Media people

Philip Seymour Hoffman was 'far from disappointing in person'

pshoffman-david-carr-piece.jpgNew York Times media writer David Carr had some things in common with Philip Seymour Hoffman: wrestling, a role to play in the movie promoting machine, and addiction. Carr doesn't know exactly what happened to cause Hoffman's death, but neither is he surprised. He writes a nice personal piece at Medium:

Covering entertainment means that you come across people whose faces you first saw 20 feet tall on a movie screen. They tend to shrink when you meet them. Mr. Hoffman was not like that. He was far from disappointing in person. He didn’t enjoy press even a tiny bit, but knew everyone had a job to do and mine, on occasion, was covering him during the awards season. And he was always available for a quote about a fellow actor or a project he was working. He was a professional, and a kind, decent guy to boot....

Now that he is gone, much has been said about his failure, about his fall. I don’t really see it that way. He got in the ring with his addiction and battled it for two decades successfully, doing amazing film work for years and doing the hard stuff to keep ambitious theater alive in in New York.

And then something changed and he used. Everyone is surprised when that happens to someone famous, but it happens routinely everywhere else. Rooms of recovery are full of stories of people with long-term recovery who went back out and some of them, as a matter of mathematics and pharmacology, don’t make it back. Chemical dependency does not change — have one and you might die — and recovery does not change — have none and you might live. Addicts live in the middle of that and the hole that they once tried to fill with chemicals always remains, pushed back on a daily basis. Addiction, whether you believe it is a disease or not, is a pirate, constantly on patrol and looking for a weakness so it can climb aboard.

I have no certainty about what went wrong, but I can tell you from personal experience that what happened was not the plan. I have been alone in that room with my addled thoughts, the drugs, and the needle. Addicts in the grip always have a plan.

Carr's piece also includes an unintended (I think) reminder to those reporters who forget that the celebrities they cover are not their friends. Next time you hear a radio host or celebrity reporter gush how proud they are that this famous person or another spoke with them (probably because some flack told them too, as part of a coldly calculated media strategy) remember this: "It’s easy to get confused covering celebrities. You make fake friends, born of transactions and mutual needs, but there is no human relationship under that. I was not pals with Hoffman, but he was uncommonly gracious."

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