Philip Seymour Hoffman: An Undervalued Actor?

By Jill StarbuckPellegrino & Associates

Hollywood thrives on the abilities of its actors. A film can have a catchy soundtrack, dazzlingcostumes, and astounding visual effects, but without the talent to make the storyline come to life, the film easily becomes a flop. This is why the entertainment industry seeks actors with proven records or those up and coming actors who bring a new look, sound, or style with them. It is true that while the tried and true can boost a film’s ratings, the audience also enjoys new and amazing talent. Yet, the tried and true provides for a less risky investment.

For the entertainment industry and viewers alike, the recent death of one of the industry’s most versatile actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, brings great loss. Estimates rate Hoffman’s net worth at $35 million, which seems like a low sum compared to actors such as Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will Smith who can command $20 million per film. So why was Hoffman’s worth seemingly less than other actors’ worth, yet some may argue that he had more versatility and talent?

At the young age of 46 and the ability to take on practically any casting role thrown his way, Hoffman had a promising future. Hoffman’s talents have landed him many nominations and even the highest acting award with the reception of the Oscar for his 2005 role in Capote. What’s even more amazing about Hoffman is that he didn’t have the typical appearance of many actors who do drastic things to change their appearance. He had the build of an average person, making him more likable, believable, and relatable. In fact, Hoffman played the villain, the nerd, the outcast, the comedian, and more. Not many actors can tout such great talent, making it look effortless.

However, much of an actor’s worth is based on perception. In order for there to be a wide consumer perception of a person, that person must have high visibility. Yet, Hoffman was not a regular in the tabloids. At least not as regular as many other actors. The less exposure a person has in the industry, the less value they command. Furthermore, Hoffman seemed content to play supporting roles, with his most recent in the Hunger Games trilogy movies. Yet, he had a demanding and successful career. In fact, when he died, he had a number of acting and directorial commitments in place. If he had been in the public view more often, he probably would’ve been valued at a higher rate. Other actors whose net worth is much higher than Hoffman’s also dabble with endorsement deals, speaking engagements, paid appearances, and other entrepreneurial endeavors, such as a new perfume or clothing line. Hoffman didn’t venture into those areas much.

While perception and constant public visibility play huge roles in determining an actor’s worth, Hoffman’s estimated worth did not make him any less talented. In fact, many of his peers labeled him as an acting genius. To the entertainment industry, Hoffman’s true net worth may have been more than $35 million as he was always a reliable character, provided talent in many ways with his acting and his directorial capabilities, and his versatility. For those who invested time, money, and emotion into the commitments he had in the works, Hoffman’s death creates a big loss to the industry. For in many ways, he is simply irreplaceable.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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