Here’s how it happened: I attended the Theater World Awards, which are presented to a dozen performers each season for their outstanding Broadway or off-Broadway debuts. In 2000, Philip Seymour Hoffman won for “True West”; this year, he was a presenter. Here’s what he taught me:
1 Ignore the dress code. The awards took place at two o’clock in the afternoon at the majestic Belasco Theater in Times Square. Even though the show had a casual feel, all the women wore dresses and all the men wore suits. Except for Phil. He had on a wrinkled pair of Dockers and a windbreaker. That’s the way to stand out in a crowd!
2 Curse your costar. Phil gave an award to Finn Wittrock, the young actor who’d played Happy to his Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” He talked about how he despised Finn’s outsize talent. He dropped the f-bomb a couple of times. When Finn walked out to the podium and the two guys bear-hugged, Phil had completely charmed the crowd.
3 Don’t make it seem like you rehearsed. Phil talked about Finn without notes, which made him sound natural, as if he’d just walked in off the street, was thrown on stage, and started yakking.
4. Skip the after-party. I kept scanning the crowd at Bowlmor Lanes, the party site, but Phil was a no-show. The fact that he wasn’t fighting for the coconut shrimp with the rest of us made him seem way cooler.
5. Ellis from “Smash” is actually a nice guy. Okay, I only learned this from Phil indirectly. While looking for him at the party, I happened to see Jaime Cepero, the actor who plays Ellis, the notorious troublemaker on “Smash.” We chatted, and he was totally sweet and patient, even when it took forever for my husband to snap a photo of Jaime and me with my phone.
Phil probably would’ve cursed me. If only.