Iconic partnerships are perfectly suited to the mythology of film. Bogart and Huston. Kinski and Herzog. Mastroianni and Fellini. Scorsese and DeNiro…Scorsese and DiCaprio, for that matter. They evoke smoky sets and creative soulmates huddled close, hashing out a character’s raison d’etre. The truth is probably less romantic, but mythology doesn’t care about the truth.
Paul Thomas Anderson and Philip Seymour Hoffman, now officially at the end of their time together, are one of these partnerships. Their work together is seminal, representing the best of their generation, and outside of their successes they were simply great friends, two guys who understood each other implicitly. For both men, the creative process is merely a quest for simple truths, a foray into characters they respect, and often fear — a hunt for humanity in drama. Outwardly they’re the sort of artists who bring no ego to their art, other than an objectivity regarding their talent, and so earn the respect of all who work with them. They were — and are — the real thing. And as with so many historic dyads, Paul and Phil made each other better. Whether thanks to collaboration or competition (or both), their symbiosis pushed them in ways that would define their work and their career together.
A career five movies long.