The outpouring of grief all around the country, but especially in the environs of New York City where “Phil” lived and worked, has been extraordinary and has, perhaps, taken some observers by surprise. The acute pain of my own grief has not abated for days; indeed, it has grown. I loved this actor beyond all others. There was a core of sensitivity and empathy at the heart of everything he did, even when playing the most unattractive characters. I was collecting his films, but in a desultory way, assuming that there was no particular urgency. Like many others who knew his work but not his personal story, I had no idea of the struggle he’d had. The idea that there will be no more performances is almost unbearable. He wasn’t just a “character actor,” though he certainly played a lot of characters; he had a range that, the more I think about it, was Shakespearean in its humanity. I can’t even name a favorite performance; it was true of him across the board (or boards). I was looking forward to whatever he did next; now we can only play his old movies and suffer our loss. Now we will never see him play King Lear, a dismal thought that has occurred to several theatre critics who have lamented in print.
James Lipton, dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York City, widely known as the creator and host of Inside the Actors Studio on Bravo, was interviewed by CNN (I think it was). I don’t remember ever seeing a scheduled television appearance at the time of a death that was so ferociously in the moment, not studied, not thought out ahead of time, just pure rage and grief. He seemed to be gripping the table (he may not have been, but it seemed that way) as he almost spat out his fury at “god-damned drugs.” He was liberal on most things, he said, but when it came to drugs he felt nothing but implacable opposition and hatred. It was good to hear that. We don’t hear it often enough. I remember when Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning after years of drug abuse. Someone said, “She made bad choices.” As if a person in the throes of addiction has a choice! This isn’t about choices or “free will.” This is about the bondage of the will by demonic powers.
Read it all (my emphasis).