Staring at the Flame

black and white,portrait

[…] his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.

Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it.

[…] He seemed to kiss his lines rather than speak them. Then gradually he did what only the greatest actors can do. He made his voice the only authentic one, the lonely one, the odd one out, the one you depended on amid all the others. And every time it left the stage, like the great man himself, you waited for its return with impatience and mounting unease.

We shall wait a long time for another Philip.

~ John le Carré on Philip Seymour Hoffman, Staring at the Flame



  1. Amazing actor. Thank you for sharing



  2. One of our favourite actors.


  3. In the Stillness of Willow Hill says:

    What a heartfelt description of his humanity.


  4. Awww…it’s sad when the brightest lights go out…the world feels less vibrant.


  5. What a dazzling review of this incandescent talent. When he was onscreen, it was as if he were daring you to look away. One of my favorites, and a real loss….


  6. This is a magnificent tribute for a tremendous talent. I was so moved by this..


  7. what a passionate tribute to psh. for me, there is still a hole left by him on the screen, he was one of my favorites.


  8. I will never understand his choice. I guess its not for me to understand He will be missed.


  9. What a fabulous tribute. I just saw the trailer for his last movie “A Most Wanted Man” based on le Carré’s book. It made me squeak in a weird way to see him up there on the screen–alive, brilliant, doing that thing he does that isn’t acting. That business is deadly.


  10. I get a lot of mileage from his line in Twister when he finds out Paxton is getting married:
    “Taking the vows? Wow, that’s sweet!”
    I used it on my exes Facebook announcement she was getting married again last year.
    She deleted it.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: