Jack Goes Boating: Interview with Director-Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman is the director and star of “Jack Goes Boating,” also starring Amy Ryan and John Ortiz. After premiering at the Sundance Film Fest, in January, the film will be released by Overture Films.

From stage directing to film directing

Jack Goes Boating is Hoffman’s first foray into feature film directing, but he is an accomplished stage director and brought those skills to the project. Hoffman had been interested in directing a film for some time, but taking on the dual roles of actor and director proved daunting. “As a director, I had to be available to the other people,” he says. “As an actor, it’s a small movie with four main characters. In a lot of scenes, there are just two actors, so you’re half the acting. That was tricky. No one should be thinking about themselves that much through any given day. It’s just not healthy.”

Fortunately, says Hoffman, he had plenty of help from his co-creators. “Our producers Peter Saraf and George Paaswell were on the set to provide support the whole way,” he says. “Bob Glaudini was there every day to support us and to be a watchful eye if we needed to do any changes in the writing. I wanted him to be aware of what had to happen and make sure he was part of it. Everyone on the film was personally involved, which made shooting it really satisfying. It wasn’t just another job.”


Playing Jack

Hoffman plays Jack, a lonely limo driver in search of a soul mate. “Jack is a guy who’s probably had a few relationships in his life, but nothing really substantial,” Hoffman says. “Fear has dictated his comings and goings during the first half of his life. He’s not stunted or anything; it’s all fear. He actually is kind of a cool guy.”

Like the other characters, the part of Jack changed during the evolution from play to movie. “I’m glad I played the part before even though it was much different,” says Hoffman. “I think if I hadn’t it would have been a lot harder. Jack’s not like me in a lot of ways, so there was some serious work that needed to be done, specific work to make this guy come off the way he does.”


Theater vs. Film

Comparing the two experiences, the actor says, “When you’re working on a play, you try to explore the things that might only be implied and fill in the blanks. In the movie, we got to literally explore a lot of different environments and interactions that couldn’t be seen in the play. That made our performances in the film more subtle. We started to see other things as we explored. I was really able to go back in there and look at the part in a different way, a way I ultimately thought was better.

“Actors are responsible to the people we play,” says Hoffman. “I don’t label or judge my characters. I just play them as honestly and expressively as I can in the hope that people who ordinarily turn their heads in disgust might think, ‘What I thought I’d feel about that guy, I don’t totally feel right now.’”