Philip Seymour Hoffman, the husky, blond Academy Award-winner, could change in a heartbeat from sheepdog tranquillity to cold-eyed menace in films as varied as the genteel "Capote" and the slam-bang "Mission: Impossible III."
A chameleon on-screen and onstage, he inhabited lead and supporting roles with equal aplomb, an heir to actors like Gene Hackman and Michael Caine with roles in nearly 60 films.
"He was not only the most gifted actor I ever worked with . . . he had also become an incredibly inspiring and supportive friend," Anton Corbijn, who directed Hoffman in this year's espionage thriller "A Most Wanted Man," said in a statement.
Actor and comedian Steve Martin, referring to Hoffman's 2012 performance on Broadway in "Death of a Salesman," tweeted, "Shocked to hear of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death. If you missed him as Willy Loman, you missed a Willy Loman for all time."
Hoffman, who was born in the Rochester, N.Y., suburb of Fairport, earned a BFA in Drama from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 1989 and in 1991 landed a guest role on TV's "Law & Order."
That led to parts in four movies released the following year, including "Scent of a Woman." After that, he never stopped having work.
While staying busy in film, Hoffman joined the Labyrinth Theater Company in 1995, directing Stephen Adly Guirgis' "In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings" in 1999 in what The New York Times lauded as a "crisp and taunt production." He went on to helm several more Gurgis' Labyrinth productions, most recently "The Little Flower of East Orange" in 2008.
The theater company said in a statement that Hoffman's "contributions to the Labyrinth family as an artist and mentor are immeasurable. We join everyone in mourning the passing of one of the great lights of our generation."
He made his film directing debut with "Jack Goes Boating" in 2010.
Hoffman stood out in the Screen Actors Guild Award-nominated cast of the disco-era "Boogie Nights" (1997), playing a gay boom-mike operator in the adult-movie industry, and he helped energize such ensemble films such as "Magnolia" (1999) and "State and Main" (2000). He played the music journalist Lester Bangs in the ensemble of Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" and the novelist Truman Capote in the starring role of "Capote" (2005), winning the Oscar for best actor.
He received three more Oscar nominations, for supporting roles in "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007), "Doubt" (2008) and "The Master" (2012), and a trio of Tony Awards for his Broadway work as leads in revivals of "True West" (2000) and "Death of a Salesman" (2012), and a supporting role in the 2003 revival of "Long Day's Journey into Night."
His final four posthumous films reflect his career in both independent movies and blockbusters: "A Most Wanted Man," which played at last month's Sundance Film Festival; "God's Pocket," directed by John Slattery; and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1" and "Part 2."
Hoffman is survived by costume designer Mimi O'Donnell, with whom he has had a relationship since 1999, and their three children, son Cooper, 10, and daughters Tallulah, 7, and Willa, 5.