Nearly four years after Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death, his widow, director and producer Mimi O’Donnell, reflected on the circumstances that lead up to his overdose and death on February 2nd, 2014.
For more than 20 years, she wrote in a heartfelt feature for Vogue’s January issue, Hoffman had sworn off drugs and alcohol after struggling with an addiction to both in his early 20s. But sometime in his 40s, she explained, the impulse to use came back again.
“The first tangible sign came when, out of nowhere, Phil said to me, ‘I’ve been thinking I want to try to have a drink again. What do you think?'” she wrote. “I thought it was a terrible idea, and I said so. Sobriety had been the center of Phil’s life for over 20 years, so this was definitely a red flag. He started having a drink or two without it seeming a big deal, but the moment drugs came into play, I confronted Phil, who admitted that he’d gotten ahold of some prescription opioids. He told me that it was just this one time, and that it wouldn’t happen again. It scared him enough that, for a while, he kept his word.”
The trouble, O’Donnell wrote, was that Hoffman’s spiral back into addiction was exacerbated whenever he wasn’t working, and she feared that an early death was inevitable.
“As soon as Phil started using heroin again, I sensed it, terrified,” she wrote. “I told him, ‘You’re going to die. That’s what happens with heroin.’ Every day was filled with worry. Every night, when he went out, I wondered: Will I see him again?”
After several bouts in rehab, O’Donnell recalled, she reached a breaking point. “I told him, ‘I can’t monitor you all the time. I love you, I’m here for you, and I’ll always be here for you. But I can’t save you.'”
In January 2014, she wrote, they started making plans to check him into another rehab as soon as Hunger Games wrapped. But at the beginning of February, just days after he returned to NYC from shooting in Atlanta, he was already dead.
In reflection, O’Donnell wrote, she feels grateful that despite the turbulence of the last years, both she and Hoffman lived fully in the present with their three children.
“When I look back at how close we all were, I wonder whether Phil somehow knew that he was going to die young,” she wrote. “He never said those words, but he lived his life as if time was precious. Maybe he just knew what was important to him and where he wanted to invest his love. I always felt there was plenty of time, but he never lived that way. … In some ways, our short time together was almost like an entire lifetime.”