Why you’ll never see Philip Seymour Hoffman’s greatest performance

Philip Seymour Hoffman left his audience wanting more.
Philip Seymour Hoffman left his audience wanting more.
Image: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
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Some of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s best performances were still to come. The actor, found dead in his New York City apartment from an apparent drug overdose this morning, had been filming his much-anticipated role in the next round of Hunger Games movies. But the storied 46-year-old actor was also beginning what was arguably his finest work yet—in a lesser-known upcoming Showtime comedy series, Happyish.

Last month, Showtime treated reporters at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour to footage from Happyish, which the network had just officially picked up to series. In the clips screened from the pilot episode, reporters and critics were laughing at the exploits of Hoffman, who played a bitter creative director at a New York City ad agency dealing with a new boss half his age. The footage promised yet another classic Hoffman performance, with a profane rant against social media and an uproarious hallucination involving a Keebler Elf. And even though only the pilot episode had been shot, with a likely series debut set for summer, many in the room—myself included—were already predicting that Hoffman would be making room on his mantle for Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards for his Happyish role.

After the footage aired, David Nevins, Showtime’s president of entertainment, called Hoffman “one of the really great actors of our time” and admitted that while he’d loved the Happyish script for a long time, “it took us a while to get to Philip Seymour Hoffman…and totally worth it for the waiting.”

But unless Showtime opts to air the pilot on its own, it’s a performance we’ll never see, given that only one of the 10 episodes had been shot. In the wake of Hoffman’s death, Showtime will have to either recast the project (which, given Nevins’s comments above, will be easier said than done) or drop it entirely. For now, Showtime is focused solely on remembering Hoffman, whom it called in a statement “one of our generation’s finest and most brilliant actors….It was a great privilege and pleasure to work with him and we are all absolutely devastated by this sudden loss.”

There is far less uncertainty about Hoffman’s other major outstanding project: his The Hunger Games: Catching Fire role as head gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee, which he was set to reprise in the franchise’s final two films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2. The films are currently being shot back-to-back in Atlanta, and Hoffman had already completed his work on Part 1 and had just seven days left on Part 2, according to The Hollywood Reporter. While it is still unclear how producers will navigate around those unshot scenes, Hoffman’s death is not expected to affect the release dates of either film (Part 1 is set for Nov. 21, 2014; Part 2 is due Nov. 20, 2015).