The following biography
Dustin Lee Hoffman (born August 8, 1937) is a
two-time Oscar winning American film actor.
Birth name: Dustin Lee Hoffman
Date of birth: August 8, 1937
Birth location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Height: 5 ft 5 in
Notable role(s): Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate
Enrico Salvatore "Ratso" Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy
Jack Crabb in Little Big Man
David Sumner in Straw Dogs
Lenny Bruce in Lenny
Carl Bernstein in All the President's Men
Ted Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer
Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie
Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman
Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man
Stanley Motss in Wag The Dog
Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, California to
Jewish American parents, Harry Hoffman and Lillian Gold.
After graduating from Los Angeles High School,
Hoffman attended the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music with ambitions of being a
concert pianist. He later attended Santa Monica College for a year before
dropping out due to poor grades. While at the college, Hoffman took an acting
class to boost his grade point average (he was told "nobody flunks acting") and
later remarked that when he was in the class he felt totally at peace with
himself .
Hoffman performed at the Pasadena Playhouse for two
years with fellow actor Gene Hackman. Ironically, they were both voted by their
class as the "least likely to succeed". Frustrated with the school, Hackman took
the initiative and got on a bus for New York City, advising Hoffman to call him
if he were to come to New York City. Hoffman and Hackman would later befriend
another struggling young actor named Robert Duvall.
Hoffman took Hackman up on his offer and soon after
followed his friend to New York, where he worked a series of odd jobs, such as
coat checking at restaurants, working in the typing department of the city
Yellow Pages directory, or stringing Hawaiian leis, while getting the occasional
bit television role. To support himself, he left acting briefly to teach. In
1960, Hoffman landed a role in an off-Broadway production and followed with a
walk-on role in a Broadway production in 1961.
He also did the occasional television commercial.
An oft-replayed segment on programs that explore actors' early work is a clip
showing a young Hoffman touting the Volkswagen Fastback.
Hoffman began study at the famed Actors Studio and
became a dedicated method actor.
Through the early- and mid-'60s, Hoffman made
appearances early in his career on many television shows and movies, including
Naked City, The Defenders and Hallmark Hall of Fame. Hoffman made his theatrical
film debut in The Tiger Makes Out in 1967, alongside Eli Wallach.
In 1966, young up-and-coming director Mike Nichols,
fresh off a Best Director Oscar- nomination for his film Who's Afraid of
Virginia Woolf?, began casting his next film, an adaptation of author Charles
Webb's little-known novel, The Graduate. The first choice for the role of
Benjamin Braddock, Warren Beatty, soon dropped out. The second choice was Robert
Redford, who badly wanted the role, but agreed with Nichols that he was too
charming and popular to play the role of a sweaty-palmed, sexually uncomfortable
Hungry for a role, Hoffman auditioned for the film
and, luckily, he came through with the exact amount of awkwardness necessary for
the role. Hoffman was cast, and the film began production in March of 1967. The
cast included Anne Bancroft as the sexually promiscuous older woman, Mrs.
Robinson. Though the age difference in their characters was intended to be 20-25
years, Hoffman and Bancroft were actually only 5 years apart in age difference.
Hoffman was twenty-nine.
Hoffman received an Academy Award nomination for
his performance in The Graduate. The film was nominated for the Best Picture
Oscar and Nichols took home the award for Best Director. The Graduate was also
subsequently voted as the #7 Greatest American Movie of All-Time by the AFI.
After the success of this film, another Hoffman
film, Madigan's Millions - shot before The Graduate - was released on the tail
of the actor's newfound success. It failed utterly at the box office.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
The film version of James Leo Herlihy's novel
Midnight Cowboy came about in 1965 and Hoffman's name immediately came up for
the role of Ratso Rizzo in the film, after producer Jerome Hellman saw Hoffman
in his one-man-show "Eh!".
According to Hoffman, he thought he had proactively
kinked the Ratso Rizzo chain by appearing in The Graduate, by now an
international smash hit. He found his Strasberg training taking over when, to
prove his dedication to the role, he asked the producer to meet him on a street
corner in Manhattan. Without the producer's knowledge, Hoffman dressed up as a
homeless man and begged for money on the streets. When the producer arrived, he
took the man for an everyday beggar and paid no attention. Hoffman walked up to
him several minutes later and introduced himself. Shocked, the producer
questioned no further whether Hoffman could play Rizzo or not.
