Aaron Sorkin, the writer and creator of Sports Night, West Wing, and The Newsroom, is also a recovering addict. He was a long-time cocaine abuser, an addiction that was in part responsible for his divorce. His first stint in rehab was in 1995, and his second one was in 2001, though he has stated that he’s remained sober since then. Sorkin worked with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman on Charlie Wilson’s War, for which Sorkin wrote the screenplay. It was at a table read for Charlie Wilson that Sorkin first met Hoffman, according to a Time obituary.
During production on Charlie Wilson’s War, Sorkin writes that it was not unusual for he and Hoffman to have mini-AA meetings, where they would swap stories about their drug use. On Hoffman’s heroin use, Sorkin said he felt lucky that his squeamishness around needles prevented him from trying heroin. “He told me to stay squeamish,” Sorkin writes.
And then Hoffman predicted the good that could come out of an overdose. From Time:
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.
Well said, Sorkin, and if the scores of thoughtful, helpful addiction pieces that have hit the Internet the last few days are any indication, Hoffman may have saved a lot more than ten people.