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William H. Macy Reflects on Working with Philip Seymour Hoffman: ‘I Now See That He Was in Pain’

Macy has nothing but admiration for his "Boogie Nights" co-star, though he now realizes that "the weight of living was heavier on Phil than it is on other people."

William H. Macy and Philip Seymour Hoffman

William H. Macy and Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Eight years have passed since Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death, but the Oscar winner continues to live on through his films and the memories of his peers. In a new interview with Vulture, his “Boogie Nights” co-star William H. Macy reflected on Hoffman’s brilliance as an actor and the demons that haunted him throughout his life.

“He was the best of us; he was never bad,” Macy said of Hoffman. “And I don’t know if it’s just looking back, but I now see that he was in pain. I think the weight of living was heavier on Phil than it is on other people.”

Macy recalled that the two actors once got into a debate about one of Hollywood’s current favorite topics—method acting. And while they disagreed about the proper approach, the conversation helped Macy understand how sensitive Hoffman was.

“We were on a panel together, I think, at Sundance with ‘State and Main,’ and somebody asked about preparation,” Macy said. “I don’t do a lot of preparation, everything I need is in the script. The character is a trick we play on the audience—you don’t have to live the character. That’s not acting, it’s mental illness. And Phil disagreed. He said, ‘No, I think there’s things you can do to get into the world. Whatever’s going on, you’ve got to find it in yourself, and I think you have to submerge yourself into the world of it.’ We went back and forth, it was an interesting conversation, and then I suddenly realized, ‘What am I saying to him?’ I said, ‘Whatever you do is fucking brilliant all the time,’ and he said, ‘Thank you, and I think you do it, too, regardless of what you say.’ But it was a little window into how deeply he felt stuff.”

Even 25 years after they shared the screen in “Boogie Nights,” Macy still finds himself thinking about Hoffman’s captivating performance in the Paul Thomas Anderson film.

“I think about him in ‘Boogie Nights’ when he shows up in those clothes that are too small and he’s holding the clipboard close to his chest and he’s chewing on the pencil when he tries to flirt with Dirk Diggler—it’s heartbreaking,” Macy said. “And I never saw him do that character again. From that point on, he played much stronger characters. And I don’t think there’s anything he couldn’t do.”

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