What Success Meant To Philip Seymour Hoffman

02/03/2014 10:27 am ET | Updated Aug 18, 2014
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An outpouring of grief spread across the Internet on Sunday, as Hollywood insiders and fans alike mourned the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, widely considered to be one of his generation's most gifted performers. Hoffman, who was 46 and the father of three young children, died of an apparent drug overdose in his Greenwich Village apartment.

Hoffman achieved phenomenal success in his life, by any measure -- his screen and stage performances made him rich and famous, earned critical acclaim and Academy Awards, and led many to call him the greatest actor of his generation.

In the words attributed to the late actor, here's the meaning of success and happiness:

"Success isn't what makes you happy. It really isn't. Success is doing what makes you happy and doing good work and hopefully having a fruitful life. If I've felt like I've done good work, that makes me happy. The success part of it is all gravy."

Hoffman's extensive body of good work will be remembered. His powerful, moving performances, which were filled with authenticity and emotion -- and, as many have noted, a profound sense of vulnerability -- struck a chord with countless viewers who could relate to his underdog, "beautiful loser" characters.

"No modern actor was better at making you feel sympathy for f*cking idiots, failures, degenerates, sad sacks and hangdogs dealt a bum hand by life, even as -- no, especially when -- he played them with all of their worst qualities front and center," David Fear wrote in Hoffman's Rolling Stone obituary. "Above all, Hoffman had a talent for pinpointing the humanistic even in the most horrible characters."

More fundamentally, Hoffman will be remembered for his "fruitful life" and everyday acts of kindness. Hoffman was, in the words of Jim Carrey, "A beautiful, beautiful soul," and as Fear wrote, an "incredibly nice, generous guy." As Carrey noted, in a nod to the late actor's struggle with addiction, "For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much."

Neighbors remember Hoffman as a caring father who would walk his small children to the local public school. Film writer Sheila O'Malley may have best described the caring spirit that Hoffman brought to both his life and his work in a tribute posted yesterday on Roger Ebert's website, spotlighting Hoffman's role in Magnolia:

"Phil understands what is important in life, and Phil understands that family, however shattered, is important... What Hoffman had to bring to the table in “Magnolia”, the only thing, was his caring heart. He did so without wanting to be congratulated or praised for it... The word “brave” is usually used to describe actors who make themselves ugly for roles, who disrobe, who portray the seedier sides of humanity. But showing an audience your heart? That’s the bravest act of all."

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