Years ago, sometime in the late ’90s, I auditioned for a one-act play in NY. It was a light comedy about a playwright who had a troll who lived in his closet who wrote his plays for him. My audition for the role of the the troll went very well. I thought the character suited my strengths; I took pride in having a corner on wry, verbal oddballs. The producers loved me and I seemed very close to getting it.
I didn’t get it. I went to see the play when it opened (it was part of an evening of one-acts) and when the troll made his entrance, a young Philip Seymour Hoffman walked out. Or rather, crawled out, pulling his big body across the floor, deep voice bellowing, playing this light comedy character with a physical intensity and emotional depth that was nowhere near what I had done in the audition. It hadn’t even occurred to me that you could play the character this way. This actor was taking this troll, this secretive, brilliant, deformed outsider…seriously.
I remember thinking “Holy shit. Well…I see why this guy got the part.”
I’ve thought many times through the years about being blown away by that performance. About what a lesson it was in committing, digging deep, raising the stakes, going further. Philip Seymour Hoffman kept doing that. He never stopped doing it. He was incapable of not doing it.
I’ve reflected on so many of his performances through the years but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about that troll. I’ll keep thinking about it.