The emergence of Dustin Hoffman in 1967 heralded the arrival of a new era of Hollywood stardom. Diminutive, wiry and unassuming, he was anything but the usual matinee idol, yet he quickly distinguished himself among the most popular and celebrated screen performers of his generation. A notoriously difficult talent famous for his battles with directors as well as his total immersion in his performances, Hoffman further battled against stereotypes by accepting roles which cast him firmly as an antihero, often portraying troubled, even tragic figures rarely destined for a happy ending. By extension, he broke new ground for all actors -- not only were stars no longer limited to heroic, larger-than-life characterizations, but in his wake virtually anyone, regardless of their seeming physical limitations, could attain success on the big screen. Born August 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, California, Hoffman originally studied to become a doctor, but later focused his attentions on acting, performing regularly at the Pasadena Playhouse alongside fellow aspirant Gene Hackman. Upon relocating to New York City, he worked a series of odd jobs, landing the occasional small television role and later touring in summer stock. Frustrated by his lack of greater success, Hoffman once even left acting to teach, but in 1960 he won a role in the off-Broadway production Yes Is for a Very Young Man. After 1961's A Cook for Mr. General, however, he continued to struggle, and did not reappear onstage for several years, in the meantime studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actors' Studio and becoming a dedicated Method actor. Finally, in 1964 Hoffman appeared in a string of theatrical projects including productions of Waiting for Godot and The Dumbwaiter. Two years later he won a Best Actor Obie for his work in The Journey of the Fifth Horse.
In 1967 Hoffman made his film debut with a tiny role in the feature The Tiger Makes Out, a similarly brief appearance in Un Dollaro per Sette Vigliachi followed later that same year, as did a highly-acclaimed turn in the theatrical farce Eh? It was here that he was first spotted by director Mike Nichols, who cast him in the lead role in his 1967 black comedy The Graduate. Though 30 at the time of filming, Hoffman was perfectly cast as an alienated college student, and his work won him not only an Oscar nomination but also made him a hugely popular performer with the youth market. His status as a burgeoning counterculture hero was solidified thanks to his work in John Schlesinger's 1969 Academy Award winner Midnight Cowboy, which earned Hoffman a second Oscar bid. While the follow-up, the romance John and Mary, was a disappointment, in 1970 he starred in Arthur Penn's Little Big Man, delivering a superb portrayal of an Indian fighter -- a role which required him to age 100 years.
Directed by his longtime friend Ulu Grosbard, 1971's Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? was Hoffman's first outright failure. He next starred in Sam Peckinpah's harrowing Straw Dogs, a film which earned harsh criticism during its original release but which, like much of Peckinpah's work, was later the subject of much favorable reassessment. In 1973 Hoffman co-starred with Steve McQueen in the prison drama Papillon, which returned him to the ranks of box-office success before he starred as the legendary stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce in Bob Fosse's 1974 biography Lenny, a stunning portrayal which earned him a third Academy Award nomination. Another real-life figure followed as Hoffman portrayed Carl Bernstein opposite Robert Redford's Bob Woodward in All the President's Men, Alan J. Pakula's riveting docudrama on the Watergate break-in.
Next, Hoffman reteamed with director Schlesinger for 1976's Marathon Man, which cast him alongside Laurence Olivier and scored another major hit. The1978 Straight Time, a pet project helmed by Grosbard, was critically acclaimed but a financial disappointment, and 1979's Agatha pleased neither audiences nor the media. The 1979 domestic drama Kramer vs. Kramer, on the other hand, was a major success with both camps, and Hoffman's portrayal of a divorced father finally earned him an Academy Award on his fourth attempt at the prize. He also won a Golden Globe, as well as honors from the New York and Los Angeles critics. Hoffman's next film, the Sydney Pollack-helmed 1982 comedy Tootsie, was even more successful at the box office. Starring as an out-of-work actor who dresses in drag to win a role on a soap opera, he earned yet another Oscar nomination as the film grossed nearly $100 million during its theatrical release.
