Of course we like them, we love them, we are grateful to them, these stage and film actors who give us so much. When we occasionally hear bad news–an overdose, an accident, an unforgiving illness, a suicide–as the case may be, we’re surprised at how young they were or how untimely their deaths–Heath Ledger comes to mind. All we can do is keep the memories and have a warm thought for them when we come across an image or hear their name.
As we are reminded each year at the Oscar ceremony, none of these actors, gone now, will be quite forgotten as long as the films in which they appeared exist, and that means a long, long time. But sometimes the news is almost too stunning to process. As a couple of days ago with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Cinema has lost a sublimely-talented actor, one who made history like not many of his peers, projecting into our minds, indelibly, a wide range of flawed, wounded and occasionally pathetic characters, perfect in their rendition (“Capote,” “The Master,” “The Savages,” “Doubt,” “The Late Quartet,” and so many more.)
There have always been scene stealers or remarkable actors, from very good to competent—the early Edward Norton, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Spacey, or Robert de Niro come to mind. But as good as Hoffman, without a single misstep, without a single role he shouldn’t have accepted? An actor who never played a part but became a character in which he himself disappeared so totally that beside him even the best acting appeared contrived? I don’t know. The loss is huge, the void will not be filled.