Day 28: That time I had to follow Matt Lauer

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman

I have very fond memories of this cover story on Philip Seymour Hoffman.

It ran in the February 2006 issue. We were the only magazine with Hoffman on the cover during Oscar season.

Getting the cover wasn’t easy. I had come back from Telluride and Toronto, declaring the he would definitely win Best Actor. Seldom was I so sure of anything. But the publicist was non-responsive. I’m sure she was bombarded by requests.

I asked Cameron Crowe for his recommendation on how to approach this. He said that he (Crowe) was always moved by a heartfelt letter and to try that with Hoffman. I did. I think the important thing was that I assured him that the article would be about the art and his approach to it, and not about the trappings of celebrity.

I ended up meeting him at a studio near his West Village home on the morning that the Golden Globes nominations were announced. He rushed over from talking with Matt Lauer.

We only had an hour, but he was very forthcoming during that time. I could tell he really liked talking about the craft. It wasn’t hard to imagine him as a teacher.

A couple weeks before that year’s Academy Awards ceremony, his mom called the Paste office. She wanted to buy some copies of that issue for their Oscar party. She particularly appreciated the photo shoot. “It’s funny, given that he’s an actor,” she told me, “but Phil doesn’t like having his photo taken.” One of the photos from that shoot ended up being the one used in the In Memoriam tribute at the 2014 Oscars.

In Memoriam 2014

I saw him one other time, in the Salt Lake City airport as we were both on our way to Sundance. He was alone. Out of respect for his privacy, I didn’t go up to him. I wish I had. Mostly, I just wish we could have seen how he continued to develop as an actor.

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