On Feb. 2, 2014, Philip Seymour Hoffman died in what has since been ruled an accidental drug overdose. Hoffman, aged 46, was an award-winning actor, father of three, and a drug addict. He had been clean for 23 to up to more than 25 years according to different reports, until last year. Whatever changed, Philip Seymour Hoffman, considered by fans and critics alike to be one in a million, fell off the wagon and ultimately died.
Hoffman was renowned both as a supporting actor in his early days in the industry in films like The Big Lebowski and Magnolia, and later as a lead actor. He won an Oscar for his role as Truman Capote in Capote, and had been nominated a few times since. Often disheveled, the movie star was an installation in his Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York, where he lived alone in an apartment since separating from his wife, Mimi O’Donnell. Hoffman and O’Donnell had three children together, and by all accounts were on civil terms, even occasionally meeting together with the children at a neighborhood park.
Hoffman’s story as an actor is fairly unique, when considered against a backdrop of all the other adults that live in the U.S.A. as well as around the globe. As a drug user, however, his story is less so. The US alone houses an estimated three-million-plus heroin users, who use throughout their lifetimes. Around the globe the figure is an estimated 9.2 million. For those who get clean, their lives are a constant exercise in remaining so, according to Dr. Drew Pinsky of HLN. Dr. Pinsky says that even actively working on it, there is a high incidence of relapse, and if the user is lucky, they will seek and get help any time this happens. For too many, he notes, results are often fatal.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is not the only one of his acting peers to die this way, even if the figures are not in the millions as with the larger addict group. It is simply that people like Hoffman get more press for everything. A street sculptor known by the name of Plastic Jesus was inspired by events in his own life, as well as the recent death of the actor, to create an eight-foot replica of the Academy Award Oscar-statue shooting heroin into his arm with a needle. Hoffman is one in a long string of famous people to die by an overdose. At the end of last summer, Glee’s Cory Monteith died this way; also in this group are John Belushi, Heath Ledger and others. Plastic Jesus lost his cousin and his cousin’s wife to heroin. Between his own personal experience with this insidious drug and what he has seen around the streets of Hollywood, he felt the call to bring attention to the problem. Jesus installed the eight-foot statue steps from where the glitterati will arrive for the big event this evening.
Hoffman, whose death was ruled accidental, withdrew $1200 over the period of an hour the night before he died. He did this in six installments of $200 at an ATM in a corner grocery store, with some minutes passing between withdrawals. According to a CNN article on the rise and fatal draw of heroin use published just days after the actor’s death, the drug is one of the cheapest on the market. A medical examiner’s report showed the deceased had four chemical substances in his system: heroin, amphetamine, benzodiazepines and cocaine. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a one-in-a-million actor and father. With regards to his drug use, however, he was perhaps unfortunately not quite as unique.
By Julie Mahfood