'Twister' 20 Years Later: Remembering 'Sweet Guy' Philip Seymour Hoffman
Warner Bros.

Before he was a celebrated character actor, earning Oscar
attention for roles in Capote, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Doubt, Philip Seymour Hoffman -- who died
prematurely in 2014
-- was a working actor, playing the sidekick to the likes
of Meg Ryan, Steve Martin, and a tornado.

On May 10, 1996, Hoffman appeared alongside Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton,
Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes, and Alan Ruck in the hugely popular natural disaster
, Twister, which went on to earn
$241.7 million in the U.S. alone. “Before he was Philip Seymour Hoffman,” Ruck
recalls to ET.

While Hunt and Paxton -- and well, the many tornadoes -- were
the stars, Hoffman had a memorable turn as Dusty, a hyperactive storm chaser
whose favorite word was “extreme.” The role was small, but Ruck, who played a
fellow storm chaser, says that Hoffman had “a big presence.”

MORE: Why Philip Seymour Hoffman Likes to Watch His Films With Audiences

“Joey Slotnick was in that movie and Joey is a storyteller,”
Ruck says, recalling a moment from the set. “He can spin some yarns. I remember
being at dinner one time and Philip said, ‘I'll give you all my per diem if you
can be quiet for an hour.’ So, we all watch Joey and he didn't make it five minutes.
He said, ‘Why do you want to do that to me? Why do you want to mess with my

“Phil was funny,” Ruck adds. “He was a funny guy, sweet guy.”

Of course, Hoffman would quickly go on to make a name for
himself with a string of critically acclaimed films, including Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Almost Famous.

MORE: Amy Adams on Working With Master Actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in 'The Master'

“Right after that movie, he just took off like a rocket,”
Ruck says. “He did a movie [Flawless]
in New York with De Niro and then he was just off to the races. No stopping

Hard Eight, a 1996
neo-noir crime thriller, would mark Hoffman’s first collaboration with director
Paul Thomas Anderson. The two would go on to work together in Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love,
and The Master.

In his first interview with ET in 1999 for Magnolia, the late actor (who was far more serious than his zealous Twister character) discussed his on-going relationship with the director. “I’m not hanging out with Paul because he’s Paul,” he said, adding: “Paul’s not hanging out with me because he respects me as an actor.”

But at that point, Hoffman was well on his way to becoming “Philip Seymour Hoffman.”

While his legacy would include far more celebrated roles and an Oscar win for portraying Truman Capote, Twister still remains one of his most successful films, only topped by his final on-screen appearances in The Hunger Games franchise.