared in weren't so great, I never saw him give a bad performance. A cattle call of some of my favorite Hoffman performances: Happiness, The Talented Mr. Ripley, 25th Hour, The Savages, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Moneyball and The Ides of March.

The performance perhaps closest to my heart was his turn as legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous. I also loved his work in two less well-known films: Owning Mahowny and Jack Goes Boating, a role he originated in the off-Broadway production and he also directed the film.

He appeared on Broadway three times and received a Tony nomination each time. His first came in the inaugural Broadway production of Sam Shepard's True West, where he and John C. Reilly alternated the lead roles at different performances. He earned a featured actor nod in the star-studded, highly praised revival of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night starring Brian Dennehy and Vanessa Redgrave. His third nomination came for taking on Willy Loman in a revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

RIP Mr. Hoffman.

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Saturday, February 01, 2014


Maximilian Schell (1930-2014)

Born in Austria in 1930, actor Maximilian Schell fled Hitler in his youth and later in his performing career would win the 1961 Oscar for best actor playing the defense attorney for Nazis on trial following World War II in Judgment at Nuremberg. Schell died this weekened at 83 after a "sudden and serious illness," according to his agent, Patricia Baumbauer.

Schell received two other Oscar nominations in his film career as best actor: in 1975's The Man in the Glass Booth and as supporting actor in 1977's Julia. He also received two Emmy nominations for the TV films Stalin and Miss Rose White in the early '90s. He appeared on Broadway three times, the first time in 1958 in Interlock, the same year his first English-language film, The Young Lions, came out. His third appearance came in 2001 in a stage production of Judgment at Nuremberg, this time playing the role of Dr. Ernst Janning whom Burt Lancaster played in the 1961 film.

Shortly after his Oscar win, he joined the cast of thieves in Jules Dassin's 1964 Topkapi. The first exposure to Schell's work for many in my generation probably came from silly 1979 sci-fi flick The Black Hole. He also played the erstwhile villain opposite James Coburn in one of the lesser Sam Peckinpah effort, 1977's Cross of Iron. He appeared in many films and roles for television both in the U.S. and abroad, including a six-episode stint on Wiseguy.

He also directed, most notably the remarkable 1984 documentary Marlene, where Marlene Dietrich reflected on her life without ever letting herself be seen in her current state.

Of all Schell's roles though, I always maintain a soft spot in my heart for his role as eccentric chef Larry London in Andrew Bergman's great comedy The Freshman with Marlon Brando doing a pitch-perfect parody of his own Vito Corleone.

RIP Mr. Schell.

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