NEW YORK – Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment on Sunday of a suspected drug overdose, law enforcement officials said. He was 46.
The enigmatic star was hailed as the finest character actor of his generation, winning an Oscar in 2006 for “Capote” and nominated for three further Academy Awards.
Police responded to the U.S. actor’s home in Manhattan’s West Village after receiving a call from one of his friends at about 11:15 a.m., they told AFP.
“We are investigating a possible overdose at this location,” said one law enforcement official, declining to give his name.
The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, reported that a screenwriter found Hoffman in the bathroom of his apartment with a needle in his arm.
Hoffman’s recent movies included action fantasy “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and psychological drama “The Master,” for which he received his latest Oscar nomination.
Tributes quickly poured in from fellow celebrities and actors, including Mia Farrow who wrote on Twitter: “A truly kind, wonderful man and one of our greatest actors – ever.”
Three police cars were parked on the curb as journalists and neighbors, some crying, quickly gathered in stunned silence outside the actor’s apartment building on Bethune Street.
Two policemen stood outside Hoffman’s building, the “Pickwick House,” a red brick six-floor apartment complex, but declined to comment to reporters.
One neighbor who gave her name as Janine, said she was accustomed to seeing the actor and his family in the street.
“They were always in the ‘hood,” she told AFP. “He, his partner and four kids. My husband saw him last week. They never hide, they were a part of the community here.”
She said she had come as soon as she heard the news.
Born Philip Hoffman in July 1967 in New York state, he was the third of four children of a Xerox executive and a feminist housewife who divorced when he was 9.
An avid athlete, the stocky youth became involved in school theatrics after suffering an injury.
He earned a drama degree from New York University in 1989, though he fell into alcohol and drug abuse for a while.
Incorporating his grandfather’s name, Seymour, between his given names, he made his big screen debut in a 1991 independent film called “Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole.”
In 1997, he made waves as a closeted gay crew member who makes a tentative pass at star Mark Wahlberg in Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn industry tale “Boogie Nights,” followed by a quirky turn as a toady in the Coen brothers’ “The Big Lebowski” (1998).
In Anthony Minghella’s crime thriller “The Talented Mr Ripley,” he stole the show from co-stars Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow with his stealthy supporting role as slippery and duplicitous preppie Freddie Miles.
He played music reporter Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” (2000) and then took on the role of a lonely lecher in Todd Solondz’s “Happiness” (1998).
He also had striking roles in Anderson’s “Magnolia”; in “Flawless,” in which he plays a melodramatic drag queen; in “Punch-Drunk Love”; and in big-budget pictures like the 2003 Oscar winner “Cold Mountain.”
But the actor was a reluctant occupant of the limelight.
“Movie star? I just can’t relate to that,” Hoffman told one interviewer in 2009.
“Philip is an extraordinary actor, cursed, sometimes, by his own gnawing intelligence, his own discomfort with acting,” the late Minghella once said.
“There are few actors more demanding in front of camera, less demanding away from it.”
After his Oscar-winning turn in “Capote”, Hoffman had three more Oscar nominations as a supporting actor in “Charlie Wilson’s War” in 2008, “Doubt” in 2009 and “The Master” in 2013.
He had been in a relationship with costume designer Mimi O’Donnell since 1999 and the couple had four children.