Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation, who gave three-dimensional nuance to a wide range of sidekicks, villains and leading men on screen and embraced some of the theater’s most burdensome roles on Broadway, died on Sunday at an apartment in Greenwich Village he was renting as an office. He was 46.
The death, from an apparent drug overdose, was confirmed by the police. Mr. Hoffman was found in the apartment by a friend who had become concerned after being unable to reach him. Investigators found a syringe in his arm and, nearby, an envelope containing what appeared to be heroin.
Mr. Hoffman was long known to struggle with addiction. In 2006, he said in an interview with “60 Minutes” that he had given up drugs and alcohol many years earlier, when he was 22. Last year he checked into a rehabilitation program for about 10 days after a reliance on prescription pills resulted in his briefly turning again to heroin.
“I saw him last week, and he was clean and sober, his old self,” said David Bar Katz, a playwright, and the friend who found Mr. Hoffman and called 911. “I really thought this chapter was over.”
A stocky, often sleepy-looking man with blond, generally uncombed hair who favored the rumpled clothes more associated with an out-of-work actor than a star, Mr. Hoffman did not cut the traditional figure of a leading man, though he was more than capable of leading roles.
In his final appearance on Broadway, in 2012, he put his Everyman mien to work in portraying perhaps the American theater’s most celebrated protagonist — Willy Loman, Arthur Miller’s title character in “Death of a Salesman.” At 44, he was widely seen as young for the part — the casting, by the director Mike Nichols, was meant to emphasize the flashback scenes depicting a younger, pre-disillusionment Willy — and though the production drew mixed reviews, Mr. Hoffman was nominated for a Tony Award.
“Mr. Hoffman does terminal uncertainty better than practically anyone,” Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times, “and he’s terrific in showing the doubt that crumples Willy just when he’s trying to sell his own brand of all-American optimism.”
In supporting roles, he was nominated three times for Academy Awards — as a priest under suspicion of sexual predation in “Doubt” (2008); as a C.I.A. agent especially eloquent in high dudgeon in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007); and as a charismatic cult leader in “The Master” (2012).
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