An annual prize of $45,000 (Rs 27.8 lakh) will be awarded to a playwright in honour of the Oscar-winning American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died this month from a suspected heroin overdose. The prize is being funded by the gossip magazine, The National Enquirer, and its publisher, American Media Inc, which falsely reported that Hoffman had a gay affair with a friend.
The friend, David Katz, came up with the idea after settling a libel case over the article, revealed his lawyer Judd Bernstein.
“The money that’s being paid by the Enquirer will fund the $45,000-a-year prize for many years to come,” said Bernstein. “Since Katz didn’t want money, we both agreed the answer was to force The Enquirer to pay money that could be used in a positive way and then the idea of the actual foundation was Katz’s.”
Katz, who is himself a playwright, told The New York Times he wanted a meaningful settlement.
“We had talked so often that it’s a tragedy playwrights can’t survive being playwrights — about how nice it would be if you could make your rent and still have an occasional steak,” he said.
The newly created American Playwriting Foundation is likely to award the first prize for an unproduced play this year. The New York Times, which broke the story, said the prize would be called the Relentless Award, in Hoffman’s honour.
The libelous article in mention was published on February 5, three days after Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment after failing to meet his girlfriend and their children. It claimed to quote Katz as saying he and Hoffman were lovers who took cocaine, and that Katz saw him using heroin many times. Katz denies ever speaking to the magazine and says Hoffman never used drugs in his presence. The Enquirer has since withdrawn the article.