After a long absence, Hoffman returned to the stage in 1984 to portray Willy Loman in a Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman. A year later, he reprised the performance for a CBS television special, earning an Emmy and another Golden Globe. He did not return to films until 1987, when he shared top billing with Warren Beatty in Elaine May's disastrous comedy Ishtar. In the wake of the big-budget project's chilly audience reception, any number of films were discussed as a follow-up, but after much debate Hoffman finally agreed to co-star with Tom Cruise in Barry Levinson's 1988's Rain Man. His performance as a middle-aged autistic won a second "Best Actor" Oscar, and helped spur the picture to become a major financial as well as critical success. The following year Hoffman again turned to Broadway to star as Shylock in a presentation of The Merchant of Venice, followed by the motion picture Family Business, in which he starred with Sean Connery and Matthew Broderick.
After making an unbilled and virtually unrecognizable cameo appearance in Beatty's 1990 comic strip adaptation Dick Tracy, Hoffman starred in the 1991 crime drama Billy Bathgate, the first in a string of films which saw his drawing power gradually diminishing throughout the decade. That same year he starred as Captain Hook opposite Robin Williams' portrayal of an adult Peter Pan in the Steven Spielberg fantasy Hook, a major disappointment for all involved; after 1992's Hero proved similarly lackluster, Hoffman disappeared from the screen for three years. His comeback film, the adventure tale Outbreak, performed moderately well at the box office, but the follow-up, Michael Corrente's oft-delayed adaptation of the David Mamet drama American Buffalo, saw only limited release. Hoffman next joined an ensemble cast also including Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt in Levinson's 1996 drama Sleepers, trailed a year later by Costa-Gavras' Mad City, Sphere and Wag the Dog followed, the latter of which netted Hoffman another Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Stanley Motss, a neurotic producer reportedly based on Robert Evans. In April of 1999, Hoffman was honored by the American Film Institute in A Tribute to Dustin Hoffman, a televised ceremony in which he was presented with an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hoffman Catches Wind of 'Perfume'
Dustin Hoffman is on the scent of his next movie.
The "Meet the Fockers" star has signed on for the big-screen adaptation of Patrick Susskind's international best seller "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Set in 18th-century France, the story centers on Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) who is born scentless, but possesses an extaordinary sense of smell. He apprentices himself to a perfume maker (Hoffman) and sets out to re-create unusual scents, such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood.
His obsession takes a ghoulish turn when he sets himself on the quest to bottle the "ultimate perfume" -- the scent of a beautiful young virgin, the daughter of a merchant, played by Alan Rickman.
"Run Lola Run" director Tom Tykwer will begin shooting in June.
Hoffman, a two-time Oscar winner for "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Rain Man," has also starred in "The Graduate," "Midnight Cowboy," "All the President's Men," "Tootsie," "Ishtar," "Hook," "Hero," "Runaway Jury" and "I (Heart) Huckabees." He next stars opposite Andy Garcia and Bill Murray in "The Lost City," due out in September.
Dustin Hoffman: Meet The Fockers
“ I'd say to Barbra, 'Man, your breasts look great today'. And she loves her breasts... ”
Since his breakthrough role in The Graduate, in 1967, Dustin Hoffman has established himself as one of Hollywood's most talented and versatile leading men. Midnight Cowboy followed in 1969 with other career highlights including Little Big Man (1970), Lenny (1974), All The President's Men (1976), Marathon Man (1976), Kramer Vs Kramer (1979), Tootsie (1982) and Rain Man (1988). A two-time Oscar winner and recipient of multiple BAFTAs, at the age of 67 he is busier than ever with a string of supporting roles in a variety of movies.
You have a real chemistry with your on-screen wife, Barbra Streisand. Was that easy to achieve?
We actually studied at the same acting school in New York, around 1960. We didn't know each other but I was dating her roommate, Elaine. Elaine kept talking about Barbra and I said I'd seen her act and thought she was pretty good. She told me Barbra could sing too, but I learned that Barbra wouldn't sing for anyone because she didn't think singing was a serious endeavour. She wanted to be an actor. So we never really knew each other. And through the next 35 years we would see each other on and off. The only time we bumped into each other is when I would see her in concert. I'd go back stage and say hi because we had this history together, having started in the same acting school. I think what existed between Barbra and I - and I know you hear this sh*t all the time - is an affection that was genuine.
It's a matter of keeping that romantic atmosphere as real as possible, isn't it?
I loved that every time we worked together there was an openness. I'd say to Barbra, "Man, your breasts look great today". And she loves her breasts... That's what I would whisper to her during the scene - I like to do real stuff because I wanted it to be real. It might simply be to do with a look. There are five senses, so sometimes it's in a look or in a smell. I love the neck, snuggling into it and smelling that. I said to Barbra that's what's real to me. She said I should do whatever I wanted.
