Best known as silver-haired playboy Roger Sterling on AMC's
hit 1960s ad-world drama "Mad Men," the 51-year-old Slattery
recruited Hoffman and "Mad Men" co-star Christina Hendricks for
his tale of a man down on his luck in a blue-collar enclave.
"God's Pocket" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in
January and opens in limited U.S. theaters on Friday.
Slattery adapted the script from a 1983 novel of the same name
by Pete Dexter, drawn to "how people behave in a fishbowl" like
God's Pocket, located on the gritty outskirts of South
Philadelphia, where everyone's history is embedded in the small
The portrayal of the seedy community is infused with black
comedy moments as fights break out, from long-stewing grudges to
"There's a fatalistic sense of humor that all these people have
because they know everything," Slattery said. "That dark sense
of humor in conjunction with the sort of heavy circumstances of
what happens I found very appealing."
In the late 1970s, a young man who is a racist is killed at a
construction site, and his stepfather, Mickey (Hoffman), finds
himself stuck with the body because he can't afford the burial.
As Mickey races against time to raise funeral funds with the
body of his stepson hidden in the back of his freezer van, his
wife, Jeannie (Hendricks), mourns her son's death and turns to a
veteran alcoholic newspaper columnist to get answers, only to
find the reporter has other things on his mind.
Jeannie is frustrated by never getting answers to her son's
death from a community where she knows everyone.
"These people are all keeping a secret, hiding something, lying
to her, and it makes you feel like you're going crazy,"
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The character of Mickey sees Hoffman in one of his final on-screen
roles before his sudden death at the age of 46 from an accidental
heroin overdose last February. His loss was mourned by the acting
world, who praised his versatility and mesmerizing performances on
both screen and stage.
"One of the reasons he was so attracted to Mickey was that he
thought he was such a good man," Hendricks said.
"You look at the circumstances of this character and he could seem
like a loser, non-communicator, a drunk and all these different
things, but Phil saw this man as a good man, he was just trying to
do right, and he approached it in that way."
The film has garnered mixed reviews, scoring 48 out of 100 on review
aggregator Metacritic.com. Stephen Holden of The New York Times
criticized the film's "facade of meanspirited deadpan comedy," but
praised Hoffman, along with co-stars John Turturro and Domenick
Lombardozzi, for delivering "solid performances."
Both Slattery and Hendricks remembered Hoffman fondly, with the
actress calling him "very kind and dedicated and passionate, and
funny -- very, very funny." The director called Hoffman
"compassionate," and credited his involvement as both actor and
producer on "God's Pocket" for getting the film made.
"If you get someone of that stature to say 'yes,' then doors open.
He was not only right for the role but he's also a star of a certain
magnitude," Slattery said.
"As soon as Phil said yes, everyone else lined up like that, he's
just the kind of person everyone wants to work with."
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)
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