Roger Ebert Wanted Philip Seymour Hoffman to Play Him in a Biopic

Roger Ebert and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Roger Ebert's widow, Chaz Ebert, says her late husband wanted Philip Seymour Hoffman -- who died at age 46 on Feb. 2 -- to play him in a biopic Araya Diaz/WireImage; Matt Carr/Getty Images

One of the many tragedies of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death is the thought of all the performances he still had left to give. The late Oscar winner, 46 when he died on Feb. 2 of an apparent drug overdose, made movies better just by being in them — which is probably why the late film critic Roger Ebert wanted Hoffman to play him if anyone ever adapted his life for the big screen.

Ebert's widow, Chaz Ebert, shared her husband's casting choice at the Feb. 3 Rooftop Films and Piper-Heidsieck New York screening of Life Itself, a new documentary about the film reviewer's life. "Roger always said, 'If you ever do a movie where you need someone to play me, I want Philip Seymour Hoffman to play me,'" she told the audience.

"He was one of the most versatile actors ever, and he also was a brilliant man [and] human being — just very smart," she explained of the Capote star. In fact, as Chaz told The Hollywood Reporter at the screening, she had just been discussing the possibility of Hoffman playing Ebert at Sundance, where both were promoting new movies. (Chaz was there for Life Itself; Hoffman was there for A Most Wanted Man. As previously reported, however, the actor wasn't in the best state of mind and even got into an altercation with a photographer.)

"When we were at Sundance, I was talking to someone about that," she said. "I didn't see Phil at Sundance, but I was talking to someone, saying, 'You know he's here. I heard Roger would like [Hoffman] to play him in a movie. What do you think about that?' We were just talking about that last week." 

"Roger and I thought he was just terrific," Chaz continued. "We thought he was one of the best actors of any age. He was just so versatile, and he was a brilliant, very smart human being."

Of his death, she added, "It's so, so sad, and addiction is a really, really difficult thing. I really have so much sympathy for his children and his partner and his mother, whom Roger knew and liked a lot." (Hoffman left behind three kids, son Cooper and daughters Tallulah and Willa, with costume designer Mimi O'Donnell.) 

Ebert died at age 70 in April 2013, after several years of health struggles including thyroid cancer, a fractured hip, and multiple surgeries on his chin and throat. Hoffman, meanwhile, had a long battle with drug addiction prior to his death.

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