In a poignant essay for Vogue, the widow of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mimi O’Donnell, spoke out about his tragic death from an overdose in early 2014.
In the wake of his death, the world mourned a great actor, who was well-known for the many characters he played over two decades of acting. With a Best Actor Oscar and multiple nominations for supporting roles in film, Hoffman’s star was a bright one.
O’Donnell, partnered with Hoffman for over 14 years, shared three children with the actor. According to her essay, Hoffman had been upfront with her about his struggles with addiction and sobriety, writing that, “He told me about his period of heavy drinking and experimenting with heroin in his early 20s, and his first rehab at 22. He was in therapy and AA, and most of his friends were in the program. Being sober and a recovering addict was, along with acting and directing, very much the focus of his life.”
Hoffman maintained sobriety for many years while also experiencing great success in his career. After nearly two decades of sobriety, he relapsed, with O’Donnell aware of the changes in him even before they had begun to physically reveal themselves. Although he had different stressors affecting him, O’Donnell was careful to attribute his relapse to any particular event, stating that, “[…] the stressors—or, in the parlance, triggers—that preceded it didn’t cause him to start using again, any more than being a child of divorce did.”
Hoffman’s relapse began with occasional alcoholic drinks, and later progressed into heroin use. O’Donnell noticed behavioral shifts within him, and Hoffman eventually confessed to his relapse and left to complete a rehabilitation program. He began filming a new movie upon his return, and then relapsed for a second time.
They had planned for Hoffman to attend another rehab after the movie’s completion, though Hoffman passed before that time came.
Hoffman died of an acute drug overdose in February 2014. The drugs in his system included heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and amphetamine.
His partner and three children have mourned his loss ever since. O’Donnell wrote that they keep his memory alive by talking about him—the good and the bad.
Hunger Games, the movie that Hoffman had been working on prior to his death, was released in 2015 with special tribute to Hoffman. Hollywood has felt his absence, with his performances praised as “the greatest of his generation, and more,” by director Cameron Crowe. Countless others in the entertainment industry echoed his sentiments.
Hoffman was only 46 years old at the time of his passing.
As his widow speaks out about the beast of addiction, and the wonderful man whose life was taken by the disease, Hoffman’s legacy thrives as we continue to mourn his untimely death.
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