There’s something heartwarming about Philip Seymour Hoffman, and it isn’t just that scruffy teddy bear look he’s been sporting as of late. In front of an overflowing theater of friends and fans, Hoffman appeared not only humbled, but truly touched after receiving the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s illustrious Riviera Award this past Saturday night. “I’m beside myself. I’m overwhelmed and beside myself,” Hoffman gushed after his buddy and acclaimed director, Paul Thomas Anderson, presented the award. “I can’t tell you how much gratitude I have in my heart.”
But the evening wasn’t filled with weepy pontificating and Sally Field-style acceptance speeches. Between career-spanning film snippets, Leonard Maltin probed Hoffman about subjects ranging from cross-dressing to his recent Academy Award nod. Speaking modestly of his nomination, Hoffman said, “I’m not one to say I’m not honored. I’m honored. [And for those who say they aren’t honored,] that’s a bunch of crap. You’re honored…. Everyone wants to be loved. Everybody wants to be appreciated for their work.”
Despite his monumental achievements, Hoffman was the first to sing the praises of his fellow actors (“One of the very important things about acting is listening, and [Robert De Niro] is one of the best listeners”) and note the vital role his costars have played in his career. “If someone in front of you is awesome or intimidating … you’re an idiot if you ignore [it] and don’t learn from that,” he said.
Known for his ability to take on countless diverse – and challenging – character parts, Hoffman commented at length on his role in 2005’s “Capote.” “It’s exhausting,” he said of the day-to-day acting experience. “The minute I know I’m done, I’m gone. Because you’re really playing around with your emotional life all day long.”
As far as the future is concerned, right now Hoffman’s only true worry is keeping a level head. “It’s the big killer to get too in that big head [mentality] where you’re thinking, ‘Well, I must win … and if I don’t, I’ll kill myself,'” he half-joked.
With a catalogue of work that includes such milestones as “Magnolia,” “The Big Lebowski” and “Boogie Nights,” as well as a shot at the Oscar for Best Actor, it seems that Hoffman has his work cut out for him. “Phil has made it cool again to be serious and committed to what you do,” Anderson said of his close friend. And by the evening’s close, dedication never looked cooler.