Up next: Currently filming “Mission: Impossible III,” directed by J.J. Abrams
Philip Seymour Hoffman had to be convinced he was the man for the highly demanding lead role of “Capote.” The fussy physicality and the high, fey voice were all challenges the actor was reluctant to take on, despite the chance to work with two of his oldest friends, Bennett Miller, making his feature debut, and thesp Dan Futterman, who penned the script.
“That was before I knew the story,” he says of his hesitation. “I anticipated a high degree of difficulty of pulling it off because of all the pitfalls. But then I read the script and the bio and I saw how rich and detailed it was.”
Ultimately, the story of how Capote grew close to two murderers to pen groundbreaking book “In Cold Blood” was enough of a hook. “It’s all the different things it brings up about the ends justifying the means,” Hoffman says.
The actor immersed himself in recordings of the eccentric writer to prepare for the role. “I watched videotapes and listened to audiotapes and read everything (and) I talked to the people I could,” he says. “It’s not a mystery. You research it like anything else by going to the library. It’s like you’re a detective and you’re on the case.”
As for nailing that tricky voice, Hoffman says, “I spent months trying to adapt his way of speaking to my mouth. You try to be as close as possible and just act as well as you can.”
The actor, who took on producer duties for the film, says he maintained the voice and physicality — but not the character, he insists — on set. “It required a certain amount of connection and focus and energy. I’d keep it going through the day for purely technical reasons and once the day was over, that was that.”
This practice proved trying at times for director Miller, who told Entertainment Weekly, “He summoned up some horrible feelings, and he was living with that the entire time we shot the movie. It’s pretty poisonous stuff.”
While Hoffman, Miller and Futterman are old pals, this was the first time any of them had worked together. “It helped all the way around,” Hoffman says of working with friends. “We’d done away with all the meeting and greeting and didn’t have to get to know each other. Of course, there’s a certain amount of tension in working with friends. That comes along with the territory. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Hoffman continues, “The way this film was written and done was unique and specific and sharp. It doesn’t mythologize Capote any further. It humanizes him in a way people will be surprised by.”