An interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Interviews with a point.
Jan. 31 2006 11:18 AM

Philip Seymour Hoffman

The actor talks about Truman Capote's moral ambiguities and supposed lies.

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Slate: Capote was both famously disciplined and dissipated. How did you go about figuring out how to portray this? It's obviously harder to represent a writer visually than it is to write about him or her; most films do it by just having a writer at her typewriter, tearing up drafts, or pacing around maniacally.

Hoffman: Well, it seemed to us that if you could actually see him at work in many different ways, ultimately that would suggest to you a lot of what you're saying, both the discipline and the dissipation. You see him alone thinking, you see him interviewing people, you see him watching, you see his different tactics, his manipulations—the movie is about that, about someone in that active state of creating. The least important aspect of that is him at the typewriter. That's what Danny, Bennett, and myself knew was true. It's the same with acting. There's a lot of creating that goes on that takes place before the film is actually being produced. And so in this film he is always in the state of watching someone, of creating something. So, when you do see him at his typewriter a couple of times it isn't tedious; you feel, I know why he is there. He has a s---load of material to get down on the page! And I know it, because I've seen him gathering it.

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Slate:So far, Capote has met with tons of critical adulation. Do you think there is anything the movie failed at?

Hoffman: I don't think the movie failed at this, but I think there could always be more room for Perry and Truman's relationship. Again, I don't think the film failed at it—actually I think it did quite well—but their relationship was five and a half years of talking and visiting and writing to one another; there's a lot of terrain there. And we'd probably lose half of our viewership, but you could have put 45 more minutes capturing that, the relationship. I don't think this was a failure, and I say that out of respect to Bennett because I think he was very successful in getting all those things in the film very artfully, with great nuance—almost stroking you with this story. But there's always more you could put in, more you could get.

Meghan O'Rourke is Slate's culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother's death, is now out in paperback.