So what if Philip Seymour Hoffman looked pasty at Sundance?

Speculation is too often spliced with reporting of the actor's demise -- and it does his family a great disservice

By Prachi Gupta

Published February 4, 2014 9:00PM (EST)

While family, friends and the general public await the autopsy report that will explain how beloved actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died, CNN has pieced together an hour-by-hour timeline reporting the actor's whereabouts for the last several hours of his life.

"Nothing appeared out of the ordinary -- either that morning or that night," writes CNN. "But some of those who interacted with Hoffman during the day Saturday paint a different picture."

The article continues by detailing his interactions with friends and family, noting some facts dispensed by the NYPD -- that Hoffman took out $1,200 from an ATM near his home the night before he died, and that police reportedly found 50 bags of heroin in his apartment after his death. Mimi O'Donnell, his partner of 14 years, tells police that she suspected he was high when she saw him on Saturday.

But there are other, more speculative accounts lumped in the news stream that try to depict Hoffman's mental state as evidence that he had relapsed well before the night he died, quotes from strangers who had seconds-long interactions with him assessing whether he looked "out of it" or not. The Daily Mail cites an unnamed source who says that he was troubled over an an affair (the police have not found evidence of this) and, in a separate report, that he looked "“disheveled and pasty" at a party two weeks before his death -- perhaps a sign that he had relapsed.

As his fans cope with the loss of one of the greatest actors of his generation, it's understandable that the media is poring over every detail and every interaction of Hoffman's in the days and weeks prior. But treating his demise like it's a Lifetime movie plot is not helping anyone gain closure. In fact, it might hinder it. As Alex Abad-Santos writes in the Altantic Wire, we need to be careful about "what we share" and what assumptions we make about addiction based on the reported circumstances around Hoffman's death.

The truth is that, as the Los Angeles Times writes, "the death is under investigation," and Hoffman was an intensely private individual -- who was pasty and disheveled on and off the screen:

Although Hoffman excelled at playing characters whose emotional lives often were in disarray, he kept his personal turmoil largely guarded. He admitted past struggles with sobriety, but people who had recently worked with him said they had seen no indication that he had fallen off the wagon. And as far as looking out of shape, the burly Hoffman was never aiming to play a Marvel superhero.

None of us knew what Hoffman was going through the weeks leading up to his death, but as police continue to work on the case, we hope that some of the story will emerge. For now, though, let's do our best to leave the detective work to the NYPD and give Hoffman's family and friends some space.

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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Acting Addiction Death Hollywood Nypd Overdose Philip Seymour Hoffman Sundance