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Character actor is Oscar’s golden boy

Chameleon-like Hoffman claims top acting prize for lead role in ‘Capote’
/ Source: Reuters

Philip Seymour Hoffman, a chameleon-like performer celebrated for his diverse supporting roles, won the Oscar as best lead actor Sunday for his vivid portrait of the brilliant but conflicted author Truman Capote in “Capote.”

The Academy Award capped a string of accolades Hoffman, 38, has garnered for his nuanced role as a young Capote struggling with his conscience and other demons to unearth the true story behind four savage murders for his most famous book, “In Cold Blood.”

“Wow! I’m in a category with some great, great fantastic actors,” Hoffman said, referring to fellow nominees Terrence Howard (“Hustle & Flow”), Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”), Joaquin Phoenix (“Walk the Line”) and David Strathairn (“Good Night, and Good Luck”).

He thanked the cast and crew of “Capote,” but reserved his greatest tribute to his mother, Marilyn O’Connor.

“She took me to my first play ... her passions became my passions,” he said.

A stocky former high school wrestler who lost a considerable amount of weight to transform himself into the fey, elfin-like Capote, Hoffman was widely regarded as an Oscar favorite going into Sunday’s ceremony.

The strawberry-blond actor, a native of upstate New York, already had clinched a string of critics awards, a Golden Globe and top acting prizes from the Screen Actors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Hoffman’s latest victory came on his first nomination ever for an Academy Award, and marked a rare Oscar win for an overtly gay role. Tom Hanks won in 1994 for playing a heroic AIDS patient in “Philadelphia.”

Hoffman’s work has been much admired since he began appearing in a wide range of film roles in the early 1990s, often playing physically unattractive but distinctive characters.

His breakout screen performance came in 1997 as Scotty, the film crew guy with a crush on porn star Dirk Diggler in “Boogie Nights.” Two years later he played a pre-operative transsexual vocal coach opposite Robert De Niro in “Flawless.”

Other roles include the storm chaser Dusty in “Twister,” the sycophantic assistant to a millionaire in “The Big Lebowski,” a jaded rock music critic in “Almost Famous,” the sensitive male nurse for a dying Jason Robards in “Magnolia,” and the cocky playboy who sees through Matt Damon’s charade in “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

More recently, Hoffman stole scenes from Jude Law as the Rev. Veasey, a lusty defrocked preacher in the 2003 Civil War drama “Cold Mountain.”

Hoffman made his film debut in Amos Poe’s 1991 comedy “Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole.”

His credits also include a fair amount of live theater work, including a 1994 production of “The Merchant of Venice” and a Broadway stage revival of Sam Shepard’s “True West,” for which Hoffman shared a Tony nomination with co-star John C. Reilly.