My Last Chat With Philip Seymour Hoffman

I was not a close friend of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died Sunday at the age of 46. We shared a mutual acquaintance, and I interviewed him once several years ago. These connections were sufficient, however, to allow us to chat whenever we ran into each other on the street, usually in Greenwich Village, where he lived, or on the subway, usually going from midtown Manhattan, where he was rehearsing or performing, to downtown. It was, in fact, on the subway, about three weeks ago, where I saw him for the final time. We sat next to each other for only a few stops, but it was enough for us to have an intense short discussion about addiction. I told him about my own experiences; he shared a few of his. He was his usual rumpled self — no glamourpuss, he — but was very upbeat. He’d been to rehab last spring after a very long period of abstaining. I told him that I, too, had relapsed after an equally long period of avoiding hard drugs. “It’s always with you, isn’t it?” he said to me as our train pulled into the 14th street stop. “You can forget about it for long periods of time, but there it lurks.” I replied that people who have never fought to maintain sobriety, even family or friends who live with someone suffering, can never really know what it feels like to present a brave face to the world while feeling hounded by biochemical demons. He answered, “Thank God for that.” Thank God for Phil.

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