I feel like it’s hard to really know how to mourn Philip Seymour Hoffman. As devastated as I am by his death, I was in no way a part of his life. He was a part of mine, but only at a distance, as an actor and a brilliant series of characters. He’s a complete stranger to me, is I guess what I’m saying, and no matter how eloquent I feel like my thoughts on him are, I’ll never really have anything real to add to the conversation. I didn’t know him. I miss him. Addiction terrifies me. I feel sad. That’s all I have.
But luckily (or unluckily, I guess), there are people out there who are more familiar with these subjects than I, and one of them is Aaron Sorkin. Aaron worked with PSH on Moneyball and Charlie Wilson’s War, and connected over the fact that they both had young children and were recovering drug addicts. (Aaron is addicted to cocaine and although he’s been sober since, he relapsed in 2001 after rehab and years of sobriety.) In a response to Time about Philip’s death, he speaks of bonding with him on set:
“It’s not unusual to have these mini-AA meetings — people like us are the only ones to whom tales of insanity don’t sound insane. ‘Yeah, I used to do that.’ I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: ‘If one of us dies of an overdose, probably ten people who were about to won’t.’ He meant that our deaths would make news and maybe scare someone clean.”
Honestly, it’s hard for me to even read that without tearing up, it’s so sad and small and honest and prophetic. I’m lucky enough never to have been closely exposed to addiction, either in myself or others, so reading Aaron’s words about it is the closest I can get to understand the daily struggle that every addict endures just trying not to relapse.
“It’s in that spirit that I’d like to say this: Phil Hoffman, this kind, decent, magnificent, thunderous actor … did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.”
Yeah. That’s a really excellent point. That’s smarter than anything I’ve ever heard anyone say about this whole situation, which still being cruelly, brutally sad.
“He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed — he died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a y in it. He’ll have his well-earned legacy — his Willy Loman that belongs on the same shelf with Lee J. Cobb’s and Dustin Hoffman’s, his Jamie Tyrone, his Truman Capote and his Academy Award. Let’s add to that 10 people who were about to die who won’t now.”
It’s hard stuff to hear, but it’s incredibly important that it sink in, and I’m so glad Aaron said it.
(Photo: Dennis Van Tine / FutureImage / WENN.com)