The Gospel According to Philip Seymour Hoffman
I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman – one of the truly great film and stage actor and director of his generation. He leaves behind an incredible body of work that was the result of not only a well honed talent, but also good old fashioned character acting skills. It’s yet another tragic loss to addiction. His performances in films like Capote and Doubt rightly earned him the respect and acclaim of his peers. His portrayal of a priest, Father Brendan Flynn, in the film doubt was mesmerizing and I found his sermons in the film powerful and full of truth.
I came across this article that presented Philip’s reflection on faith and Christianity, originally published by Busted Halo, via a post Fr. Kenneth Tanner posted on Facebook. You can follow the link to the original source or read below:
“[Philip Seymour Hoffman’s] strength as a director of ‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,’ which debuted at the Public Theater in 2005, was partially the result of his interest in, and familiarity with, the raw material of the play. From the beginning, he encouraged the cast to ask questions about the Gospels and the story of Jesus and Judas. Some of this comfort had to do with his religious background.
“As a boy growing up in a town outside of Rochester, New York, Phil attended Sunday classes in preparation for confirmation in the Catholic Church, though his parents were not especially religious. ‘My parents were pretty liberal people, who didn’t talk about God much in the house,’ he said.
“Early on, religion was uninviting to him. ‘Those Masses really turned me off,’ he said. ‘Lots of rote repetition, pretty boring and sometimes really brutal.’
“His perspective changed when one of his two sisters became active in a Christian evangelical movement, to which she still belongs today. She encouraged her brother to accompany her to meetings with her friends, and Phil went along happily. ‘There was something that was so heartfelt and emotional,’ he said. ‘Nothing about it felt crazy at all. And my sister was certainly the sanest person you could ever meet. It all felt very real, very guttural, even rebellious.’
“The idea that a young person could be sane, generous, intelligent and Christian held out great appeal for him. So did the palpable sense of community he felt with his sister and her friends. Still, he held back from the total commitment that his sister made. ‘It was a little too much for me,’ he said. ‘And by that time I was more into partying and acting.’
“So Phil, who describes himself as a believer and someone who prays from time to time, carried this positive approach to Christianity with him into the Public Theater during the rehearsals for the new play about Jesus and Judas. ‘My time with my sister and her circle of friends is something I still think about today.’ He noted that he is often defensive about the way that many actors react to the idea of evangelical Christians. Is there a bias, I asked, against that kind of person in the acting community?
“‘Absolutely!’ he said. ‘It pisses me off that there is this knee-jerk reaction against them. There is certainly an antipathy against them in the acting world, just like there is an antipathy in the politically liberal world. And, as a result, the liberal Christian is not heard from as much. And, you know, a liberal person who has a deep belief in Christianity can be a very powerful influence on things.”
May he find the One Whose Memory is Eternal. God’s peace upon his family. May they know His presence and experience His mercy.