Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman
Updated: Tuesday, March 4 2014, 03:07 PM EST
Fairport, N.Y. - The moment Philip Seymour Hoffman took stage at Fairport High School those around him knew he had a gift.
His English teacher John Baynes knew there was something special about Hoffman early on.
“He was a dynamic presence in the classroom he would look at what we were reading or he would look at my behavior as the teacher and cut through and see what was going on underneath. I remember one day I said, ‘what’s with the face Hoffman?’ he’s giving me this quizzical face and he said, ‘I’ve just been watching you manipulate everything for the whole period,’” said Baynes. “I’ve never had a student make me feel so naked the way he did because his intelligence when it came to the human condition was off the charts.”
Hoffman’s understanding of the human condition was seen on stage and on screen.
“Every single film that he is in you don't recognize him, you don't see him, you see the character,” said Michael Arve, who met Hoffman when he was 17. Arve was stage manager at the Shipping Dock Theater in Rochester.
“I think he's certainly the greatest character actor of his generation and probably the top three or four of all time,” said Jack Garner, film critic and columnist.
Through all the fame Hoffman was still humble. He returned to his hometown, Fairport, N.Y. to meet with students.
“He was able to get back to the school and do some workshops with the kids, we really thought a lot of him and he thought a lot of Fairport,” said Fairport School District Superintendent Bill Cala. “It's really quite a loss for Fairport.”
News of Hoffman’s death is a loss for many – those who loved his work and for those who knew him.
“His death doesn't define him at all,” said Baynes. “Not for me and not for the world. I would think his life defines his life, he'll always be that gifted actor yes, but always that humble and generous man to me.”