Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News
NEW YORK – Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation, died Sunday at an apartment in Greenwich Village, apparently from a drug overdose. He was 46.
Hoffman was found in the apartment by a friend, David Bar Katz, who became concerned after being unable to reach him.
Investigators found a syringe in his left forearm, at least two plastic envelopes with what appeared to be heroin near where his body was found in a bathroom, and five empty plastic envelopes in a trash bin, a law-enforcement official said.
Hoffman’s family said his death is “a tragic and sudden loss.”
In a statement, the family said the “outpouring of love and support” was appreciated. They asked people to respect their privacy.
Hoffman was long known to struggle with addiction. In 2006, he said in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he had given up drugs and alcohol many years earlier, when he was 22. But last year, he checked into a rehabilitation program for about 10 days after a reliance on prescription pills resulted in his briefly turning again to heroin.
“I saw him last week, and he was clean and sober, his old self,” said Katz, a playwright, who said he called 911 after finding Hoffman. “I really thought this chapter was over.”
On Sunday afternoon, Hoffman’s family released a statement: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone. This is a tragic and sudden loss. … Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers.”
As news of Hoffman’s death spread, fellow actors and fans took to Twitter to express their admiration for his acting and their grief over his death. Ellen DeGeneres, who will host the Oscars ceremony in March over which Hoffman’s death is likely to cast a pall, tweeted: “Philip Seymour Hoffman was a brilliant, talented man. The news this morning is shocking and sad. My heart goes out to his loved ones.”
Hoffman won an Academy Award in 2006 for best actor for his role in the film “Capote,” in which he portrayed the author Truman Capote as Capote researched the book “In Cold Blood.”
Known for his scene-stealing supporting roles, Hoffman was nominated for the Academy Award for best supporting actor three times: for the 2012 film “The Master,” the 2008 film “Doubt” and the 2007 film “Charlie Wilson’s War.” He also recently had a role in the hugely popular “The Hunger Games” films.
Hoffman’s work was “substantially complete” on “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I,” and he had seven shooting days remaining on “Mockingjay Part 2,” said a person close to the production but not authorized to speak to media. The actor’s death will not affect the films’ scheduled release dates in November 2014 and 2015, the person said.
Hoffman had been acting in films for the past two decades, often transforming physically for each new role. He was prolific as well, sometimes filming several movies in a year and appearing in plays on Broadway.
In 2012, he played Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway, a performance that earned him his third Tony Award nomination. He was also nominated for “True West” in 2000 and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 2003.
“I try to live my life in such a way that I don’t have profound regrets,” Hoffman told The New York Times in 2008. “That’s probably why I work so much. I don’t want to feel I missed something important.”
Hoffman had three young children, a son and two daughters, with his partner, Mimi O’Donnell, a costume designer. The family lived in an apartment, neighbors said, not far from the building where his body was found.
In his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards in 2006, Hoffman thanked many people, but in particular his mother, Marilyn O’Connor, who attended. He thanked her for raising him and his three siblings on her own and for taking him to see his first play.
“Be proud, Mom, ’cause I’m proud of you, and we’re here tonight, and it’s so good,” he said with a smile.
On Sunday, outside the apartment building where Hoffman was found, more than 100 people had gathered to mourn the actor’s death.
“He’s a local. He’s a fixture in this neighborhood,” said Christian McCulloch, 39, who said that he lives nearby. “You see him with his kids in the coffee shops. He is so sweet. It’s desperately sad.”
Down the street at the Labyrinth Theater Company, where Hoffman had been a member since 1995, friends gathered Sunday to remember him. David Deblinger, an actor and a member of the company, said Hoffman often came to the theater with his children in tow.
“He helped produce theater, and acted, and sold tickets and helped clean up,” said Deblinger, 48. “We are here to remember him. This is a time to sit shiva,” he said, referring to the Jewish mourning ritual.
Hoffman had recently been cast in a new television show on Showtime called “Happyish.” The network released a statement Sunday calling him “one of our generation’s finest and most brilliant actors.”
“He was also a gifted comedic talent,” the statement said. “It was a great privilege and pleasure to work with him, and we are all absolutely devastated by this sudden loss. Our thoughts go out to his family at this very difficult time.”
The last time Katz spoke to Hoffman was around 9 p.m. Saturday, the law-enforcement official said. When the actor did not show up at 9 a.m. Sunday for an expected visit with O’Donnell and their children, she called Katz, who went to the fourth-floor apartment and found it double-locked, the official said. Katz phoned an assistant to Hoffman who had a set of keys, and they entered the apartment together at around 11:30 a.m.
The plastic envelopes near Hoffman’s body that were believed to be heroin were stamped with two drug brands: one had purple letters spelling the words Ace of Spades and the other had a red icon of the ace of hearts, according to a law-enforcement official.
Narcotics detectives from the New York Police Department were investigating whether the brands had any significance or had surfaced in any other overdose cases.
Investigators also planned to test the substances inside to determine if they had been tainted in anyway, though there was no initial indication that they had been.
The city medical examiner will also conduct tests to determine a cause of death.
By late afternoon, Hoffman’s body remained in the apartment as crime scene investigators combed through the area.
The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.