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Hot Topic: Was Hoffman the best? (And if not, who was?)

FILE - In this undated publicity photo released by Sony Pictures Classics, Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays author Truman Capote in a scene from the film "Capote."   Police say Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has been found dead in his NYC apartment. (AP Photo/Attila Doroy, Sony Pictures Classics, File)

FILE - In this undated publicity photo released by Sony Pictures Classics, Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays author Truman Capote in a scene from the film "Capote." Police say Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has been found dead in his NYC apartment. (AP Photo/Attila Doroy, Sony Pictures Classics, File)

Last Sunday’s editorial named Philip Seymour Hoffman as “arguably the best actor of his generation.” The phrase caused some debate within the newsroom, so we asked Monitor readers (and writers) to weigh in. If not Hoffman, then who? Here’s what we heard:

I have seen people claim that Hoffman was the best actor of his generation, but I assumed that it meant that Daniel Day- Lewis was too old to count. Otherwise it’s him, hands down. Philip Seymour Hoffman is probably just ahead of Joaquin Phoenix for third behind Leonardo DiCaprio.

Ben Conant, Peterborough

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It’s a shame that Hoffman’s death is the occasion for asking this question.

He saw a production of Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons when he was 12 and said later that it permanently changed his life. But I suspect that few of us saw him perform live on Broadway, and have even less sense of his long-term involvement in an Off-Broadway theatrical company. A critic in the New York Times lamented that we will not see him do Lear, Propero, James Tyrone. Great expectations, indeed, and warranted.

But responses will largely be based on movies, and I have long given up the idea that there is any “best” actor in a given year, let along in a generation.

Hoffman was as good as we had; my favorites among his performances were those in The Talented Mr. Ripley and Charlie Wilson’s War. The best competition comes from Ethan Hawke and Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond convinced me). Matthew McConaughey is coming on strong, and Matt Damon may have been in more purely enjoyable movies than anyone else in the last 20 years.

Among the women, it’s been Amy Adams ever since Junebug.

Robert Pingree, Concord

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Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep – without a doubt.

Inez McDermott, Concord

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My answer is Meryl Streep. For everything and always and all generations.

Sarah Palermo, Concord

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Was Hoffman the best? I don’t know. How do you separate the talent from the effects of drugs? Let’s face it. Your behavior is different under the influence. If he hadn’t been addicted, who knows? He might not have even rated as inept as Ed Wood.

John Martin, Bow

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Hoffman is as deserving of “best” as anyone.

Nancy Heath, Epsom

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I don’t do “bests” very well. That said, I think he was inspired and extraordinarily talented. He was natural in his roles; I never felt he was “acting.”

Darlene Olivo, Concord

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He was great in The Big Lebowski.

Art Brennan, Weare

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Can never forget Christian Bale either. The guy’s done a different accent in every movie he’s ever been in.

Jon Bodell, Concord

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Dying young, or at least young-ish, is a guaranteed reputation enhancer.

David Brooks, Manchester

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