And then there's Robert De Niro, with whom you've worked on two previous occasions. How do you set about playing a character who is the diametric opposite to his?
I work in such a way that I'm not trying to get to De Niro's character, I'm trying to get to Bob himself. I know Bob doesn't like his space being invaded but I said to Jay [Roach, the director] that the first thing I was going to do in the scene where we meet and shake hands, was feel his muscles because I know he works out. And then give him a nice kiss on the neck. But I didn't want him to know it was happening. That became the common premise for our scenes together.
What has been the reaction of your own family, seeing you play an indulgent father on screen?
They say that what I did on screen is more the way I am at home than in any other film that I've done. I'm not like that all the time but that's a large side of myself at home that I'd never done in a film before.
You seem to be having great fun with your career right now. Is that as a result of any conscious changes you have made?
I stopped working a few years ago because I just lost a spark that I'd had before. I thought I'd just try writing, and maybe start directing, but I did it very quietly. Three years went by, when my wife said something to me that kind of altered me. She said, "Why don't you throw all those rules out that you've always had? Don't worry about the script, don't worry about the part, don't worry about the budget. By this point you should know whether you're going to have a fulfilling experience with the director and the people you're going to work with. So why don't you just try doing that?" Which is basically what I did on I Heart Huckabees. I liked David O Russell's work so I said yes without really looking at the part. I did Finding Neverland because I loved what Marc Forster did with Monster's Ball and Johnny Depp is an actor I've admired for years. So I've been having the most fulfilling time I've had since I first started getting work off Broadway.
Dustin Hoffman: Confidence
Following his turn as the grief-stricken father of a murdered girl in "Moonlight Mile", the legendary actor goes for something completely different in James Foley's noirish thriller "Confidence".
The role of The King was rewritten once you came on board. Why?
The part was originally written for a much bigger guy - I mean a physically bigger guy, a kind of imposing guy. So when I agreed to do it, I had to figure out ways to be that big and that imposing. He had to be intimidating, and he had to be believably threatening so as to create tension in the film. So we started to construct the character, psychologically.
How did you go about doing that?
Well, they wanted his sexuality to be ambiguous, and I had been to the dog park with my labrador Lewis and my daughter Jenna. It was the first time that Lewis had been there and another male dog came over and mounted Lewis! I said to my daughter: "Doesn't that male dog know that Lewis is another male, or is that other male dog gay?" My daughter explained to me that this wasn't about sex but about power, and using a simulation of sex to let my dog know he's on his turf. And then I thought: Maybe that's my guy! Then, of course, I had done a lot of research for "Straight Time" and we all know that in prison, sex is not used for sex necessarily, or love, but for power and domination. So The King uses his sexuality to intimidate. That was the beginning of the character.
So you based your character on your dog being humped in the park?!
Yes, that is true!
How about working with Ed Burns? He seems to have been blown away by working with you..
Well, he's being modest. You know, you can't do this stuff by yourself. I mean, he threw it back.
You've had such a great career. How have you survived the curse of growing old in Hollywood?
Here's the thing. If you can get past the big crime in our industry, which is getting older, and once you embrace the so-called limitations of what we call life, then it becomes a part of your work.
Dustin Hoffman: Moonlight Mile
After workaday roles in "Sphere", "Mad City", and "Wag the Dog", Dustin Hoffman fell off the radar - but his star hasn't faded. He became the stuff of Hollywood legend with the words, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me." Now, over 35 years after "The Graduate" defined the slacker movie, Hoffman is appealing to Generation X once again in "Moonlight Mile".
Brad Silberling [director] wrote the script from a very raw, personal experience. Did that affect your decision to make this film?
That's what got me interested. We had a meeting but I had one of those embarrassing moments when I saw him again - I had no memory of it. You know, coming out of the 70s, you lose a lot of memory. So I said, "What are you working on now?" And he said, "Well, I'm trying to get this thing together. You read it but you turned it down."
I couldn't remember, so I read the script again and we started talking, and then he told me what it sprang from: about trying to deal with his own sense of loss and the family of his dead girlfriend. I had never worked with a writer/director who was coming off something quite so personal, so I wanted to be a part of it.
Did you meet the real-life Ben Floss in preparation for the role?
No. I didn't want to, because I wasn't going to try and be that person. I didn't want to go there.
