Recalling the conversation on John Fugelsang’s SiriusXM radio show Tell Me Everything, Dennehy remembers he began by telling Hoffman, “I like what I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done, and I’d like the chance to do it some more.”
He then urged the troubled star to, “See if you can find a way to enjoy it yourself,” reminding him that, “This is good stuff that we do [as actors].”
Both Dennehy and Hoffman were famous for their onstage portrayals of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, and were longtime friends outside of acting. After battling substance abuse on and off for years, Hoffman died of a heroine overdose in 2014. He was 46.
“I suspect that what happened with Phil was that he got everything he ever really wanted, and for what ever reason, it just wasn’t enough,” the actor continued.
Dennehy added that he had struggled with his own demons over the course of his career and was fortunate to escape relatively unscathed.
“I’ve flirted with it myself – sometimes more than flirted – and I got lucky, because I survived it first of all, and realized that it’s stupid,” he explained. “Raising self-destruction to some kind of elevated status is dumb.”
Noting that he had witnessed the same fate befall other famous friends, like Chris Farley and John Belushi, Dennehy said he’s come to realize that self-destructive behavior does not make a better actor.
“Mostly they are lying to themselves,” he said. “You need every bit of intelligence and consciousness that you can possibly muster to do the right work.
“People think they can get better because they screw themselves up in some way or another, and they almost always make a mistake.”