Last week saw the sad death of a Hollywood great with the sad passing of the 46-year-old actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman was a modern day legend within his own right and I would like to pay my respects to one of the greats.

What I would like to do as a tribute to him is to pay homage to the craft that he espoused so greatly and what that means when set against our own cinematic lives and consciousness. While other articles have rightly focused on Hoffman's career, I myself would like to cherish his memory by offering my appreciation of some of the actors I cherish and why when one of them passes it is a moment in time that is exemplified by our subconscious and emotional relationships to those who give us so much pleasure at the multiplex and in our own personal lives.

In 1996 (when I was 14 years old) my interest in cinema was starting to grow and had been since I first saw the bat sign for Tim Burton's flawed but contextually embryonic Batman (1989) in the subway stations around my home. I remember attempting to get tickets to see David Fincher's Seven in 1995 and was rightfully turned away as a minor. It was this rejection though that fuelled my interest in cinema and by definition the actors too. In 1996 I was old enough to visit a movie theatre and see a fifteen certificate movie legally and I went to see the Matthew McConaughey-led legal thriller A Time to Kill (1996). This movie and McConaughey in particular left their mark on me and I duly went and searched out the video tapes of his previous movies, making sure I was first in line when the movies that followed his turn in the aforementioned movie were released, such as Contact (1997), Amistad (1997) and the eruditely framed Lone Star (1996).

That year also was a remarkable year as I obtained a fake ID and finally watched the David Fincher movie I had missed out on at the theatre. Seven was the movie that emotionally ended my childhood as I was shown the broader and perhaps more destructively cruel world that I inhabited. This was also the time when I began to idolize Brad Pitt. I smoked, practiced his chomping, hand gestures and generally strutted around with a Pitt like swagger for the rest of my teenage years. Now of course I have shaken off these teenage shackles but what I don't believe any cinema lover ever shakes off is their subjective relationship with actors.

To me this relationship is not defined by an attachment to that sense of celebrity adulation but because of our emotional bond from the outset to the beauty and effectiveness of both the movie production; said actor stars in and the subconscious attachment that you have to the narrative of the movie itself. This relationship manifests itself in two ways to me: either the role played by the actor affects you emotionally because you yourself have experienced some of the emotions that the actor or actress is portraying and respond to them that way or, despite the narrative of the movie being quite peripheral to your own experiences, the actor's own performance is a performance of such magnitude that it does the same thing, an example of the former is Chiwitel Ejiofor in 12 Years Slave (2013). While many of us have not experienced slavery, the narrative and performance of the actor place the audience directly inside the emotions of the character.

  • Marion Cotillard in Little White Lies (2010)

An example of a more subjective response could be my own personal response to the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie En Rose (2007). I am not a singer or a performer and yet I felt a deep connection to Marion Cotillard's portrayal of the French musician as the melancholy and sadness the character felt was a reflection of the sadder moments in my life. This could only have ever been captured so vibrantly by the power of Cotillard's mournful and sad performance. It is Cotillard's performance that brings me toward my third point.

In my opinion Marion Cotillard is one of the most talented actresses working today. She is indignant of another facet of our relationship with actors and actresses in that one of her virtues was to always pick the roles that appealed to me on a purely subjective level. From Mal the ghostly figure in Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010), to Mari in Guillaume Canet's Little White Lies (2010), Cotillard on a personal level embodies - through her movie choices - many of the emotional traits that are part of my own life. In that sense she represents to me what is the most transcendent part of the cinematic experience, the idea that our own personalities and lives can be cathartically effected on such an intimate level by the actors we cherish.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman wasn't one of the cinematic icons I am overtly familiar with, yet it saddens me deeply to think that those who held him in the such high esteem - such as the actors I have mentioned here - have lost somebody special. It's never just a movie, and nor is it ever just a life lost. May he and the others we have lost be cherished every time we see their name underneath the main title card of the movie.