Emily's Feb. Inspiration 'Heart-Broken'
It's been over a week now that he passed... I hadn't even fully had my peace with Pete Seeger's death and wham – the news struck me fierce. It stopped all of us in the way artist's deaths do. The loss of not only the person, but the work, the passion. I saw Phillip Seymour Hoffman standing on the corner of Prince and Spring Street in SoHo the summer I moved to New York. I was shopping with Mom - also a huge fan, and she insisted on following the actor around the corner in awe of his presence, his stardom.
His hands were stuffed way down in his pockets and he had that look about him - that uncomfortable, charming mug. It was back in 1999, post HAPPINESS and MAGNOLIA - pre CAPOTE and THE MASTER. It's impossible to pick a favorite role because he had this uncanny way of making you love each of his character choices. At the moment his rock journalist, Lester Bangs in ALMOST FAMOUS comes to mind... I loved that late night scene in his apartment talking on a rotary phone with William Miller? 'That's because we're uncool.' He growled, 'And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter. Guys like us are the un-cool.' And there's where it hits us deepest because he was willing to play that part of ourselves - the awkward, broken parts.
That he died with a syringe in his arm was poetic. We forget this about artists. They sacrifice, throw themselves to the deep end of dark and edge to bring truth to their work. The greats, like him - hold nothing back. I didn't know he struggled with addiction, or was sober for twenty three years prior. These headlines don't make us adore him any less, but more - for the art he gave us. It feels right this month of valentine to feel such heart for him. Right that we are in fact, heart-broken by his death. And the Oscar montage is sure to make us cry more. The poet Rumi says, 'You have to keep breaking your heart, until it opens.' Perhaps this is the gift Phillip Seymour Hoffman left behind. Our hearts, cracked wider open.