“Why do they have to smoke so much?”

“Why do the characters have to smoke so much?” Sharon asked after the movie at

Philip Seymour Hoffman at Sundance Film Festival

Philip Seymour Hoffman at Sundance Film Festival


“It seems to be a shortcut to character, an easy way for the filmmaker to supposedly show things that would otherwise take time and subtlety to get across.”

“I suppose, but I don’t like it.”

“Me neither.”

That interchange has been on infinite replay in my mind since learning yesterday that Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose. The movie with all of the smoking is A Most Wanted Man, not-yet-released a spy movie based on a John le Carre novel.

I had picked it because: How can you not pick a movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright?

He’s one of those character actors that you want to see the movie just because he’s in it. Even if it’s a small part. Have been doing that for years. Given two movie choices, or 16 film choices, if one film has Philip Seymour Hoffman, I’ll see that one.

He has such a way of humanizing even despicable characters. Of making you think maybe this despicable characters isn’t quite so despicable.

In this forthcoming movie he runs a spying organization in Germany. His person and his life are a big wreck, having suffered a big professional setback, and yet there’s humanity about him. He can take that old old film chestnut–creepy hard-hearted chain-smoking spy who’s soft on the inside—and burnish him up in an interesting way.
“She spies and she sails,” his character says of a colleague. “I don’t sail.”

He does smoke. And threaten. And watch out for the little guy. And it’s no surprise that things don’t turn out well for him.

So sad for him and for his family, including three young kids.

Sad for us all.




About Karen Ray

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1 Response to “Why do they have to smoke so much?”

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