In one scene Rizzo and Joe Buck (Jon Voight) are
walking crossing a street in New York City when a car almost hits the two of
them. "Hey, I'm walkin' here! I'm walkin' here!" Rizzo exclaims, feverishly
smacking the hood of the car. The quote has become one of the most famous in
film history, recently voted #27 on AFI's Top 100 Movie Quotes Of All Time.
Hoffman received his second Academy Award
nomination for Midnight Cowboy. Directed by John Schlesinger, the film won the
Best Picture honor at the ceremony, the only X-rated film ever to do so. Cowboy
was voted the 36th Greatest American Film by the AFI.
Staying in the game
Hoffman could now get the parts he dreamed of 10
years earlier. Instead of making large Hollywood films, however, Hoffman more
often opted to take roles in smaller-scale, character-driven films.
Big Man (1970)
In Arthur Penn's Little Big Man, Hoffman plays the
character Jack Crabb from teenager to 121 years-old (an acting World Record,
says Guinness World Records). Crabb is a man who, on his death bed, recalls his
life of struggle and adventure. A precursor to films like Forrest Gump, the film
found Crabb in the middle of historical events, such as the battle at Little Big
Horn, alongside General Custer.
According to IMDb, Hoffman sat in his dressing room
for an hour screaming at the top of his lungs in order to achieve the 121
Mostly comedic, the film was widely praised by
critics, but was overlooked for an award except for a supporting nomination for
Chief Dan George.
Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those
Terrible Things About Me?(1971)
Who Is Harry Kellerman...? featured yet another
Hoffman role completely different from the rest. In the film - directed by Ulu
Grosbard - Hoffman plays a Dylan-esque singer/songwriter who finds himself in
life-crisis when a man named Harry Kellerman begins to spread ridiculous lies
In his second film since The Wild Bunch, director
Sam Peckinpah created one of the most startling depictions of societal violence
ever on film. Hoffman (against his will, committed by contract) portrayed David,
an American who moves with his girlfriend to her hometown in rural England,
surrounded by violent men with lustful intentions.
Often (falsely) dubbed as England's answer to The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film is arguably Peckinpah's least commercial film.
It depicts graphically the primality of physical and sexual violence to a
shocking degree, a quality that polarized audiences and critics alike.
The film has found a cult audience since the
acceptance of Peckinpah as a revolutionary of film directing.
Alongside Steve McQueen and under the direction of
Patton director Franklin J. Schaffner, Hoffman made his largest film to date.
Papillon told the story of inmates on an island prison who plot their escape.
Domestically, the film brought in more than four
times its budget.
In director Bob Fosse's highly experimental Lenny,
Hoffman portrayed pioneering stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce in a jarring
performance, covering Bruce's onstage charisma and his tragic fall from grace.
Hoffman was able to mirror Lenny Bruce so closely thanks to archived audio and
extremely candid video recordings.
The film was nominated for six Academy Awards,
including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Hoffman). This would mark
Hoffman's third nomination in seven years.
President's Men (1976)
Only four years after the events of Watergate
occurred, director Alan J. Pakula put to celluloid the story of Bob Woodward and
Carl Bernstein's investigation and ultimate unveiling of the truth behind the
Watergate scandal, an investigation that would eventually cause President
Richard Nixon to resign from office.
Hoffman portrayed Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford
portrayed Bob Woodward in the film, which garnered eight Oscar nominations,
though none for Hoffman or Redford. The film remains one of the greatest films
about journalism ever made.
Marathon Man (1976)
Reteaming with John Schlesinger, the director of
Midnight Cowboy, Hoffman starred in Marathon Man, a film about the human psyche
under the stress of confusion, torment and torture. The film was based on
William Goldman's novel of the same name, which he adapted into a screenplay
Marathon Man found Hoffman re-facing the themes of
distress and anger that he encountered on Straw Dogs, though this film was more
conventional.Sir Laurence Olivier starred in the film as the Josef
Mengele-inspired Dr. Christian Szell (AKA "The White Angel"), a sadistic Nazi
who tortured countless Jews in Auschwitz. Hoffman's character finds himself in
the middle of Szell's plans to smuggle diamonds out of America.
In the film's most famous scene, Olivier tortures
Hoffman while repeating the seemingly non-sequitur question: "Is it safe?" The
quote was voted as the 70th greatest quote in the history of film by AFI. To
achieve his character's exhausted look in this scene, Hoffman deprived himself
of sleep for two days. According to Hoffman, Olivier jokingly commented upon
this example of Strasbergian method by suggesting that Hoffman "Try acting. . .
It's much easier!"
For scenes in which Hoffman was to appear
breathless, he would run a half mile until the moment Schlesinger called
After this film, Hoffman said that he would no
longer play "young" roles like being a college student in Marathon Man (he was
40 at the time of its release).
