There is no such thing as a bad Philip Seymour Hoffman performance.
But the one closest to my heart is the actor’s portrayal of legendary music critic Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. Hoffman's Bangs is snobby, shy, outrageous and sweet. The movie in general and the actor's performance in particular never fail to leave me a sobbing wreck.
Here’s director Cameron Crowe describing how the Academy Award winner changed one of the key scenes of Almost Famous completely:
My original take on this scene was a loud, late-night pronouncement from Lester Bangs. A call to arms. In Phil’s hands it became something different. A scene about quiet truths shared between two guys, both at the crossroads, both hurting, and both up too late. It became the soul of the movie. In between takes, Hoffman spoke to no one. He listened only to his headset, only to the words of Lester himself. (His Walkman was filled with rare Lester interviews.) When the scene was over, I realized that Hoffman had pulled off a magic trick. He’d leapt over the words and the script, and gone hunting for the soul and compassion of the private Lester, the one only a few of us had ever met. Suddenly the portrait was complete. The crew and I will always be grateful for that front row seat to his genius.
You can watch the scene in question below:
Crowe's tribute can be found on the director's blog The Uncool.
What a loss.