Let's compare two Philip Seymour Hoffman characters: Plutarch Heavensbee and Scotty from Boogie Nights

We all know that Philip Seymour Hoffman is an "actor's actor" -- a chameleon who can play all kinds of roles, whether they be dramatic or comedic, manipulative or a pushover. Now that we know he is playing head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in Catching Fire (and, most likely, Mockingjay), let's look at a past role that probably didn't prepare him for this one, unless it totally did: Scotty from Boogie Nights.

For all three of you who are unfamiliar with The Hunger Games, Plutarch is first introduced as a stooge of the Capitol, the government of Panem that instituted the annual Hunger Games that makes teenagers kill each other for the sake of entertainment—and to remind the plebs of their place.

We're not supposed to like Plutarch; he's in charge of these games. When we first meet him, we're supposed to have a good laugh at that time Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) shot an arrow directly into an apple residing in the mouth of a pig on a spit and Mr. Heavensbee fell not-very-gracefully into a punch bowl.

But then, as we find out in Catching Fire, Plutarch is not really all he seems to be. Rightfully deemed untrustworthy by Katniss when they first officially meet, she notices that he's sporting a Mockingjay pin, a symbol of the rebellion that the second book is all about. Yup, Plutarch is a rebel, baby. He's playing for the other team.

Not unlike Scotty J. in Boogie Nights! Scotty, the boom mic operator for the delightful porn movies of Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), is secretly harboring a same-sex crush on Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) from the second he sees him. Get it? "Playing for the other team"? See? The perfect preparation for Hoffman's new role.

I'm kidding, of course, because that's where my case ends. Plutarch, unlike Scotty, is in control of things. Scotty's a wreck of a guy, poor thing -- too insecure to fully express his feelings until he gets some liquid courage in his system. And then he'll make out with exactly everything he finds pretty, such as Dirk (who looks like that guy in the Calvin Klein ads that Future Scotty saw on his second-ever coke trip).

Plutarch, on the other hand, can also hide his intentions in front of very highfalutin' people, but he actually has a plan to overthrow them all. Scotty isn't going to overthrow anyone. Plutarch is like a highly evolved Scotty, in another time and dimension. And an equally colorful dresser.

At the same time, Plutarch is intent on protecting Katniss from being killed; in Mockingjay, he forbids her from fighting when they touch down in a war zone to shoot a propaganda film, though probably not out of concern more than out of the fact that she's the new symbol of the rebellion and losing her would make his cause implode. (Even though she'd have made a heck of a martyr.) But Katniss doesn't really like to be controlled. In Boogie Nights, on the eve of a major drug deal that involves Alfred Molina's torso, large guns, and frighteningly-timed firecrackers, Scotty is very concerned for the safety of Dirk, who also doesn't like to be controlled, especially when he's high on cocaine and in need of more money for more cocaine. And, much like in the case of Plutarch and Katniss, Scotty's concern for Dirk is related mostly to his own self-interest (read: his penis).

It's obvious that these two characters are spot-on exactly alike. So yes, playing Scotty J. in Boogie Nights was the best preparation for Philip Seymour Hoffman's new role as Plutarch Heavensbee in Catching Fire.


  1. “… inner-city children of promise without the necessary means for a — necessary means for a — higher education. so president coriolanus is committed to sending them all to the arena.”

  2. This could be a game: compare the last two Phillip Seymour Hoffman roles you have seen, and post it on the internet. Mine would be that rocker from Pirate Radio and Truman Capote. They both created media!

    1. Good game.  I just mentioned Wilson from “Love Liza” and Dean Trumbull (aka the Mattress Man) in “Punch Drunk Love.” in a comment below so let’s see…

      Hmmmm…  Both go to great lengths to hide their true less-than-moral activities.  The former huffs gasoline and covers it up by saying he’s into radio control airplanes.  The latter extorts callers into his phone sex line which he operates out of a mattress store.

      1. The team manager in Moneyball and Jim the bartender in The Invention of Lying. They both get caught in a paradigm shift!

  3. Hi Jamie,

    Considering you’ve managed to annoy some people, I’d say you’re off to a great start.

    One hopefully helpful piece of constructive criticism:  Please stop trying to double barrel shotgun your posts.  Chumbawumba and Independence Day?  Drawing weak parallels between Scotty and Plutarch?  I liked both posts, but they seem disjointed somehow.  I’d much rather have heard a treatise about how all or many of PSH’s relatively obscure characters could contribute to Plutarch.

    Wilson from “Love Liza” or the Mattress Man in “Punch Drunk Love” perhaps…

    Still though, any mention of Scotty is great.  I look forward to your future posts. 

  4. {Teller sits back, hands folded behind head}

    I remember when Xeni started. There were a lot of “oys” and “wtfs” and she worked out okay. In fact, I remember Mark and Cory when they were just the neighborhood kids. Mark always hooking up his K’nex to a lawnmower engine and Cory, well Cory never left his house but they both worked out. I’m sure Jaime will, too.

  5. I think it’s a sound case. Maybe. “Plutarch is like a highly evolved Scotty, in another time and dimension. And an equally colorful dresser.” In any case, the above paragraphs had enough ZAZZ and humour to get me to finish it.

  6. Not commenting on the article, but on Hunger Games itself:

    > she notices that he’s sporting a Mockingjay pin, a symbol of the rebellion that the second book is all about.

    So we know he’s part of the secret rebellion because he walks around Evil Villain Headquarters all day wearing the rebel’s *lapel pin*???

    WTF? That’s no way to run a revolution.

  7. To elaborate on my initial annoyed comment: in our current internet climate where women bloggers are often dismissed and/or harassed ESPECIALLY on sites that deal with tech/game/”nerd” culture, we really shouldn’t be offering the trolls bait. I would hate to see some troglodyte say, “Women bloggers are ALL stupid and pointless. SEE??!!!” and use this an example. 
    Bring your A game. And for god’s sake, put a spoiler alert in!

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