Heading into weeks now after the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and it’s just still surreal that he’s no longer with us. Such a classic, larger-than-life presence on the screen; a true movie star whose career was so full and yet so far from finished. Hoffman turned in a number of performances that were astonishing, but my favorite role of his was that of Gust Avrakatos in Charlie Wilson’s War.The Mike Nichols-directed, Aaron Sorkin-scripted story of a Texas Congressman (Tom Hanks) who was the driving force behind the United States pumping millions of dollars of weapons into the Afghan insurgency against the Soviet Union when the latter nation invaded the former. Aside from The Social Network, it may be Sorkin’s finest movie script; a tightly scripted lesson in how tragic a geopolitical domino effect can end up being (something Hoffman’s character prophecies eerily at the end of the film).
Gust is a coarse, blunt, old-school spy who is very out of favor with the Ivy League bureaucracy of the Agency. He’s also probably a little insane. This makes him a perfect companion for Wilson, who is absolutely insane, and Gust becomes his CIA liaison in his effort to fund the insurgency. Before all of that, though, Gust is stranded in Langley, denied the Helsinki Bureau Chief job he thought he’d earned and he goes into his boss’ office (Mad Men’s John Slattery) to confront him about it. “Confront” is probably not really the exact word I’m looking for as Gust lets loose one of the greatest tirades in screen history on the outraged and terrified Slattery. Gust’s rampage is my favorite Hoffman scene and one I’ve watched more than a few times since we lost him.
Just as a warning, this is NOT a G-rated tirade. I’m just saying…as tirades go…not G-rated.