As Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death this past weekend has brought many tributes from friends and colleagues, there is perhaps no more poignant than that of writer-director Cameron Crowe.
Crowe, who directed Hoffman in his 2000 coming-of-age drama Almost Famous took to his own website yesterday to reflect on a remarkable “magic trick” that Hoffman pulled over the course of his portrayal of real-life music journalist Lester Bangs. You can read Crowe’s touching tribute before watching the scene the director refers to below:
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.