Philip Seymour Hoffman’s longtime partner, the director and producer Mimi O’Donnell, has given the inside story of Hoffman’s 2014 death and the battle with addiction that led to it.
“I’d seen him in Boogie Nights and Happiness, and he blew me out of the water with his willingness to make himself so vulnerable and to play fucked-up characters with such honesty and heart,” O’Donnell writes.
“From the beginning, Phil was very frank about his addictions. He told me about his period of heavy drinking and experimenting with heroin in his early twenties, and his first rehab at 22. He was in therapy and AA, and most of his friends were in the program. Being sober and a recovering addict was, along with acting and directing, very much the focus of his life.
“But he was aware that just because he was clean didn’t mean the addiction had gone away. He was being honest for me—this is who I am—but also to protect himself. He told me that, as much as he loved me, if I used drugs it would be a deal breaker. That wasn’t an issue for me, and I was happy not to drink, either. Phil was so open about it all that I wasn’t worried.”
However, some years after the couple met in 1999, the Oscar winner relapsed. “The first tangible sign came when, out of nowhere, Phil said to me, ‘I’ve been thinking I want to try to have a drink again. What do you think?’ I thought it was a terrible idea, and I said so,” O’Donnell wrote. “Sobriety had been the center of Phil’s life for over 20 years, so this was definitely a red flag.”
O’Donnell wrote that Hoffman began abusing prescription pills before returning to heroin, the drug that eventually caused him to overdose and die at the age of 46 in February 2014.
“As soon as Phil started using heroin again, I sensed it, terrified. I told him, ‘You’re going to die. That’s what happens with heroin.’ Every day was filled with worry. Every night, when he went out, I wondered, ‘Will I see him again?’” she recalled.
Two trips to rehab followed. Hoffman moved out of the family home to a nearby apartment in New York’s West Village to “maintain a little distance” from their children, Cooper, now 14, Tallulah, 11, and Willa, 9.
“For the first time I realized that his addiction was bigger than either of us,” she wrote. “I bowed my head and thought, ‘I can’t fix this.’ It was the moment that I let go. I told him, ‘I can’t monitor you all the time. I love you, I’m here for you, and I’ll always be here for you. But I can’t save you.’”
In late 2013 and early 2014, Hoffman filmed The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 in Atlanta. He started using again when he returned home to New York, O’Donnell wrote, and died just three days later.
“I had been expecting him to die since the day he started using again, but when it finally happened it hit me with brutal force,” O’Donnell recalled. “I wasn’t prepared. There was no sense of peace or relief, just ferocious pain and overwhelming loss. The most difficult—the impossible—thing was thinking, ‘How do I tell my kids that their dad just died? What are the words?’”
Nearly four years later, O’Donnell and her kids still talk about Hoffman “constantly,” she wrote. “We open up, and it brings us together and keeps his spirit alive.”