Straight Time (1978)
Originally to be his directorial debut, Straight
Time was a pet project of Hoffman's ever since he read Edward Bunker's source
novel. Hoffman opted out of directing the picture and instead handed it over to
Harry Kellerman director Ulu Grosbard. Hoffman starred as a thief who, upon
being released from prison, decides to go straight. His plans are unfoundedly
thwarted by a parole officer who, in turn, causes Hoffman to revert to a life of
crime. The film was based on Bunker's experiences.
In his first true failure, Hoffman found himself in
Michael Apted's Agatha. The film tagline describes it as "a fictional solution
to the real mystery of Agatha Christie's disappearance." Vanessa Redgrave
starred as Agatha Christie.
Controversy arose when the script was adjusted to
accommodate Dustin Hoffman's starpower. Agatha producer David Puttnam left the
production and swore he would never again work with Dustin Hoffman.
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) Directed by Robert Benton,
Kramer featured Hoffman as workaholic Ted Kramer whose wife unexpectedly leaves
him, and he has to raise their son alone. Hurt and stunned, Ted is forced to
juggle his priorities: success in advertising and single parenthood. In
tradition feel-good fashion, he comes to see what's truly important and finds
himself growing up far too late. When his ex-wife returns to reclaim their
child, he finds everything he's fixed breaking all over again.
Hoffman starred alongside Meryl Streep in the film,
which earned Hoffman his first Academy Award. The film also received the Best
Picture honor, as well as Supporting Actress (Streep) and Director.
In Sydney Pollack's Tootsie, Hoffman portrays
Michael Dorsey, a struggling actor who finds himself unable to land a job due to
his stigma of being a "difficult actor" (a title Hoffman wasn't a stranger to).
Amidst the threat of ultimate failure and poverty, Michael comes up with a plan:
Dress up as a woman (Dorothy Michaels) and land a role on a soap opera. Not only
does he get the job, he also becomes an extremely popular character on the show.
To make things worse, he develops a crush on a co-worker (Jessica Lange) who
unfortunately doesn't know that Dorothy Michaels is Michael Dorsey.
Tootsie earned ten Academy Award nominations,
including Actor (Hoffman), Picture and Director. The film would only win one,
for Supporting Actress (Lange).
In Elaine May's Ishtar, Hoffman and Warren Beatty
play two lounge singers booked at the Ishtar Hilton who find themselves tangled
in a web of espionage.
The film received mixed reviews from critics and
was nominated for three Razzie awards, though they spared Hoffman.
Director Barry Levinson's Rain Man chronicles the
reunion of two brothers after the death of their estranged father. One, Charlie
Babbitt (Tom Cruise), is an indebted car salesman while the other, Raymond
Babbitt (Hoffman), is an institutionalized autistic savant. Never knowing of any
brother, and upon finding out that Raymond is to receive his father's fortune,
Charlie takes Raymond away from the institution. Because Raymond refuses to fly,
they are forced to drive back to California. During the course of this trip,
Charlie finds himself forever transformed.
Because Hoffman shows no emotion throughout the
entire film, it took careful crafting to make sure that Cruise's transformation
was noticeable to audiences. So Levinson, Hoffman and Cruise worked for two
years on this film. In that time, they decided that Hoffman's role in the film
was simply Cruise's divine intervention. Because Hoffman's blankness is so
strong, the audience shapes him into whatever they want him to be, and feel
sympathy. Hoffman's nuanced performance has been hailed as the best of his
The performance earned Hoffman his second Oscar,
and the film took home three more, for Picture, Director and Screenplay.
After the heaviness of Rain Man, Hoffman took it
down a notch with legendary director Sydney Lumet's crime comedy Family
Business, alongside castmates Sean Connery and Matthew Broderick.
The film did relatively poorly with the critics and
at the box office.
The commercial decade
Throughout the '90s, Hoffman would do many large,
Warren Beatty directed and starred as the title
character in this comic book adaptation. Hoffman would do his Ishtar co-star a
friendly favor by playing a small role in the film under heavy make-up. He
played Mumbles, a hesitant squealer who speaks extremely fast. The character of
Mumbles was supposedly based on producer Robert Evans.
The film was a hit with critics and a smash at the
Hoffman would reunite with Kramer vs. Kramer
director Robert Benton for the ill-fated Billy Bathgate. In the film, the title
character (Loren Dean), finds himself working his way up in organized crime in
the '20s and '30s. The boss (Hoffman) promotes Billy and he becomes his mentor,
just as the sydicate begins to fall apart.
