5 reasons we loved Philip Seymour Hoffman

Story highlights

He was prolific and talented, but maintained his reputation as a regular guy

Hoffman thanked his mom when he won an Oscar for "Capote"

He was an actor's actor; he knew how and when to let others have the spotlight

CNN  — 

He was – in every sense of the word – Hollywood royalty, with critically acclaimed performances in some of the biggest films of the last decade and friendships with A-list actors.

Even so, there was something about Phillip Seymour Hoffman that made him so identifiable to so many.

What made Hoffman different?

1. He made some of our favorite movies

Make a list of your all-time favorite films and, chances are, several of Hoffman’s are there.

As prolific as he was talented, Hoffman is best-known for his portrayal as writer Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic “Capote.” It earned him an Academy Award.

He also stole the screen in “The Master,” “Doubt” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

But his films weren’t always so serious. Hoffman could wear his roles as light as caps.

Remember “Boogie Nights?” Or “Along Came Polly?”

Hoffman was the sort of actor that no matter who else was in the film, or what his part was, if you saw he was in the cast, you knew it had to be good.

2. Mr. Hollywood, he was not

Hoffman was one of us.

For all his larger-than-life roles, he had a reputation as a regular guy. He didn’t live in a mansion in Hollywood but rather an apartment in New York.

He sent his children to public school, and he was routinely seen walking them there, said CNN’s Rose Arce, who lived two blocks from the actor in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

“He’d go quietly about his business with his children,” she said. “It’s shocking, and I know everyone in the neighborhood is going to feel like they’re missing a friend, like a friend has died.”

Hoffman was often seen taking the subway, wearing a ball cap to avoid the paparazzi.

3. He was an accomplished stage actor

Hoffman got his start on the stage while studying drama at New York University, where he was a founding member of the short-lived Bullstoi Ensemble theater company.

He earned two Tony nominations, one for best actor in the 2000 revival of Sam Shepard’s “True West” and another for best actor in the revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

He was a founding member of the Labyrinth Theater Company, where he served on the board of directors and directed productions. One of the final plays he directed for the company was the 2013 off-Broadway production of “A Family For All Occasions.”

Asked once during a 2008 interview with the IFC network if he thought it would be a challenge to introduce new generations to live theater, he said, “It might change, it might evolve, but I don’t think it’ll become too niche because the business of theater is still everywhere.”

4. No part was too small, too weird or too evil

Hoffman could play a great leading man, but he shone in smaller parts too and never shied away from playing conflicted – sometimes downright unlikeable – characters.

Who forget his turn as Freddie Miles in “The Talented Mr. Ripley?”

Or as a creepy gamemaster in the latest “Hunger Games” movie? The near perfect villain in “Mission: Impossible III?”

Hoffman knew how and when to let others have the spotlight. He was an actor’s actor.

5. He didn’t forget his mom

Who doesn’t love a man who loves his mom?

When Hoffman took the stage to accept his Oscar for best actor for “Capote,” he remembered his roots.

He thanked his mom for taking him to his first play and for doing so much for him and his siblings.

“She brought up four kids alone and she deserves a congratulations for that. Ah, we’re at the party, Ma, you know? And she took me to my first play and she stayed up with me and watched the NCAA Final Four, and my passions, her passions became my passions. And, you know, be proud, Mom, because I’m proud of you and we’re here tonight and it’s so good,” Hoffman said.

What made you love Hoffman? Share your take in the comments section below.