Philip Seymour Hoffman dead of apparent drug overdose

Police outside 35 Bethune St. after actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment on Sunday.  Photo by Tequila Minsky

Police outside 35 Bethune St. after actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment on Sunday. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his Bethune St. apartment Sunday morning, the victim of an apparent heroin overdose.

The Police Department issued a statement, saying that at around 11:36 a.m., police responded to a 911 call for “an aided male” inside 35 Bethune St., the Pickwick House.

“Upon arrival, officers located a 46-year-old male, unconscious and unresponsive, lying on the bathroom floor,” the statement said. “E.M.S. also responded and pronounced the male DOA at the scene. An investigation is ongoing by the N.Y.P.D. The Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the cause of death. Family has been notified.” Police identified the deceased as Hoffman.

Someone had left flowers for Hoffman outside his building, as a TV news reporter prepared to do her on-the-scene "stand up."  Photo by Lincoln Anderson

Someone had left flowers for Hoffman outside his building, as a TV news reporter prepared to do her on-the-scene “stand up.” Photo by Lincoln Anderson

Media reports stated that the famed actor was found with a needle in his arm and two glassine bags of heroin nearby. Eight other empty bags were reportedly also found in the apartment. CNN said that the bags were stamped with “Ace of Hearts” and “Ace of Spades,” street names for the drug.

Hoffman’s body was removed from the building in the early evening. The M.E. will perform an autopsy and toxicology tests to determine the cause of death.

The Daily News reported that Hoffman was found by screenwriter David Katz and another friend after he had failed to pick up his children.

The actor had three young children with his longtime partner, Mimi O’Donnell.

In his early 20s Hoffman had struggled with drugs and alcohol, and in recent years had relapsed. In 2011, he described his battle with substance abuse on “60 Minutes.” TMZ reported that he had fallen off the wagon and had started taking prescription pills and was slipping into snorting heroin. Last year, he revealed that he had checked into rehab.

Police are said to be investigating where Hoffman got the drugs responsible for his overdose.

CNN reported that after he got out of rehab, Hoffman — who had been a West Village resident for years — moved into the Bethune St. apartment, and that he resided there alone, while his family lives elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Hoffman grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and went on to study acting at New York University.

According to New York 1, he had dined the night before at nearby restaurant Automatic Slim’s, ordering a cheeseburger and no alcohol.

Police guarded the building, letting only residents and other police and medical officials in and out.  Photo by Tequila Minsky

Police guarded the building, letting only residents and other police and medical officials in and out. Photo by Tequila Minsky

Hoffman won the Oscar for best actor for “Capote” in 2005. Among some of the many other films in which he starred were “The Master,” “Moneyball,” “Doubt,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Mission: Impossible III,” “Almost Famous” and “The Big Lebowski.”

There was a huge amount of media gathered Sunday afternoon outside Hoffman’s building on Bethune St., between Greenwich and Washington Sts., where he lived in a fourth-floor penthouse apartment.

John Anderson, 43, a newspaper editor from Rochester, happened to be in town to watch the Super Bowl with his brother Michael, who used to live nearby and would have drinks with Hoffman at the White Horse Tavern.

“They had a little kinship,” he said. “It’s a small world.”

In fact, their mother taught a teenaged Hoffman acting at Rochester Area Performing Arts, or RAPA.

“She thought he was just a very talented actor,” Anderson recalled, “not necessarily that he would win an Oscar, but that he was going places.”

He said Hoffman grew up in one of the nicer Rochester suburbs, and attended Fairport High School. He added that Hoffman, in his Oscar acceptance speech, had mentioned his hometown.

“Rochester is in mourning right now,” he said.

One local resident walked down the middle of Bethune St. past Hoffman’s building as another pedaled his kids in adult tricycle as a swarm of media blocked the sidewalks. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

Anderson and his brother had met at the Corner Bistro on Sunday, and when he heard the news of Hoffman, he used his press pass to get past the police line on Bethune St., and filmed some video of the scene that he planned to upload for his newspaper chain.

Heddy O’Beil, 85, an abstract artist who lives just down the block in the Westbeth Artists Residence, was standing across the street from the building with her little Bichon Frisé/Havanese mix, Lilly.

“I walked out and saw the crowd,” she said, “and I’m just always curious.”

Had she ever seen Hoffman around the neighborhood?

“No, but there are many actors and performing people around here,” she said. “It’s an extremely quiet neighborhood.”

She noted she’d seen Joel Grey of “Cabaret” fame in the supermarket just a few months ago.

“I said hello,” she said. “He was very nice.”

Hoffman’s isn’t the only recent Downtown drug-related death of a famous Hollywood star. In January 2008, Australian actor Heather Ledger accidentally OD’d on prescription drugs in his Soho apartment.

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2 Responses to Philip Seymour Hoffman dead of apparent drug overdose

  1. I was so sadden to read about Philip’s very untimely death! Drugs do kill. How many talented men and women does this make?. His works will never be forgotten he will be greatly missed. RIP a wonderful actor. God bless his family.

  2. Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of my fav. actors. I hope that his family well of and the he will rest in peace. I will miss him for sure…

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