There will come a time when you want to cut off all your hair. Do it. Realise that the thing you want rid of doesn’t lie in the long curls that frame your face so perfectly. Live with short hair for a while. It’ll grow.
You won’t always want to talk to people. That’s okay. When it’s late and you hear your friends talking in the next room, you don’t have to join them. You’re allowed your solitude. It makes company sweeter and it teaches you how to survive alone. You will need that skill.
In the winter, you’ll believe that nothing will ever grow again. You’re wrong. Every year, London looks like it’s on its last legs, wheezing through those last cold days in March. Every year, spring comes like an explosion and the city shakes off its sleep.
Mundane problems will get the better of you sometimes. Don’t worry. Try as you might, life cannot be an endless, beautiful, intense moment. Find comfort in money worries and late trains; they’re a welcome rest in between heartbreaks and breakdowns.
People will call you a cynic, a wry smile on their faces. Pay them no mind. You alone know that you are capable of a love greater than anything they can comprehend. You alone know that you are not willing to sell your identity and respect to the first smirking halfwit to pass by. It is not cynicism. It is reverence for your own vast and fathomless heart, and it makes sense only to love someone who understands that and is awed by it.
You will not always get what you want when you want it. Accept it. Your goals are not set in stone and you are not on a fixed trajectory. Sometimes, life will take its time and you will have to play the long, interminable game. Play it well and with as much grace as you can muster. Live at your own pace.
At night, you will occasionally wake up afraid, wanting to die. Don’t give in. Night plays its tricks, but you are not so easily fooled. Your mind will play its tricks, too. It will make you believe that you’re not who you are, but you must not give in. You take a breath and you tell yourself that you are here. That you always were.
Phil Hoffman and I had two things in common. We were both fathers of young children, and we were both recovering drug addicts. Of course I’d known Phil’s work for a long time — since his remarkably perfect film debut as a privileged, cowardly prep-school kid in Scent of a Woman — but I’d never met him until the first table read for Charlie Wilson’s War, in which he’d been cast as Gust Avrakotos, a working-class CIA agent who’d fallen out of favor with his Ivy League colleagues. A 180-degree turn.
On breaks during rehearsals, we would sometimes slip outside our soundstage on the Paramount lot and get to swapping stories. It’s not unusual to have these mini-AA meetings — people like us are the only ones to whom tales of insanity don’t sound insane. “Yeah, I used to do that.” I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.” He meant that our deaths would make news and maybe scare someone clean.
So it’s in that spirit that I’d like to say this: Phil Hoffman, this kind, decent, magnificent, thunderous actor, who was never outwardly “right” for any role but who completely dominated the real estate upon which every one of his characters walked, did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.
He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed — he died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a y in it. He’ll have his well-earned legacy — his Willy Loman that belongs on the same shelf with Lee J. Cobb’s and Dustin Hoffman’s, his Jamie Tyrone, his Truman Capote and his Academy Award. Let’s add to that 10 people who were about to die who won’t now.