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Public sightings of Hoffman suggest complicated final days

A makeshift memorial with photos and flowers was set up outside the New York City apartment building where the body of Philip Seymour Hoffman was found.

EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT

A makeshift memorial with photos and flowers was set up outside the New York City apartment building where the body of Philip Seymour Hoffman was found.

NEW YORK — A father with his children in a Greenwich Village playground. A disheveled man hovering around the lone ATM in a grocery store, withdrawing the exact sum of $200, over and over, for an hour. A guy texting his buddy to invite him over to watch the New York Knicks game at his apartment.

The text message would be the last known communication from Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose last hours and days were a jerking and complicated blend of business, socializing, furtive drug deals and, finally, what appeared to be a fatal overdose of heroin: His cold, lifeless body was found Sunday morning on a bathroom floor, a needle still stuck in his arm.

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He died, by all accounts, an addict’s death, with periods of outward normalcy interrupted by erratic behavior. Shooting a blockbuster film. Business meetings. Ballgames. Binge drinking. Drug buys.

For a man who died alone, at 46, his journey there was anything but private. He was an ambassador of sorts for Greenwich Village, a common sight to neighbors, as he pushed a stroller, smoked a cigarette on a stoop or offered directions to a lost tourist. In short, a regular New Yorker — just one with an Oscar statuette on his shelf.

His final days were no different. He was far from a recluse. People saw him all over the Village and beyond. The return home last week of an apparently drunken Hoffman from Atlanta, where he was shooting scenes for the coming “Hunger Games” films, did not go unnoticed, with witnesses recounting run-ins with the actor at two airports.

He seemed reticent and rumpled at his last public appearance, promoting the films “God’s Pocket” and “A Most Wanted Man” at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah on Jan. 19. Friends, however, would later point out that the 46-year-old actor would often appear that way, as if he had been out partying all night when in fact he had just awaked from a night’s sleep.

At Sundance, a magazine publisher who did not immediately recognize him asked him what he did. Hoffman replied, “I’m a heroin addict.”

Elsewhere, he was his usual self.

“I saw him and said hello to him,” said Howard Cohen, a president of Roadside Attractions, the distributor that brought “A Most Wanted Man” to the festival. “He was very gracious and friendly and said, ‘I’m happy to do it.’ It was a very normal interaction.” Elsewhere at the festival, Hoffman spoke of having little time to see movies lately, but said he had enjoyed “Frozen” with his children.

He returned to New York, where he lived alone in a rented apartment after having moved out from the home of his companion, Mimi O’Donnell, and their three children.

Hoffman had admitted to a drug relapse at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in December, where a leader asked if those in attendance were counting their time sober in terms of years, months, weeks or days. Hoffman said, “I am counting days,” according to a person at the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the group’s rules.

“He raised his hand and he said his name and he said he had 28 days or 30 days sober,” the person said. Hoffman was cleanshaven and well-dressed. “He looked great, he looked totally, totally normal.”

It was a struggle he took seriously. “Phil was sober for over 25 years and conquered it to the greatest degree one can, given the nature of it,” said David Bar Katz, a playwright and friend who was one of the first two people to discover Hoffman dead. “He was against every aspect of drug use.”

At the end of that week, on Jan. 25, a writer, Tatiana Pahlen, was leaving the 92nd Street Y after a swim when she ran into Hoffman at the elevator, picking up one of his children. The two had met a couple of years earlier, when he performed a reading. A similar event was coming up in two days.

“I asked him if he’s joining us on Monday,” Pahlen said. “He said, ‘Oh, no, I will be in Atlanta.’” She said he seemed happy, if “a little hyper,” and noted that “his skin was not healthy. His skin was in very bad shape.”

He arrived in Atlanta last week to shoot scenes for the final “Hunger Games” film, due in 2015. A diner photographed Hoffman sitting in a bar in downtown Atlanta, but it is unclear, from the photo, what was in his glass.

As Hoffman returned from Atlanta, his condition was such that Theresa Fehr, a home warranties executive based in Houston, mistook him for “a street person.”

Fehr was flying home, like the actor, from Atlanta that day. She noticed a man — not immediately recognizing him — being escorted to the security checkpoint by a Transportation Security Administration agent. “I just thought it was really odd that this street person was at the airport,” she said. “He put his shoes on the belt and just threw his belt there. You could tell he was very intoxicated.”

She turned to the agent and said, “‘You know, it’s funny, he looks like that actor that has three names.’ She looks at me and goes, ‘Yeah, it is.’ He’s trying to put his belt on. His pants are about to fall off and his belly is hanging out. I said, ‘Dude, I hope you don’t lose your pants.’ He just kind of looked at me with this dazed, glazed look,” she said.

After the flight to La Guardia Airport — during which he was photographed, again by a stranger, slumped over in his seat — he was driven away from the gate in a motorized cart.

“He passed me and my fiancée,” said Andrew Kirell, editor of Mediaite, a blog that covers the media. “It was remarkable how awful he looked.” They recognized him right away: “My fiancée and I are huge fans.”

By Saturday morning, Hoffman was back on track, it seemed, showing up for his standing order — a four-shot espresso — at Chocolate Bar. Theater artists who had spoken with him last week said that he was preoccupied with some future film possibilities and a coming series for Showtime. He was to return to Atlanta the next week. His playwright friend, Katz, had texted him about getting together for one of their frequent steak and coffee dinners before he left.

Later that day, Hoffman met O’Donnell and their children at a playground, said a theater executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private activities of the family. The police later said that O’Donnell described Hoffman as high when she spoke to him at some point on Saturday.

Around 5 p.m., Paul Pabst, executive producer of “The Dan Patrick Show,” a sports program, was walking in the Village with members of his family when he saw Hoffman. His sister called out to the actor, who turned and gave her a high-five. “My sister looked at me and said, ‘Wow, he didn’t look good,’” Pabst later said on the program. “He looked out of it.”

Hoffman had dinner around 7:30 at Automatic Slim’s, a popular West Village bar where he was a regular, sitting on this night with two other men. The bar was closing for a private party at 9:30, but by then, Hoffman was long gone.

The police said he withdrew $1,200 from the ATM at D’Agostino, a grocery near his apartment, in six transactions of $200 each. There were gaps of several minutes between withdrawals, lasting about an hour in all.

He sent his friend, Katz, a text at 8:44 p.m. that read, “you wanna watch the second half of the knick heat game at Bethune,” Katz said.

Fourteen minutes later, at 8:58, Hoffman sent another text: “like 10:15.”

But Katz said he did not see the invitation until more than an hour later. At 11:30 p.m., after first seeing the texts, Katz texted Hoffman: “just got out of dinner. Where r u?”

There was no reply.

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