The film failed on almost all accounts, critically
In his biggest film yet, Hoffman played the title
role of Captain Hook in Steven Spielberg's Hook. Robin Williams co-starred in
the film as the grown-up Peter Pan, who ends up back in Neverland after his kids
are kidnapped by the Captain.
At $70 million, Hook was easily the most expensive
film Spielberg had made up to that point, and was a huge success at the box
The film earned Hoffman a Golden Globe nomination.
In Stephen Frears' Hero, Hoffman plays a lowly
scoundrel who saves a few people from a plane crash while trying to find goodies
in the remains. When a picture of him surfaces, a reporter (Geena Davis) mounts
a search for the man, including a million-dollar reward. A much more sympathetic
drifter (Andy Garcia) gets involved claiming to be the real hero.
The film failed to perform well at the box office
and received a mixed reception from critics.
Fresh off his smash hit In the Line of Fire,
director Wolfgang Petersen decided to make a film fictionalizing the
then-threatening Ebola virus. The lead role of Sam Daniels in Outbreak was
originally intended for Harrison Ford. When Ford declined, the filmmakers went
to Hoffman, who accepted the role. Starring alongside Rene Russo, Kevin Spacey,
Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Donald Sutherland, Hoffman plays the
ignored whistle blower in the film.
Outbreak went on to recoup its budget, but made
very little profit. The film, though, did receive better-than-average reviews
for a Hollywood film.
In Rain Man director Barry Levinson's period drama
Sleepers, four childhood friends find themselves reunited after bloody revenge
is committed against their childhood abuser. Hoffman played bumbling defense
attorney Danny Snider in the film.
Good reviews and decent box office led the film to
cult status with the release of the film on video and, eventually, DVD.
Hoffman starred opposite John Travolta in popular
Greek director Costa Gavras' Mad City, a film about a man who takes a history
museum hostage after losing his job. In the movie, Hoffman portrayed Max
Brackett, a reporter already in the museum when the event takes place.
Amongst negative reviews and terrible receipts, the
film quickly left theatres and plunged into obscurity.
Working with Barry Levinson for the third time,
Hoffman played the role of the fiendishly clever movie producer-turned-war
producer Stanley Motes in Wag The Dog. The film (co-written by master writer
David Mamet) found Robert De Niro playing Washington spin-doctor Conrad Brean, a
man hired to invent a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal. When
De Niro approaches Hoffman, he finds the solution slowly becoming just another
big, fat problem.
The film was shot in just under a month.
Hoffman's Robert Evans-inspired performance in Wag
The Dog earned him some of the best reviews of his career and also brought him
his 7th Academy Award nomination.
Once again, Hoffman would work with Barry Levinson
on the Michael Crichton adaptation Sphere. It tells the story of a team of
scientists sent to the bottom of South Pacific to investigate a mysterious
vessel, which turns out to be a spaceship, crashed in the middle in the ocean
centuries before. Hoffman plays the leader of the team, which also includes
Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson and Liev Schreiber.
After being welcomed with a plethora of bad
reviews, the film failed to regain even half of its budget domestically. Being
that Wag The Dog was filmed after this and released only weeks before it,
Hoffman and Levinson managed to dodge Sphere's proverbial bullet.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)
In Leon: The Professional director Luc Besson's
adaptation of the story of Joan of Arc, Hoffman portrayed "The Conscience".
The film failed with critics and at the box office.
Moonlight Mile (2002)
As Ben Floss, Hoffman plays the father of a
recently deceased woman, while Jake Gyllenhaal portrays the fiance of the girl
and Susan Sarandon plays her grieving, free-spirit mother.
Moonlight Mile, written and directed by Brad
Silberling, primarily focuses on Gyllenhaal's character as the three work
together to get through their grief.
Though it performed poorly domestically, the film
received fantastic reviews.
Working opposite Edward Burns, Andy Garcia and
Rachel Weisz and under the direction of James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross),
Hoffman plays mob boss Winston King in Confidence. In the film, Burns' character
works one job for Hoffman to pay off money he unwittingly stole from him.
Costing a meager $15 Million, the film failed to
make that much in domestic theatres. It did, though, surpass the number
Hoffman would finally have a chance to work with
his friend of fifty years, Gene Hackman, in Gary Fleder's Runaway Jury, an
adaptation of John Grisham's bestselling novel.
In the film, John Cusack and Rachel Weisz portray
two important factors in a large murder trial, one on the jury, working on the
inside, and the other playing the outside. Hoffman portrays the plaintiff's
attorney, while Hackman plays the jury consultant for the defense.
