The Playbill Vault Remembers Tony Nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman
By Megan Dekic
Renowned stage and screen actor Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away Feb. 2 at the age of 46. The Playbill Vault looks back at his performances on the Broadway stage.
Mr. Hoffman made his Broadway debut in Sam Shepard's True West, about the strained relationship between Austin, a screenwriter, and his drifter brother Lee. Directed by Matthew Warchus, the play opened on Broadway March 9, 2000, two decades after it was written. Hoffman and John C. Reilly alternated the lead roles of Austin and Lee, with Robert LuPone and Celia Weston completing the cast.
The production was a critical and commercial success. It routinely filled 90-100 percent of its seats and broke box-office records at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Ben Brantley raved about the cast and the "pitch-perfect direction" of Warchus. In his review for the New York Times, he wrote: "To see both versions of the current True West...is to enrich deeply your experience of just what good actors can do with the limited instruments known as the human body and voice."
Though director Warchus had asked the Tony Administration Committee to consider Hoffman and Reilly as a single unit for Tony nominations (much like Side Show's conjoined twins Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner), the Committee ruled that the two actors would be considered individually. When the 2000 Tony nominations were announced, Hoffman and Reilly received separate nominations for Best Actor in a Play.
In 2003 Mr. Hoffman returned to Broadway in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical drama Long Day's Journey Into Night. He tackled the role of James, Jr., the alcoholic older son of the Tyrone family, played by Vanessa Redgrave (Mary), Brian Dennehy (James, Sr.) and Robert Sean Leonard (Edmund).
The revival opened May 6, 2003, at the Plymouth Theatre, where it ran for 117 performances. Ben Brantley was fond of this "fine, soul-piercing new production" and especially enjoyed Redgrave's work, but noted that the other cast members did not quite reach her "level of insight and intensity." He wrote: "All three men in the ensemble...give the impression that they are still in the process of fully discovering their characters, especially Mr. Hoffman, a brilliant actor who is oddly tentative here."
The production won the 2003 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, and Hoffman received his second Tony nomination for his portrayal of James Tyrone, Jr.
Mr. Hoffman's final Broadway appearance was in the acclaimed 2012 revival of Arthur Miller's classic Death of a Salesman. He starred as Willy Loman opposite Linda Emond as Linda Loman and Andrew Garfield as Biff Loman. The revival was directed by Mike Nichols and featured a recreation of the original Tony-winning scenic design by Jo Mielziner from the 1949 production.
The play opened March 15, 2012, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. In his review for the New York Times, Ben Brantley wrote: "Mr. Hoffman does terminal uncertainty better than practically anyone, and he's terrific in showing the doubt that crumples Willy just when he's trying to sell his own brand of all-American optimism."
Hoffman was Tony-nominated for his work, and the production took home the 2012 Tony for Best Revival of a Play. It ran for a limited engagement of 78 performances before closing June 2, 2012.
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