Until "Moonlight Mile" you hadn't acted in a long while. Why?
I had always been rather picky. Starting with "The Graduate" in '67, I averaged about one film a year. For a movie star - quote unquote - that's not a lot, because movie stars get offered a lot of stuff.
I had a certain criteria, which if I had to start all over again, I wouldn't change. I wanted parts where I could see a way in, and to work with a director I think is gifted. Then I said to myself, maybe I should work more often and I did a lot of films and something happened which I'm still trying to figure out.
I was on my way to work and I saw the soundstage in the distance and I thought I was going to vomit. I started out in a career where I'd see that soundstage and I'd get goosebumps and feel so lucky just to be in a film. I guess I just didn't like what's happened to the industry and I didn't like what happened to me as a part of it. So, I just backed off.
Now, I'm simply working with people I want to work with. I just want to have good working experiences and let the dice fall where they may.
There are echoes of "The Graduate" in this film, only this time you represent a different generation. How was that for you?
Yes, the central character [Jake Gyllenhaal] is worried about his future. He's in that malaise of not knowing what he wants to do next and, probably like Benjamin in 1967, he's the product of a family that traded material gifts for love.
How did it feel for me playing the older guy? Jake Gyllenhall is 21 and so is my son. It's no fun getting old, but it was natural for us to fall into a father/son relationship.
Gene Hackman & Dustin Hoffman: "Runaway Jury"
They're Hollywood legends, multiple Oscar winners and movie stars in the classic tradition. Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman once lived together when trying to make a living, and now, for the first time, they're on screen together in the adaptation of John Grisham's Runaway Jury. In a rare event, the pair met the press for a wide ranging chat on domesticity and acting. PAUL FISCHER reports.
It's hard to believe than in careers spanning some five decades, former roommates Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman have never shared the big screen together. Really. Jointly, they've been nominated for 12 Oscars, and each have 2 of those statuettes on their respective mantelpieces. Now finally, movie audiences have a chance to see both actors strut their stuff in the new thriller Runaway Jury, from the John Grisham bestseller. Yet if Hackman had played his cards right, the duo would have first teamed up back in 1967, as Hoffman now laughingly recalls. "The first time that we would have worked together would've been 'The Graduate'; Gene was cast as Mr. Robinson and we were in the third week of rehearsal. We rehearsed for three weeks, it was at Paramount and Gene and I are in the Paramount bathroom, and I think about six urinals separate us. He looks over at me as he's taking a leak, saying, 'I'm going to get fired,' and I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'I'm getting fired today, I can feel it,' and he did, which opened his career up because Warren Beatty said, 'He's not doing it' and put him in 'Bonnie and Clyde'. "
Neither actor understands why it has taken this long for each to FINALLY work together, but seeing them interact, in a New Orleans hotel room, is like watching a classic film and it's pure joy. Ironically, both actors had enrolled together as drama students in Pasadena, where both were voted "least likely to succeed." Neither of them could have hoped for even the possibility of success, be in movies or anywhere, for that matter, as Hackman smilingly recalls. "I would've been happy with an off, off Broadway job and that's what happened. We both started in something like that." Hoffman adds. "Gene lent me to Bob Duvall because it was the only way he could get me out of his apartment. It's true. I was supposed to stay there for two days and I was there for about three weeks. Bob was working all night at the post office, Gene was working for the Greenwich Village Moving Company, I didn't have a job yet, and the three of us rent out together for years. Each one had a different acting gig and this was coming off of the day with Tab Hunter, Rock Hudson and Troy Donahue, good looking guys and 'Bonanza' while we were character types, meaning we're ugly," laughs Hoffman. "If God had come down and said, 'The three of you sign a contract now, you will never get very far, but you'll work. I'll give you a part in an off, off Broadway show for the rest of your life,' we would've signed in a New York minute. I still don't understand it."
Before they made it as actors, with Hackman discovered through the likes of Hawaii and Bonnie and Clyde, and Hoffman slightly later in The Graduate, the pair shared a tiny apartment in New York. Well it was Hackman's and Bob Duvall's, and Hoffman was a permanent houseguest. Hackman jokingly recalls that his friend "was the worst [housemate]. We had to hose the rooms down and sweep them out." Hoffman smiles before recalling those good old days of poverty and starvation. "I slept on his floor because he had this small bedroom and then, this little teeny bit larger room where there was the stove with a board over it where you would use to dry dishes because next to the stove was a tub which was also the sink and it had a board over it. So, I would have to take a bath while they were making breakfast. There was also a toilet next to the bath, and all he's thinking about is that when I had to have my morning bathroom, I didn't care whether they were making eggs or not. He's held that against me for forty years."
