You Never Know
Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed away on Sunday of an apparent drug overdose. He was found on the floor, needle still in his arm, and surrounded by bags that either contained or once contained heroin (according to reports). He was only 46 and such an amazing actor; he will definitely be missed by the film community and by fans.
The thing that we need to remember is that we don’t know PSH or other actors that have broken our hearts with untimely deaths (Paul Walker is the other recent death that comes to mind). We love the movies they star in, the characters they play, the interviews they give, and the way they make us feel. We can recite every single one of their lines in specific films and we know their life stories almost by heart from what we’ve read. None of that means we know the person at all. I was surprised that PSH’s overdose was from heroin use; I never would have suspected that he would use that drug. To me, he doesn’t seem like the type of person to go that route, which I’m sure is an opinion shared by others and which is a shining example of how little we know.
It’s healthy to mourn the passing of celebrities; even though we don’t actually know them, they become part of our lives through their work. That said, it’s wrong to mistake that relationship for anything other than something one-sided and superficial. PSH wasn’t our friend, our brother, our colleague. He wasn’t our neighbor. He may have favorited something you posted on Twitter, but that doesn’t make him your buddy. His job was to entertain us, and he was fantastic at it, but one’s job does not always give an accurate reflection of a person, especially when the job is to turn into different people for every new project presented.
Being an actor, or any other type of celebrity, does not make a person invincible or untouchable. Fame and money are not cure-alls for what ails you. We don’t know what any celebrity goes through, not even the Kardashians who live life like an open wound. We see edited tidbits or exaggerated tabloid gossip that we often take too literally and mistake it for something it’s not. We take exclusive interviews and Wikipedia articles as gospel, assuming we truly know the person because we’ve memorized details about their personal lives and childhoods. It’s wrong to look at someone like PSH, see an amazing career, and assume that they are carefree and immune to tragedy.
I’m very sad that PSH passed in an untimely and terrible way, and I will miss seeing him in films in the future. On the bright side, he was able to make his mark during his time on this Earth and he leaves behind quite a legacy on the silver screen. Let’s focus on the talent he was instead of wasting time trying to pick apart the why and the how. Finding out whether or not he was troubled or an addict will not change what happened and will not change who he was to us as fans. Let the family and real friends mourn in peace and let’s remember PSH as the brilliant actor he was.