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Philip Seymour Hoffman's film breakthrough, remembered by 'Nebraska' Oscar-nominee June Squibb

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One great pleasure of watching an old movie is spotting famous actors doing bit parts, back before anyone could have known what they’d become.

Philip Seymour Hoffman provided a litany of these, having paid his dues over many years as a working actor — making even small roles seem impressive. That’s how we eventually came to know his name.

After his death yesterday, EW began looking back through some of these early performances — his debut as a wise-ass street kid on a 1991 episode of Law & Order, and his supporting role as the morally ambiguous best friend of Chris O’Donnell’s character in 1992’s Scent of a Woman.

Looking up that particular part, we spotted something surprising in one of his early scenes. In the game of finding a future film star in a background role, this scene from Scent of a Woman turned out to be a double.

Hoffman is not just sharing the screen with O’Donnell, as they try to distract an older teacher from witnessing a prank being set up over the headmaster’s parking space. Hoffman is also acting opposite a current Oscar-nominee: Nebraska‘s June Squibb.

We reached out to her via her son, filmmaker Harry Kakatsakis, to see if she had any memories of Hoffman to share.

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'Nebraska' behind the scenes: How June Squibb landed the role of Kate Grant -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

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Nebraska tells the story of a father (Bruce Dern) who, after receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, believes he’s struck it rich and convinces his son (Will Forte) to join him on a road trip to accept his new fortune. Directed by Alexander Payne, the film received multiple Oscar nominations, including a Best Director nod for Payne, another for Best Picture, and acting nominations for star Bruce Dern and supporting actress June Squibb, who plays Dern’s wife in the film.

But don’t panic if you missed it in theaters. We have the exclusive release date for Nebraska on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how June Squibb landed her role as Kate Grant. Let’s just say she wasn’t Payne’s first choice, but he quickly changed his mind.

Learn more about Squibb’s journey to the film with the exclusive clip below:
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Oscars 2014: 'Nebraska' actress June Squibb talks nomination -- 'We hugged and kissed and cried'

If there is a more touching Oscar nominations day story than that of veteran thespian June Squibb — who has been given the nod in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in Nebraska — we’re not sure our hearts, or our tear ducts, can take it.

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'Nebraska' standout June Squibb pays her respects -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

If you have Midwestern roots, you probably know a Kate Grant. She’s hard-as-nails. She doesn’t suffer bullsh–. And, most importantly, she doesn’t have a filter.

In Nebraska, Descendants director Alexander Payne’s black-and-white ode to the heartland, June Squibb gives life to this archetype through the feisty Kate. The matriarch of the Grant family will just as soon call a long-deceased woman a whore as she’ll tell her son fairly explicit details about who fancied her in her youth.

“When I read this script I just thought, ‘I know this lady,'” Squibb told EW. “I’m from Illinois. I see her in my mother and my grandmother. Nothing surprised me.” According to Squibb, screenwriter Bob Nelson based the part on his mother-in-law.

The 84-year-old actress had worked with Payne in About Schmidt, which actually worked against her in the beginning. “In Alexander’s mind, I was that sweet lady that Jack was married to,” she says. But, despite his reservations, he gave her a shot. “Her audition knocked my socks off,” Payne said Monday at the AFI Fest screening of Nebraska. “I didn’t have a second-place gal to play that part.”
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'Nebraska' trailer: Woody Grant might be a millionaire -- VIDEO

Cue the black and white. Starring Bruce Dern (who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival) as an elderly gentleman who believes he’s won a million dollars and Will Forte (yes, you read that right, SNL Will Forte) as the son who’s trying to let his father enjoy the moment without things going too far, Nebraska is all about life, family, and the possibility of being rich.

Directed by The Descendants and Election helmer Alexander Payne, Nebraska also stars Stacy Keach, June Squibb, and Breaking Bad‘s Bob Odenkirk.

Watch the trailer below:
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