October 22, 2003 03:22 PM

Singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, 34, whose song “Miss Misery” in the 1997 movie “Good Will Hunting” earned him an Oscar nomination, died Tuesday of an apparent suicide, reports MTV News, quoting the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.

The musician had reputedly battled a prolonged addiction to drugs and alcohol that plagued him his entire career, at times cleaning up though he recently was believed to have grown reclusive and fallen back on old habits, says MTV.

But Luke Woode, a DreamWorks Records executive who knew him, said Smith had been sober during the past year and seemed upbeat. “He was in the middle of writing his next record. He had recorded a good chunk of it. He was incredibly optimistic,” Woode told Reuters.

Smith’s body, reportedly showing signs of a single knife wound that appeared to be self-inflicted, was discovered in his apartment in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles by his live-in girlfriend, who took him to the nearby Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center at approximately 12:18 p.m. Tuesday.

Slightly more than an hour later he was pronounced dead. Although it appears Smith took his own life, says MTV, authorities are investigating the incident for foul play or other possibilities.

A Nebraska native, Smith (real name: Steven Paul Smith) began his music career as a member of Portland, Ore., band Heatmiser in the early ’90s, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Gaining critical attention for his 1994 debut solo release “Roman Candle,” Smith’s bare-bones, moody melodies were compared to those by Nick Drake and Neil Young.

While his 1997 album, “Either/Or,” also received praise from critics, he didn’t enter the mainstream music arena until movie audiences heard his song “Miss Misery” in the Ben Affleck-Matt Damon collaboration “Good Will Hunting,” which earned Smith an Oscar nomination for Best Song. (He lost to “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic.”)

Smith also contributed to the soundtrack of director Wes Anderson’s 2001 serio-comedy “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

All told, he released five albums and was believed to have been at work on a sixth, tentatively titled “From a Basement on the Hill.”

Last June, Smith appeared on a bill in New Jersey with the Beastie Boys, Radiohead and Blur. A brief U.S. tour of the U.S. followed, says MTV, and he had been scheduled to perform at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in L.A. on Nov. 9.

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