Dear Phil…

I’m not sure if you can hear it from wherever you are right now, but your departure has made a lot of noise back here amongst those of us you left behind. The outpouring of emotion from your fans and admirers has been loud…and for good reason. Those of us who loved what you did felt like we were still in the early throes of what you would give us, not almost at the end. I don’t know whether this collective effusion would have surprised and humbled you, or whether you would have eaten it up with aplomb. I suspect the former.

I believe you would have been overwhelmed for the same reason I believe so many of us loved you; because you were one of us.

You were the man on the screen surrounded by glitzy, glamorous people. When you stood next to Brad Pitt, Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Lawrence, or Gwenyth Paltrow, you looked less like one of them and more like one of us. When we saw that, we clung to you and loved you all the more for it. There you stood – shirt untucked, face unshaven – holding your own against these god and goddesses. Not only would you hold your own, but so often you would put them in their place. Whether it was being the calm voice of reason, or shooting from the hip, you demanded their attention…

…and in so doing, you got ours.

We knew you. You were the man who sat across from us on the subway. You were the man in the corner table at the diner. You were the friendly face at the office, and the pleasant person at church. You were our big brother, our dear friend, our father and our son. You spoke with the sort of intelligence that forces one to listen, in a tone that echoes long after you’ve stopped speaking. You said things we wished we could say in a voice we wished we could find.

When you commanded a room like you did in THE MASTER, it made us believe that somewhere inside of us was the capacity to do so as well. You enraptured us in a way that would make us follow you into the battle, and also in a way that made us know it would all be okay if we failed. While mesmerizing, your demeanour was genuine, making it all the more evocative of the sorts of people we’d met.

Those aren’t the sorts of people we get to see on the big screen…and yet, there you were.

While this sophistication enraptured us, it was the bravery to embrace your inner misfit that truly endeared us to you. We loved that version of you because we saw so many of our greatest flaws in it. We saw our awkwardness, our shyness, our ugliness, and our nervousness. We saw ourselves at our weakest; the way we feel when we’re being our own worst critics. You became our champion because you made us feel less alone in these moments, and helped us to see that things are seldom as bad as we think they are.

But now you’re gone. We have lost you, and in that lost a little piece of ourselves in the movies that we watch. While we will always have Lancaster Dodd, Truman Capote, Lester Bangs, Phil Parma, Freddie Miles, John Savage, Caden Cotard, and countless others…it was you that we loved, you that we needed, and you that we will miss. In a selfish sense, we have lost a piece of ourselves and find ourselves rudderless.

But in a greater sense, we have lost a beacon of who we are and what we can be, and find ourselves deeply saddened.


We will miss you dearly, and hope you are well…wherever you are.