All good conspiracy theorists know that assassins only use three names: James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman, John Wilkes Booth, etc. Some would even say that this is an indictment for Lee Harvey Oswald in the death of J.F.K. Of course a closer look reveals a host of two named killers, but they derail my argument, so I won’t talk about them now.
At the same time, one of my favorite actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is a three-named fellow. This morning while driving to work the significance of Hoffman’s full three names struck me, a mark of distinction in the film world. Sure, for an assassin it’s typical, but in the acting world it’s a mark of distinction.
But Philip doesn’t play just any role—most of his characters suffer from some sort of imbalance that results in their downfall. Take his role in Boogie Nights for instance: an unattractive homosexual in the porn industry, he suffers for his endless attraction to heterosexual porn stars, and then finally makes an ass of himself by confronting Marky Mark. 25th Hour, Happiness, Punch-Drunk Love, State and Main… most of his recent parts are ones in which he shoots himself in the proverbial foot.
Sure, some people think that using three names is just a mark of recognition; other famous people, such as Francis Ford Coppola or Alexander Graham Bell are great examples. But, a Mr. Philip S. Hoffman adopted his middle name in the middle of his career. You might think he did it to sound more regal or distinctive, but I think he recognized his God-given talent: Philip Seymour Hoffman is the perfect self-assassin.