How Philip Seymour Hoffman Made Me “See More” Clearly – L.A. Guest Blog by Andrew Tarr
It’s been a funny couple weeks. Not funny ha ha, as they say, but funny like Ain’t It Funny How February Always Seems to Fuck Up January’s Wide-Eyed New Year’s Resolution Optimism… THAT kind of funny. February is rainy season here in LA. Like clockwork, the rain shows up February 1st or 2nd and doges in and out til sunny March.
This year, the rain showed up with the February 2nd punch in the gut that was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death. It always throws people for a loop when the world loses an artist who moves us. But this one seemed to hit people especially hard.
For a week and a half now, it’s been screwing with my head – and my sleep/wake cycle. At night I lie in bed pondering my mortality, and during the day I walk around so tired from the night before that people probably assume I’m prepping for a “Walking Dead” audition…people who don’t know me very well, anyway. The people who DO know me know that I never get auditions for projects that big.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of auditions. And booked a few things. But it’s mostly commercials, student films, webisodes, and a few cable TV one-off projects you’ve never heard of.
I’ve only ever auditioned for one of what you’d call a “Big” project: a medium-sized role in “Scent of a Woman” with Al Pacino (HOO-Hah!!) I actually got pretty close on it. (Callbacks, phone calls to my agent telling me to keep my schedule open because they really liked me.) I actually hadn’t thought about that audition in years. But for the past ten days, it’s been keeping me awake with What-Ifs, like a snoring girlfriend who has to work in the morning.
You see, the guy who got the part I was up for, was a then-unknown actor just like me, named Philip Seymour Hoffman. I don’t know if “Scent of a Woman” was technically his “big break” or if it was one of the other 3 or 4 movies he shot that year alone. The year was 1991 and I had been in LA for a little under a year, and my agent at the time was able to get me in on a part the size of PSH’s wonderfully snide spoiled prep school brat in the Pacino masterpiece. (If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. Pacino’s brilliant. And so is Chris O’Donnell, and as you’d imagine, PSH makes a fairly small role totally memorable. He’s been a genius from the beginning, and definitely more right for that part than I was. I’d have cast him over me, too.)
So now, literally a lifetime later, the guy who went from beating me out for a role, to inspiring me and pretty much every other actor of our generation, is gone. And I’ve been thrown for a loop by the loss of what feels like a combination idol, muse, and alternate-universe-ME, which I know is kinda silly, but when you’re lying awake at 3 a.m., you see your life through one of those Funhouse mirrors that make your nose and your failures look huge, and make your mouth and your time left on this earth seem minuscule.
But he’s gone now, and I’m still here. Am I delusional to believe I still might have a shot at an acting career a fraction as incredible as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s? Maybe, but that delusion keeps me crawling out of my bed in the morning, taking classes, getting new headshots, and until the day I get called in on my SECOND big movie or TV audition, writing and producing my own stuff: two features I need a few hundred thousand bucks to shoot (anyone feelin’ generous today?), a couple shows for a local cable channel, and a handful of kooky videos I’ve posted on YouTube, and of course FunnyOrDie – a website whose name feels – at least right now during Crappy February 2014 – like an elaborate practical joke crafted specifically for me.
So has February sucked ALL the life out of my January dreams? No. And maybe some of this year’s rainy season has even given me some new perspective. A lot has changed since 1991, when Philip and I were amongst LA’s new crop. For one thing, Funny or Die didn’t exist. Neither did YouTube. Or cheap HD cameras and editing software to use on projects you cast YOURSELF in. Or bloggers like the amazing India Autry, who has so gratiously shared her spotlight with me this week. Actress/self-promotion Guru Emily Grace teaches on how to get media attention and maybe even bypass the audition process entirely, jumping straight to people offering you the part.
So hey, all you fellow actors – lets all Netflix some old movies with Philip Seymour Hoffman, or whoever YOUR favorite actor is – get inspired, and make some noise on the web. If nothing else, we’ll all have more stuff to read and watch in bed on the iPad when the insomnia strikes.
Andrew Tarr is an actor (really!), musician, writer, producer and animal lover who lives in Los Angeles, up the street from that new Starbucks. You can see what he looks like and whether you’d ever want sleep with him by watching his Funny or Die videos HERE.