Old Globe Artistic Director Remembers Hoffman

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Philip Seymour Hoffman, winner Best Actor in a Leading Role for "Capote" (Photo by J. Vespa/WireImage)

    Film and theater professionals are mourning the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, including here in San Diego.

    Celebrities React to Hoffman's Death

    The Oscar-winning actor was found dead Sunday in his Manhattan apartment of an apparent heroin overdose, law enforcement sources said.

    Barry Edelstein, Artistic Director at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park, released a statement Sunday night sharing his memories of Hoffman.

    In the statement, Edelstein says he is “distraught” over Hoffman’s death. Edelstein met Hoffman 25 years ago, and the two became close when they worked together in “Othello.”

    Hoffman may be best known for his movies, but Edelstein says,” to me, he was a true and pure man of the theater. “

    Despite the fame, Edelstein said Hoffman remained down to Earth: “He always took time out of his very busy schedule to talk to students and answer questions from fans."

    Read Edelstein’s entire statement below:

    Like so many in the tight-knit community of the American stage, I am distraught at the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

    Phil gained international renown through his brilliant work on screen but to me he was a true and pure man of the theater. I met him over twenty-five years ago when we were both fresh out of school and just hitting the professional world. I saw him play the dark clown Launcelot Gobbo in director Peter Sellars's landmark production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE and was awestruck: the fearlessness and emotional rawness that he brought to the work was unlike anything I'd seen. I'd see it again and again in the gallery of indelible characters he'd go on to create. Another actor in that MERCHANT, John Ortiz, would later team with Phil to found New York's Labyrinth Theater Company, which for a decade was the most exciting and adventurous troupe in the country. Phil produced, acted, and directed for Labyrinth, and the work he drew from the company was as honest and truthful as his own. He was a leader, a mentor, and a visionary.

    He was also a student of the game. He loved to talk about the work, and to compare notes on shows he'd seen, artistic techniques he'd encountered, and plays he'd read. He thrilled to the work of great actors and he always took time out of his very busy schedule to talk to students and answer questions from fans.

    My closest work with Phil was when he again teamed with Ortiz and Sellars on Shakespeare's OTHELLO, of which I was a producer during my time with the Public Theater's Shakespeare Initiative. Phil's Iago was searing, a soul on fire. Night after night I'd watch him and boggle at the titanic force of his fury. Offstage, Phil was soft-spoken and sweet, with a hangdog expression and soft, weary eyes. But onstage he was a cyclone. And his emotional nakedness, his complete commitment to the truth of his character, came at a cost: acting, especially live on stage, was for Phil beyond enervating. I remember visiting his dressing room after one performance and finding him alone in the dark, sprawled flat on the floor, silent. Playing Iago came from his deepest recesses, and it left him drained. In my entire career I've never known another actor who pushed himself to such roiling depths, or who poured his very life-force onto the stage in such a torrent. It was the only way he knew to do it, and it was astonishing to behold.

    I didn't know Phil well enough to know the source of the churning emotion that made his acting so powerful. But I gather that the inner turbulence that was the font of his creativity was linked to the demons that led to the awful circumstances of his death. And in my grief, I honestly don't know what to make of that. What's better: a great artist for whom work is agonizing, or a lesser light who's happier in rehearsal? I cherish the extraordinary Phil Hoffman performances I was privileged to see: on stage his Iago, Gobbo, his work in O'Neill and Miller and many plays at Labyrinth, and of course those magnificent screen performances that will endure forever. I only wish he'd been able to come to them at a lower personal cost.

    But genius doesn't work that way, and Phil was a genius, and Phil wouldn't have been Phil if his work didn't draw on his very lifeblood. He was a giant, the greatest American actor of his generation and one of the best of all time. I count myself lucky to have known him and I will cherish his memory. I think of his partner Mimi and their three young children and my heart breaks. They and Phil's entire family are in my thoughts and prayers, and in the thoughts and prayers of all of us at The Old Globe who are working tonight in an art that Philip Seymour Hoffman raised to new levels of excellence.

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