It’s a testament to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s talents as an actor that you don’t automatically associate him with a few career defining starring roles, even though he had them in The Master and Capote. No matter how much screen time his characters had in a film, and whether he was playing a lonely everyman or a cocky rich kid, Hoffman always brought them to life in a way that was captivating. In honor of the late, great, actor, here are Philip Seymour Hoffman’s most memorable supporting roles. And be sure to catch him in Boogie Nights this month on IFC.
10. The Ides of March, Paul Zara
In this Ryan Gosling/George Clooney political thriller, it’s Hoffman who brings the necessary gravitas as the grizzled campaign veteran providing a lesson in loyalty. Watching a Philip Seymour Hoffman character tell a story is like hearing Itzhak Perlman playing the violin. Few actors could bring truth to a scene without ever having to raise their voice.
9. Punch Drunk Love, Dean Trumbell
20002’s Punch Drunk Love is mostly remembered as being the one film that was able to bring out a strong performance in a dramatic role from Adam Sandler. But the reveal of Philip Seymour Hoffman as the sleazy Dean Trumbell, who manages the phone sex line that was trying to extort money from Sandler’s lonely protagonist Barry Egan, was a treat for the audience. Hoffman’s blow-dried hairstyle helps create the look of a sleazebag and his character hilariously spars with Egan’s rage-filled lonely man with love on his side.
8. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Freddie Miles
In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Hoffman used his talents to portray a privileged playboy with a cocky attitude and a flamboyance that wouldn’t be out of place in The Great Gatsby. The scene in which he sees through Ripley’s charade is brilliantly played by Hoffman as he enjoys getting a rise out of the young interloper. A rare straight man role for Hoffman that demonstrated he could play both blue bloods and oddballs with equal flair.
7. Magnolia, Phil Parma
In a cast filled with veteran character actors and movie stars, Hoffman shows once again he is both, delivering a subtle but powerful performance as one of the film’s few truly goodhearted characters. Here he plays Phil Parma, a nurse providing care to the ailing Earl Patridge, played by the legendary Jason Robards in his final role. Phil’s story revolves around him doggedly trying to track down Earl’s son Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) and fulfill his dying wish.
6. Hard Eight, Young Craps Player
Hard Eight was Paul Thomas Anderson’s directorial debut, and kicked off a long-running partnership with Hoffman. In this dark drama about the seedy side of the gambler’s life in Vegas, Hoffman plays a cocky young craps player with a mullet to match his attitude. He brings a Travolta-like flair to his brief back-and-forth with the stoic Philip Baker Hall. Watch the scene and witness a classic acting tennis match.
5. The Big Lebowski, Brandt
Great actors love to work with great directors and Philip Seymour Hoffman fit perfectly into the Coen Brothers’ hilariously quirky world. Hoffman’s uncomfortable facial expressions alone are hilarious in his brief scenes as Brandt, the titular Big Lebowski’s perpetually uptight assistant. His nervous laugh is a quirky finishing touch to the character.
4. Along Came Polly, Sandy Lyle
Along Came Polly is one of the rare underrated Ben Stiller romcoms of the 2000s, with some legitimate funny moments and great performances by Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria and Philip Seymour Hoffman in small roles. Hoffman is hilarious as a washed-up former teen actor who had a brief bit of fame in a 1980s “Brat Pack”-type movie called Crocodile Tears. You might want to clear your throat before watching Hoffman as Sandy Lyle deliver one of the funniest speeches you’ll ever see in a comedy.
3. Charlie Wilson’s War, Gust Avrakotos
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Gust Avrakotos is a cantankerous, rough-around-the-edges CIA operative who lives in the background of foreign affairs. He teams up with Tom Hank’s charming Texas schmoozer of a Congressman in a clandestine operation to provide Afghani rebels arms in their war against the Soviets. Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and his brash, slovenly spy elevates every scene with Hanks’ Charlie Wilson. Hoffman relishes the little nuances of his character, like the way a cigarette dangles from his mouth as he holds a cup of coffee.
2. Almost Famous, Lester Bangs
What was so great about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as rock journalist Lester Bangs? “In a word…everything.” Bangs wasn’t just talking to naïve young journalist William Miller when he reminds him that it’s okay to be uncool; he’s talking to anyone who has ever been a teenager. Hoffman’s Lester Bangs provides the gruff and comforting voice of reason to the wide-eyed William, helping him to realize that the rock-and-roll lifestyle isn’t all fame, fortune and groupies.
1. Boogie Nights, Scotty
It’s hard to stick out in a film overflowing with iconic performances, but Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Scotty lingers in your memory long after the disco ball has come down. Scotty, in his too-tight tank tops, doesn’t quite look right next to the attractive porn actors but he fits in perfectly with this group of misfits. In a movie where Mark Wahlberg wears a prosthetic dong, Scotty strikes a surprising chord of loneliness and unrequited love that anyone can relate to. Watching the film now is a reminder of great things to come for Philip Seymour Hoffman, and of how much his talents are missed by movie fans.