Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 2005 biographical film "Capote" and received three Academy Award nominations as Best Supporting Actor, for "Charlie Wilson's War" in 2008, "Doubt" in 2009, and most recently for "The Master" last year.
Born in upstate New York, Hoffman burst onto the film scene after more than a dozen earlier roles, including 1997's "Boogie Nights," in which he played a lovelorn gay man in the movie about the porn industry.
While he appeared in blockbusters such as "Twister" and "The Hunger Games" series, Hoffman was more associated with the independent film world for his intense portrayals of often disturbing and complex characters in such films as "Happiness," in which he played an obscene phone caller, and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."
In the latter film he played a son who schemes to rob his parents' jewelry store, resulting in their deaths. But Hoffman could also play nice, as in "Magnolia," in which he played the role of an angelic nurse.
Hoffman spoke in the past of struggling with drugs, including a 2006 interview in which he told CBS he had abused "anything I could get my hands on. I liked it all."
—By CNBC.com. Reuters contributed to this report.