In a pivotal and dramatic scene, Hoffman's and
Hackman's characters have an argument in the court bathroom. The two friends
rehearsed this scene for days.
Receiving good reviews all round, the film
performed somewhat poorly at the box office, failing to recoup its $60 Million
Hoffman played the small role of theatre owner
Charles Frohman in Marc Forster's dream-like J.M. Barrie biopic Finding
The film, costarring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet,
Julie Christie and Freddie Highmore, received rave reviews, was a hit at the box
office and earned the film seven Academy Award nominations - including Best
Picture and Best Actor (Depp).
In director David O. Russell's I ♥ Huckabees,
Hoffman played Bernard, one half of an existential detective team (the other
half being Lily Tomlin) hired to spy on Albert (Jason Schwartzman) in order to
answer his questions about the meaning of his life and the nature of
The film received polarized reviews and failed
commercially, but became an instant cult hit.
Meet the Fockers (2004) is a comedy film and a
sequel to Meet the Parents which saw Hoffman co-starring with Robert DeNiro and
Ben Stiller. The film was directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers). In addition to
Hoffman, DeNiro and Stiller, Meet the Fockers has an all-star cast of Barbra
Streisand, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, and Tim Blake Nelson. The film satirizes
both the extreme conservative and liberal ways of life and its release in a US
presidential election year was seen as an intervention in the national debate.
According to some sources of media, both liberal and conservative, the movie was
extremely sexual and was inappropriate for some audiences. Some also felt that
it degraded Hoffman's status as an actor. Nevertheless, the film went on to
become one of the highest grossing comedies in history, and Hoffman won the 2005
MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance.
Also, Hoffman recently was featured in cameo roles
in Andy Garcia's The Lost City and on the final episode of HBO sitcom "Curb Your
Enthusiasm"'s fifth season.
Hoffman has two children (Karina and Jenna) with
his first wife Anne Byrne (married May 1969; divorced in 1980), and four others
(Jacob, Max, Rebecca and Alexandra) with wife Lisa Gottsegen, who is an
attorney, (married since October 1980).
A political liberal, Hoffman has long supported the
Democratic Party, as well as Ralph Nader.
The rock band Of Montreal made an album called "The
Early Four Track Recordings" which tells a fictional, sarcastic story about
Robert Duvall was Hoffman's roommate in college.
Duvall and Hoffman tease each other on the matter of acting training, as Duvall
was trained by Sanford Meisner whereas Hoffman was brought up on Lee Strasberg's
Method acting. Hoffman is good friends with actor Gene Hackman.
The Star Wagon (1967)
The Tiger Makes Out (1967)
The Graduate (1967)
Madigan's Millions (1968)
Sunday Father (1969) (short subject)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
John and Mary (1969)
Little Big Man (1970)
On Location: Dustin Hoffman (1971) (short subject)
Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those
Terrible Things About Me? (1971)
Straw Dogs (1971)
Alfredo, Alfredo (1972)
Lenny (film) (1974)
The Magic of Hollywood... Is the Magic of People
(1976) (short subject)
All the President's Men (1976)
Marathon Man (1976)
Straight Time (1978) (also producer)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) (Oscar Winner - Best Actor
in a Leading Role)
Death of a Salesman (1985)
Private Conversations (1986) (documentary)
Rain Man (1988) (Oscar Winner - Best Actor in a
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989)
Family Business (1989)
Dick Tracy (1990)
Billy Bathgate (1991)
Jonas in the Desert (1994) (documentary)
American Buffalo (1996)
Mad City (1997)
Wag the Dog (1997)
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)
Tuesday (2001) (short subject) (voice)
Goldwyn (2001) (documentary) (narrator)
Moonlight Mile (2002)
The Shakespeare Sessions (2003) (documentary)
Runaway Jury (2003)
Freedom2speak v2.0 (2004) (documentary)
Finding Neverland (2004)
I ♥ Huckabees (2004)
Meet the Fockers (2004)
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Racing Stripes (2005) (voice)
The Lost City (2005)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2005) (currently
Stranger Than Fiction (2006) (currently in
Car Wars (2006) (currently in pre-production)
The Berkeley Connection (2006) (currently announced
start of production)
Kung Fu Panda (2008) (currently in production)
for Coming Home Academy Award for Best Actor
for Kramer vs. Kramer Succeeded by:
Robert De Niro
for Raging Bull
for Wall Street Academy Award for Best Actor
for Rain Man Succeeded by:
for My Left Foot
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