Philip Seymour Hoffman Vs. Meryl Streep sounds like the big show for a class of acting students. When they performed juicy confrontation scenes in Doubt together, it was just another day on the set.
Philip Seymour Hoffman Has No Doubt
"You have to understand that crew members make movies so they’re seeing a lot of actors all the time in their career acting," Hoffman said. "Movie sets are kind of boring. Yeah, we can be acting a scene and you might want to watch that and it might be exciting, but it’s 12 hours. We’re only doing certain sections of that scene like four times in a row. Then you’ve got to turn around and see the same thing four times in a row. It’s a much different experience."
In the film, Hoffman plays a priest suspected of abusing a parish boy. The convent's mother superior confronts him with only suspicions and assumptions, leading to even juicier questions of morality and religion. Based on his play, playwright John Patrick Shanley wrote and directed the film as well.
"It was markedly different but in what was added around just the environment and the children and the school and the congregation and the neighborhood. The play was still there. It was a really great adaptation. You didn’t lose the essence of it at all. I knew there was humor in the play. There’s humor in it. Sister Aloysius’ is humorous. She’s funny. Father Flynn can be funny and Sister James kind of innocence. They’re enjoyable characters. They’re entertaining. There’s a certain entertaining quality to them for sure. But it’s a very strong dramatic piece, so he can’t, of course, give into that and make it a joke so it would be bad."
Perhaps a big surprise in the film is how much fun and socializing the priests indulge in between sermons. Hoffman said that is based on firsthand accounts. "I know this priest now and he told me about what was happening to the Catholic church in the '60s and it was very informative and helpful. Then he just kind of led me though the business of being a priest. The business around Mass and what they do and what they’re wearing and what it means and everything so it was very helpful. Past that I didn’t go in any deeper than that because the play is not really about the Catholic church. The venue has to be convincing but ultimately what we’re getting at is something that’s not about the Catholic church. It’s about something else."
Hoffman would prefer not to come out and stump for his own work, but when he's the star of the movie, it's all on him. Especially when the film is positioned for awards season, there will be a lot of necessary campaigning to give the film the awareness it needs to compete with big budget blockbusters.
"I think it’s kind of boring. No, I do in a way. I do in a way because I like to talk about it sometimes, so I’ve taught before and there’s certain things that are exciting about just sort of creating things and how do you do that? But ultimately it’s just if you’re not an actor, the watching, the being the fan is what’s fun."