Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the more talented character actors of his generation; versatile and empathetic, he added interest and verve to many supporting roles, but had the stamina and range to pull off lead parts as well. A four-time Academy Award nominee, he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 2006, for his brilliant performance in the biopic Capote. Also a stage performer, Hoffman garnered three Tony Award nominations for his work on Broadway, most notably Death of a Salesman in 2012.
But as is often the case, with great talent comes great challenge. Hoffman struggled with addiction from an early age, first checking himself into rehab at age 22. In a 2006 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, Hoffman recalled that era, replying when asked if the problem was drugs or alcohol, “It was all that stuff, yeah, anything I could get my hands on … I liked it all.” Hoffman continued to battle alcohol throughout his life, and had at least one drug relapse in the intervening years, again checking himself into rehab in May 2013 for heroin and prescription medication abuse.
Hoffman’s return to drug use spurred a recent separation from his longtime partner Mimi O’Donnell and their three children, and he was living in an apartment attached to his Greenwich Village office when a friend found him lying on the bathroom floor on February 2, 2014. A needle still in his arm, Hoffman had died from an apparent overdose; police found upwards of 50 bags of heroin and several bottles of prescription drugs in the apartment. On February 5th the lights of Broadway were dimmed for a minute in his honor, and his death rated a front-page obituary in The New York Times.
Born on July 23, 1967, Hoffman’s talent and his issues with addiction are both apparent. (1) Neptune rules both dramatic arts and substance abuse or escapist behaviors, and at 21° Scorpio in the natal chart, it’s a potent presence. Trine the Sun and square the Moon, Neptune is a dominating factor, providing creativity, sensitivity, and the amorphous quality needed for an actor to convincingly portray varied characters, stepping out of himself into an alternate persona. (2) The square to the Moon hints at an emotional conflict as the basis for Hoffman’s issues with addiction and substance abuse, perhaps originating in early childhood.
Several minor bodies colluded to push Hoffman along the path to drug use. Tightly conjoined Neptune is asteroid Bacchus at 20° Scorpio, and in tight square is asteroid Dionysos at 20° Leo. These are essentially the same deity, the Roman and Greek versions, respectively, of the god ruling intoxicants and inebriation, altered states of consciousness divorced from harsh reality. Asteroid Panacea, named for a daughter of the healer Asclepius, whose focus was medicinal cures, conjoins the 9° Virgo Venus from 7° Virgo, indicating the strong attachment Hoffman had for drugs. The word “panacea” of course has also come to mean a quick-fix cure for all problems or ills, much in the way Hoffman used intoxicants to dull or erase whatever pain he felt.
An exact square from Saturn at 12° Aries to Mercury at 12° Cancer tells more of the tale of Hoffman’s success; this combination indicates a career in some media-related venue, and also promotes a retentive memory, vital to any actor in retaining pages of dialogue, especially on stage, where there are no second takes. It also hints at the substantial vocal (Mercury) control (Saturn) that enabled him to slip seemingly effortlessly into the Truman Capote character, with a stunning and eerily perfect portrayal of the famed writer’s verbal eccentricities. The fact that Hoffman could believably portray real-life persons, as well as fictional characters, is a testament to his versatility. (Uranus’ station retrograde at 16° Aries last July, exactly conjunct his natal Saturn, may have been a contributory cause of his sudden, unexpected [both Uranus] death [Saturn].)
The Academy rewarded his bravura performance as Capote with the best actor Oscar on March 5, 2006, and the skies reflected his success that night. Asteroid Hoffman (#1662) at 21° Taurus was squared asteroid Oskar at 24° Aquarius, while an exact opposition from asteroid Philippa (#977, for Philip) at 5° Aquarius to Saturn (career, success, public recognition) at 5° Leo was shored up by Philippa’s conjunction with transit Venus (popularity, actors, entertainment, the Lesser Benefic) at 0° Aquarius. This transiting opposition was anchored to Hoffman’s natal chart by an exact t-square with natal asteroid Hoffman at 5° Scorpio, a point that was hit exactly by the Lunar Eclipse of April 2013, just before Hoffman checked himself into rehab.
When Hoffman was found dead in his Greenwich Village apartment on February 2nd, the sky again portrayed the scene, with asteroid Hoffman at 12° Aquarius closely conjoined the Sun at 13° Aquarius, signaling that a Hoffman would be big news that day. Also within orb is asteroid Greenwich (#2830) at 5° Aquarius, exactly squared natal Hoffman, with that transiting Hoffman/Saturn conjunction squaring his natal Greenwich at 16° Taurus, reiterating the importance of that location both to the day’s events and in Hoffman’s biography. Asteroids Philippa and Panacea conjoined at 10° and 16° Gemini, united Hoffman personally with the agent of his death. With the addition of the conjunction of natal asteroid Sisyphus at 18° Gemini squared natal Pluto at 18° Virgo, there is a sense of a repeating, futile pattern (Sisyphus) resulting in death or destruction (Pluto). Philippa/Panacea also opposed an exact pairing of transit Bacchus and Karma at 12° Sagittarius, suggesting a fated or inescapable destiny (Karma) ensuing from the use of intoxicants (Bacchus).
Hoffman’s talent will be sorely missed; we can only speculate at the future roles this actor, now in his prime, would have brought to life for the world to share and enjoy. When Broadway dimmed its lights in his honor at 7:45 p.m. EST on February 5, 2014, asteroid Philippa had just crested the 14° Gemini Midheaven, a fitting celestial tribute to the passing of one of our brightest stars.
(1) Source: Wikipedia
(2) Author’s note: no time of birth is available, but the Sun changed from 29° Cancer to 0° Leo that day, both in trine to Neptune, and the Moon passed from 16° to 29° Aquarius, any degree of which would be in square, if loosely.
Bio: Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of “The Galactic Calendar,” and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society. His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. His work with deep space points and asteroids appears monthly at DayKeeper Journal. Alex can be reached for comment or services at firstname.lastname@example.org