Actor and Fairport native Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead

Updated: 02/03/2014 1:19 PM
Created: 02/02/2014 2:03 PM WHEC.com

Academy Award Winning actor and Fairport native Philip Seymour Hoffman has died at the age of 46.

News10NBC is told screenwriter David Katz and another friend discovered Hoffman's body Sunday morning in his New York City apartment.

The investigation into how he died is still going on. Police have not yet released an official cause of death for the Fairport High School graduate, but a drug overdose is suspected.

The Associated Press is reporting Hoffman was found in the bathtub with a syringe in his arm around 11:30 Sunday morning.

News10NBC is told he was alone in an apartment just three blocks from the home he shared with his longtime partner, Mimi O'Donnell, and their three children.

Hoffman openly discussed his past struggles with drugs, saying he had a problem in his early twenties, but had kicked the habit for 23 year before falling off the wagon. Hoffman checked himself into a drug detox facility back in May for 10 days after becoming addicted to heroin.

A reporter from our NBC affiliate in New York caught up with a woman who lives nearby. She said she didn't know Hoffman, but saw him out often with his family. She said it's a shame when someone of his talents dies too young.

"I kind of have a little anger. It's like these people, we've seen this before. They have so much going for them, and it just hurts me to see them end their lives this soon,” said Janet Parrish.

Hoffman was born in Fairport in 1967. He graduated from Fairport High School and later studied drama at New York University, and from there launched his film career, going on to appear in dozens of successful Hollywood films like "Boogie Nights", "Twister", and "Almost Famous."

More recently, he appeared alongside Brad Pitt in "Moneyball" and in the popular "Hunger games: Catching Fire." Hoffman was also an accomplished theater actor. During his career he was nominated for two Tony Awards and three Academy Awards.

But what was likely the highlight of his career, Hoffman won the Oscar for best actor in 2006 for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote in the film "Capote.”

During his acceptance speech, he thanked his mother, retired Monroe County Family Court Judge Marilyn O'Connor for raising him and his three siblings alone and for taking him to his first play. His parents divorced when he was nine.

"My mom's name is Marilyn O'Connor, she's here tonight. And I'd like if you see her tonight to congratulate her. Because she brought up four kids alone and she deserves a congratulations for that. And she took me to my first play and stayed up with me to watch the NCAA Final Four and her passions became my passions. Be proud mom, we're here tonight and it's so good. Thank you,” said Hoffman back in 2006.

Hoffman's family did release a statement Sunday afternoon saying, "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone. This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving.  Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers."

It's no secret Hoffman was beloved by his colleagues and fans. His death is getting a lot of attention in his hometown in Fairport.

On Sunday News10NBC spoke with a Fairport High School teacher who taught Hoffman and kept in touch with him over the years.

It was decades ago when Hoffman took the lead role in “Death of a Salesman,” at Fairport High School, considered one of the most difficult characters to play in American theatre. Hoffman blew the audience away with his performance, the acting of a future legend.

“When I heard the news, I cried and then I cried some more. It's just a devastating day,” said John Baynes, Fairport High School English teacher.

To many, Philip Seymour Hoffman was a Hollywood favorite, but for those who knew him, like Fairport English teacher John Baynes, he was so much more than what we saw on the big screen.

“Humbled, generous, a valuable and present to others. He was unimpressed by fame, by anything surface.He didn't care about the surface of life. He cared about what was underneath,” said Baynes.

Baynes isn't the only one mourning the loss. The news came as a shock to Fairport. The community where Hoffman was born, raised and praised.

“Horrible. He had so much going for him,” said one Fairport man.

“I was completely shocked. I was shaking actually. I mean, it was completely mind blowing news,” said Sue Fox, former Fairport High School classmate of Hoffman.

There are still many questions surrounding the death of one of Rochester's beloved, but many say that won't ever change what he meant to this community.

“He was an inspiration to so many young people and I hope he still will be because his life, his story was the story of his work. His story of his humility of his generosity, not the story of his death,” said Baynes.

On Sunday, the Fairport Central School District’s Interim Superintendent William Cala issued the following statement on the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman:

“It is with great sadness that we learn of the untimely death of our friend and former student Philip Seymour Hoffman. Phil was an icon in Fairport not solely due to his incredible talent and recognized accomplishments on stage and in the movies, but rather due to his love of his alma mater and his willingness to return periodically to share his wit and wisdom. Phil was a member of our Fairport family who was inducted into the Wall of Fame in 2006 at Fairport High School. He will be terribly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, three children and his mother, Marilyn O'Connor.”

News10NBC also sat down with local film critic Jack Garner Sunday, who reflected on Hoffman's life and his ties to the local community.

“Incredible tragedy. This is an incredibly talented man and I also know his family. I know his mother Marilyn and his brother Gordy and other family members. They have been fixtures in Rochester for quite some time. It's also a great sense of pride for Rochester that he was from here,” said Garner.

Despite his Hollywood success, Hoffman never forgot his Fairport roots or his ties to the Rochester community. You might remember Hoffman came home in 2006 to support the campaign of his mother's friend, Judge Patricia Gallagher, who was running for family court judge at the time.

He stopped by the Little Theater for a showing of the film "Capote" and answered questions. Here's a portion of our interview with Hoffman:

“My mom keeps me in touch, my mom and my sister and my dad, you know and it's been clear the overwhelming pride and support that I felt from the city. It always, always makes me smile. I would talk to people who I went to high school with and they'd call me and it means a lot to me. I really can't tell you what it meant to me this is where I grew up.”

Hoffman's colleagues and friends in Hollywood and across the nation are stunned and saddened by  his death. Here's a look at some of their tweets:

Jim Carrey said, “Dear Philip, a beautiful, beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart.”
From Ellen DeGeneres, “Philip Seymour Hoffman was a brilliant, talented man. The news this morning is shocking and sad. My heart goes out to his loved ones.”

From Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad, “We lost one of the greats today. Philip Seymour Hoffman RIP my friend. You will be missed always and forever.”

From Chelsea Clinton, “Very sad to read of Philip Seymour Hoffman's passing. Keeping his family & friends in my thoughts.”

From Justin Timberlake, “Just hearing about Philip Seymour Hoffman. Devastating. What an amazingly gifted actor. RIP.”

From Ben Stiller, “What a huge loss. A brilliant actor and a warm, generous, humble person. Phil Hoffman.”

Again, Fairport native and a man described as "one of the greatest actors of a generation,"  Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead at 46-years-old.

"We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our friend

From Bruce Barnes, Ron and Donna Fielding Director, George Eastman House: "Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was a brilliant and irreplaceable artist who never forgot his roots in Rochester. We send our thoughts and prayers to his family during their time of grieving, and will keep Philip in our hearts always."

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