The past 24 hours have brought news of the deaths of two notable character actors, both Oscar winners. The tragedy lies in the fact that the ages of the two men differ by forty years. Maximilian Schell, the Austrian-Swiss actor/director who was so dynamic in Judgment at Nuremberg, was 83 years old. Philip Seymour Hoffman, equally gifted and versatile, was 46. Both are losses to the world of film and stage, but understandably Hoffman's passing is infinitely more of a loss. Anyone who thinks that drugs add glamor to life might contemplate forty years of films and stage productions that now will never exist.
I haven't seen a lot of Hoffman's work, but he could clearly do just about anything. He wasn't handsome or glamorous at all; he wasn't the kind of actor whose most important characteristic is the physique attained with the help of a personal trainer. He was pasty-faced and kind of boneless. He could get under the skin of a character in a way that riveted not only audiences but also his fellow actors. Schell was more conventionally handsome (and he had that yummy accent), but he was also capable of a wide range of portrayals. As well as acting in mainstream movies such as Topkapi, he wrote and directed (and performed in) independent films, created documentaries, acted in both German-language and English-language productions, played piano well enough to perform, directed operas, and generally proved to be a Renaissance man throughout his long and productive life.
It's too bad we lost them both, though at least Schell had a generous amount of time in which to live and to create.
Is anyone else out there a fan of either or both of these fine actors?