Both Hoffman and Brand have things in common. That much is obvious but why and how does only one of them survive.
Can I just say at this point, I am certain of nothing, this is all about how I feel.
Let me explain. However tough life has been this past sixty years I have never, ever wanted to be someone else. I would like to be two inches taller, weigh one stone less, enjoy exercise and understand people’s desire for pets but I have never thought. Ooh I wish I was…someone else.
And I think the same can be said for Russell Brand.
With Philip Seymour Hoffman I suspect he was always happiest, hence his most brilliant, when he was ‘being’ someone else.
I’m an artist you know.
I know from reading Brand’s autobiographies that his desire to be the best possible Russell Brand, stand-up comedian, along with his manager’s belief in him, literally saved his life. He always had the desire to be himself.
On the other hand and this is pure conjecture, Hoffman may have struggled to identify himself, separate from his characters. Characters that were so layered and portrayed with such passion that no one watching Hoffman perform thought. Ooh, he’s good at playing Capote. He was Capote. And given that we all know the original was of much smaller stature only goes to prove my point.
However, Brand’s quick fire repartee in his stand-up roles and his ability to stay assertive, never aggressive and focused in discussion is his forte. Acting; less so. It pains me to say this but Russell you can’t be brilliant at everything. Because I am such a fan I have seen a few of his films. And that’s what they are.
Films with Brand playing someone else but he always looks and sounds and ‘acts’ as himself.
This may in fact have saved his life.
I know little of Hoffman’s private life. Who knows why he and his long term partner had split up. It would be easy to surmise. Tough love comes to mind. With three children wouldn’t anyone want what’s best for them? If the demons had resurfaced, as they surely had i.e. Hoffman’s self- admittance to rehab recently, maybe some time alone seemed like the answer.
As a writer I could list a ream of what ifs but that is not the point of this article.
It has been written about before, the angst of brilliant performers and how it takes over their private lives. How many comedians suffer depression? Tony Hancock always comes to mind.
How many gifted actors succumb to addiction of one sort or another. I remember Jacques Villeret, probably best known for his comedic roles such as, Le Diner des Cons but he was an accomplished serious actor as well.
In an interview not long before he died he half joked,’ My best friend is trying to kill me.’
And it did. He was an alcoholic.
We are getting better at understanding addiction. At least I hope we are. But there have been too many…Why didn’t he pull himself together/think of his kids/get help, type comments in social media, that makes me wonder.
So here is a quote that although science isn’t a 100% outlines the problem:
Chronic exposure to drugs of abuse disrupts the way critical brain structures interact to control and inhibit behaviors related to drug abuse. Just as continued abuse may lead to tolerance or the need for higher drug dosages to produce an effect, it may also lead to addiction, which can drive an abuser to seek out and take drugs compulsively. Drug addiction erodes a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, while sending intense impulses to take drugs.
I remember a very good friend some years ago telling me how after twelve months off alcohol someone well-meaning friend gave her a chocolate. Just one but it was a chocolate liquor and that was it.
She battled as every intelligent person would against alcohol and nicotine addiction but they won in the end.
She was buried on her 55th birthday.
So please, try not to be too hasty to judge. I am one of the lucky ones; alcohol makes me feel ill instead of happy and carefree. Smoking makes me choke. I have long since paid no heed to ridiculous peer pressure (even from family members) about not being such a lightweight. Ugh.
Sadly you don’t stop being an addict. You are always in recovery. But with the constant reminders all around us let’s hope that Russell Brand and so many others like him can continue to be happy in their own skin and not need any of the life threatening alternatives.
From what I understand, the want will always be lurking but the need can be kicked into touch with love and support.
Addicts have a disease.
That is not criminal.
Saturday 8th March 2014.
And now Russell talks to Oprah about Philip.