The late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in February at the age of forty-six, was an actor of genius. In its obituary, the New York Times claimed that he “was perhaps the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation.” One should add, however, that Hoffman’s ambition had to operate within the cramped zone reserved for “character actors.” He was disqualified from most of Hollywood’s leading-man roles by his looks, which were pudgy, rumpled, and—depending on the...
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