An autopsy on the body of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was to take place in New York on Monday, a day after he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment of a suspected heroin overdose.
The sudden death of the 46-year-old, hailed as the finest character actor of his generation, has shocked Hollywood. He was discovered with a syringe lodged in his arm and surrounded by envelopes of what appears to have been heroin.
The alarm was reportedly raised when Hoffman failed to turn up on Sunday to collect his three children from their mother, who called a friend to go and check on him.
Police say his death seems to have been the result of an overdose but refused to release further details until the New York medical examiner’s office conducts the autopsy.
Hoffman mesmerized filmgoers with his portrayal of some of the most repellent and yet electrifying characters of the silver screen.
He won an Oscar for his performance as Truman Capote in the 2005 film “Capote” and was nominated for three further Academy Awards as a supporting actor in 2008, 2009 and 2013.
But for all his success, Hoffman struggled in the limelight and with addiction. He spoke less than a year ago about a recent heroin relapse, having been sober for two decades.
Celebrity website TMZ reported that Hoffman admitted in May to falling off the wagon more than a year previously, starting with prescription pills and escalating to snorting heroin.
At the time he said the heroin binge had “lasted a week or so” and that he checked himself into a rehab center for 10 days.
He credited what he called “a great group of friends and family” for helping him, and continued to work on film projects.
But in August he dropped out of shooting the spy thriller Child 44 for “undisclosed reasons” and was replaced by Vincent Cassel, sparking rumors about his health.
The last time he was seen at an official event was the Sundance Film Festival in the US state of Utah in mid-January, where he appeared pale and gaunt.
Since his death it has emerged that he was recently living apart from his long-time girlfriend and their three children, in the rented apartment where he died near the family home.
In an earlier interview with the CBS show “60 minutes” he said he had been sober since he was 22.
Talking about his addiction at the time to drugs and alcohol, he said: “I was 22 and I got panicked in my life.”
His family has released a brief statement asking for privacy to mourn their “tragic and sudden loss.”
Tributes have poured in from fellow celebrities and actors.
“I feel so fortunate to have known and worked with the extraordinary Philip Seymour Hoffman and am deeply saddened by his passing,” said Julianne Moore, who co-starred with Hoffman in “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia” and “The Big Lebowski.”
George Clooney, who appeared alongside Hoffman in “The Ides of March,” said: “There are no words… it’s just terrible.”
“This is a horrible day for those who worked ?with Philip. He was a giant talent,” Tom Hanks said. Hanks starred with Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
Born Philip Hoffman in July 1967 in New York state, he earned a drama degree from New York University in 1989.
In 1997, he made waves as a closeted gay crew member in Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn industry tale “Boogie Nights,” followed by a quirky turn in the Coen brothers’ “The Big Lebowski” (1998).
In Anthony Minghella’s thriller “The Talented Mr Ripley,” he stole the show from co-stars Matt Damon and Jude Law with his supporting role as slippery and duplicitous preppie Freddie Miles.
The late Minghella once said that Hoffman was an extraordinary actor “cursed, sometimes, by his own gnawing intelligence, his own discomfort with acting.”
In one of his most recent roles, Hoffman played game master Plutarch Heavensbee in the second installment of the blockbuster “Hunger Games” franchise.
He had been cast in the final two takes of the series, and industry publication Variety said the films would be released in November 2014 and 2015 as planned.