Philip Seymour Hoffman’s partner opens up about actor’s death and struggle with addiction

Actor passed away from a drug overdose in 2014

Mimi O’Donnell, the long-term partner of late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, has penned an emotional tribute to the star, opening up about his death and battle with addiction.

O’Donnell and Hoffman met in 1999 and dated for the last 14 years of his life. They separated a few months before his death in 2014.

Hoffman passed away in February 2014 of a drug overdose. His official cause of death was ruled as an accident due to “acute mixed drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and amphetamine”. He was 46.


Writing in Vogue, O’Donnell details first meeting Hoffman, saying: “It wasn’t so much that I wanted to date him. It was that I thought, You’re so attractive on every level that I want to be near you as much as I can.”

She adds: “My memories of Phil are overwhelmingly of a sweet and gentle and loving man, which is not to say that he didn’t have a temper, as anyone who knew him well will tell you. He was a sensitive person, and he was incapable of masking his anger. He would never sit and stew, or leave an argument unresolved.”

Of Hoffman’s addiction struggles, O’Donnell writes: “From the beginning, Phil was very frank about his addictions. He told me about his period of heavy drinking and experimenting with heroin in his early 20s, and his first rehab at 22. He was in therapy and AA, and most of his friends were in the program. Being sober and a recovering addict was, along with acting and directing, very much the focus of his life. But he was aware that just because he was clean didn’t mean the addiction had gone away. He was being honest for me – This is who I am – but also to protect himself. He told me that, as much as he loved me, if I used drugs it would be a deal breaker. That wasn’t an issue for me, and I was happy not to drink, either. Phil was so open about it all that I wasn’t worried.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman

Hoffman relapsed in the months leading to his death and O’Donnell says that she “hesitate[s] to ascribe Phil’s relapse after two decades to any one thing, or even to a series of things, because the stressors—or, in the parlance, triggers—that preceded it didn’t cause him to start using again, any more than being a child of divorce did.”

“Lots of people go through difficult life events,” she writes. “Only addicts start taking drugs to blunt the pain of them. And Phil was an addict, though at the time I didn’t fully understand that addiction is always lurking just below the surface, looking for a moment of weakness to come roaring back to life.”


“Some of what Phil was going through was common to men in their 40s, such as the pangs of finding yourself middle-aged and feeling as though you’re losing your sexual currency (something many women experience at a much younger age), or seeing your friends’ marriages fall apart in the wake of infidelities. Other things were more specific: His longtime therapist died of cancer, which was devastating, and he had a falling out with a bunch of his AA friends. Phil had a love/hate relationship with acting. The thing he hated most was the loss of anonymity. He was making film after film—we had a big family and had bought a bigger apartment—and AA started to get short shrift. He’d been sober for so long that nobody seemed to notice. But something was brewing.”

Detailing Hoffman’s spiral into alcohol and drug use, O’Donnell recalls: “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.”

“As soon as Phil started using heroin again, I sensed it, terrified. 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?”

“Phil tried to stop on his own, but detoxing caused him agonising physical pain, so I took him to rehab. In some of the conversations that we had while he was there, Phil was so open and vulnerable that they remain among the most intimate moments of our time together. Within a day or two of returning, he started using again.”

O’Donnell describes Hoffman’s multiple visits to rehab and subsequent relapses as “a struggle, heartbreaking to watch”, adding: “For the first time I realised that his addiction was bigger than either of us. I bowed my head and thought, I can’t fix this. It was the moment that I let go.”

“It’s difficult to stay in a relationship with an active addict. It feels like being boiled in oil. But I couldn’t abandon him. I just had to figure out: How do I live with him? And how do I do it without caregiving or enabling, and in a way that protects the kids and me?”

“Some time in January [2014], Phil started isolating himself. He was in Atlanta filming The Hunger Games. I called and texted him and said, ‘I’m here to talk.’ At that point, we had started to shift things over to me financially, because Phil knew that when he was using he wasn’t responsible. We began making plans to set up another rehab as soon as the movie wrapped, but I knew we had a difficult path ahead of us.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman

“It happened so quickly. Phil came home from Atlanta, and I called a few people and said that we needed to keep an eye on him. Then he started using again, and three days later he was dead.”

“I had been expecting him to die since the day he started using again, but when it finally happened it hit me with brutal force,” she writes. “I wasn’t prepared. There was no sense of peace or relief, just ferocious pain and overwhelming loss.”

“It’s been almost four years since Phil died,” O’Donnell goes on to say, “and the kids and I are still in a place where that fact is there every day. We talk about him constantly, only now we can talk about him without instantly crying. That’s the small difference, the little bit of progress that we’ve made.”

“When I look back at how close we all were, I wonder whether Phil somehow knew that he was going to die young. 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. I now thank God he made us take those trips. In some ways, our short time together was almost like an entire lifetime.”

Read the full article here.

You May Like