From the late sixties, the careers of both actors finally escalated. Hoffman explains his final good fortune to "a decline in the culture." Hackman cuts in more seriously. "Everyone has a chance if you're lucky enough to find the property and we all three individually were very fortunate."
Times have changed and Hackman and Hoffman are both major stars and true Hollywood icons, yet off screen, there is a natural warmth and enthusiasm that emanates from both, and a genuine mutual respect. In Runaway Jury, a story about jury tampering in a case centred around the gun lobby, Hackman is the film's heavy, a ruthless jury consultant to Hoffman's more honest lawyer. Working together for the first time seemed a natural fit for Hackman. "It's funny, I wasn't surprised at all working with him as I felt like we had worked together." They team up while drama students back in Pasadena, once in a student production of Of Mice and Men. ["He was a brilliant Lenny", laughs Hoffman]. Hackman also recalls "We also were double cast in 'Taming of the Shrew', playing the same role. I had to wear his tights. I played in the first act and then, Dustin came out and played the same character in the second act. It must've startled people."
Now the pair is finally able to enjoy the experience of working together, even though they don't exactly play friends in Runaway Jury. For Hackman, it was his third role in a Grisham film, and another heavie. Of course he doesn't mind. "It just worked out that way. I wasn't searching for that. It's just one of those things." Asked if, when playing so despicable so effortlessly, it's the real Hackman coming through, the actor laughs. "Well, it's part of me. What you always try to do is use various things in our personalities that we may not find attractive, but we find them useful." The pair clearly loved working together but as fate would have it, it may not have worked out that way, Hoffman recalls. "You know what happened on this movie, was that he was cast before I was because they're trying to get the movie together and then, I get cast. Maybe I was one of the last principles to get cast, and then the director discovers that we knew each other years ago but we hadn't worked together, so goes back to the writer and says, 'We don't have a scene for them together,' and he goes, 'Okay, we're going to write one.' The director said, 'Take your time,' and decided to shoot the particular scene, the last day of the shoot, but Gene finished his work weeks before and I finished my work weeks before and now, we have to sit everyday, waiting as the clock ticks. It's always nice to have a film over with and we show up to do the scene the day before here in New Orleans and we admit to each other that we hadn't slept the night before, how f*cking nervous we were and it's like eight pages. We had to shoot eight pages, and we weren't going to get through it, and so, we did the first take and we were terrible, both of us, and yet we embraced each other because we got through it. It was intimidating."
It's hard to fathom, that these two venerable acting giants would be intimidated by anything, but both admit, they have fear, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. "When I'm getting ready to do a scene, I have a kind of opening night jitters or whatever, but I like that," says Hackman. "That's part of the reason that I'm still in the business. There's something at stake, you're not just showing up, you're not a day player, you're not just trying to make a living. The thrill of that is that there's nothing like it, absolutely nothing like it." And both actors still love to work, with Hackman describing it as a narcotic. "You show up on a set and there are eighty people there waiting for you to do something fun and as I've said before, the pressure of that is fun for me." Hoffman agrees. "There is something about coming from the stage. It's a different way of acting because you certainly don't have to reach the last person in the audience. I mean, everyone in the movie is sitting in the first row. It's like watching a play. We used to do that. We'd sneak into the theatres on Broadway, go in with the audience after the first act, after intermission and you'd always find a seat upstairs. Then, as you're looking down for the third act, you go, 'Ooh, look, there's a seat in the first row,' and then, we'd go there, and then end up saying, 'It's a different experience,' and we're watching George C. Scott. Aside from that, we knew we were going to be unsuccessful, that was the beauty of it. It frees you. Yeah, we were out of the Kerouac generation and Ginsberg and the beat generation. We were going to spend a lifetime being anti-establishment. That was the pretence, 'On The Road', that's the generation that we'd come from. I've always said, as I'm sure that Gene has, 'If you become an actor to make it, you're crazy.' Ten percent work when we started and it's still true now. Ninety percent of the screen actor's guild makes what, seven, eight thousand dollars a years, and yet, there is a whole difference between actors that just go into film; they want to be stars and all of that. I mean, we f*cking love it".