Dustin Lee Hoffman - biography
Dustin Lee Hoffman (born August 8, 1937) is an American actor with a career in film, television, and theatre since 1960. He has been known for his versatile portrayals of antiheroes and vulnerable types of characters.
He first drew critical praise for the 1966 Off-Broadway play Eh? for which he won a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk Award. This was soon followed by his breakthrough movie role as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (1967). Since then Hoffman's career has largely been focused in cinema with only sporadic returns to television and the stage. Some of his most noted films are Papillon, Marathon Man, Midnight Cowboy, Lenny, All the President's Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man, and Wag the Dog.
Hoffman has won two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, three BAFTAs, three Drama Desk Awards, and an Emmy Award. Dustin Hoffman received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1999.
Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, California, the second and youngest son of Lillian (née Gold) and Harry Hoffman. His father worked as a prop supervisor/set decorator at Columbia Pictures before becoming a furniture salesman. Hoffman was named after stage and silent screen actor Dustin Farnum. His older brother, Ronald, is a lawyer and economist. Hoffman is from a Jewish family of Ukrainian and Romanian descent, but his upbringing was not religious or observant. He graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1955 and enrolled at Santa Monica College with the intention of studying medicine, leaving after a year to join the Pasadena Playhouse.
Hoffman began his acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse alongside future Academy Award nominee Gene Hackman. After two years at the playhouse, Hackman headed for New York City with Hoffman soon following. Having considerable difficulty getting roles in part due to his unconventional countenance for an actor of that time, he took a series of odd jobs, including working as a restaurant coat checker, working in the typing department of the city Yellow Pages directory, and stringing Hawaiian leis. During this time period he would get an occasional bit television rol but left acting briefly to teach in order to support himself. He also found work directing off-Broadway and community theater productions and as a professional fragrance tester for Maxwell House. Hoffman would also occasionally do television commercials; an often-replayed segment on programs that explore actors' early work is a clip showing Hoffman touting the Volkswagen Fastback.
In 1960, Hoffman landed a role in an off-Broadway production and followed with a walk-on role in a Broadway production in 1961. Hoffman then studied at the famed Actors Studio and became a dedicated method actor. Sidney Pink, a producer and 3D movie pioneer, discovered him in one of his off-Broadway roles and cast him in Madigan's Millions. His first critical success was in Eh? by Henry Livings which had its US premiere off-Broadway at the Circle in the Square Downtown on October 16, 1966.
Through the early and mid-1960s, Hoffman made appearances in 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 1967, immediately after wrapping up principal filming on The Tiger Makes Out, Hoffman flew from New York City to Fargo, North Dakota, where he directed a production of William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life for the Emma Herbst Community Theatre. The $1,000 he received for the eight-week contract was all he had to hold him over until the funds from the movie materialized.
In 1966, Mike Nichols cast Hoffman in The Graduate. The film began production in March 1967. Hoffman received an Academy Award nomination for his performance and became a major star although he was initially mocked, often with an implied anti-semitism, for his unconventional looks. 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 was considered a failure at the box office. In December 1968 Hoffman returned to Broadway to appear in the title role of Murray Schisgal and John Sebastian's musical Jimmy Shine. For his performance in the production Hoffman won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. Just a few weeks after leaving the production, Hoffman's next major film Midnight Cowboy premiered in theatres across the United States on 25 May 1969. For his role as Ratso Rizzo in the film, Hoffman received his second Oscar nomination and the film won the Best Picture honor. This was followed by his role in Little Big Man (1970) where Jack Crabb, his character, ages from teenager to a 121-year-old man. The film was widely praised by critics, but was overlooked for an award except for a supporting nomination for Chief Dan George.
Hoffman continued to appear in major films over the next few years. Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971), Straw Dogs (also 1971), and Papillon (1973) were followed by Lenny (1974), for which Hoffman received his third nomination for Best Actor in seven years.
Less than two years after the Watergate scandal, Hoffman and Robert Redford starred as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, respectively, in All the President's Men (1976). Hoffman next starred in Marathon Man (also 1976), a film based on William Goldman's novel of the same name, opposite Laurence Olivier. Hoffman's next roles were less successful. He opted out of directing Straight Time (1978) but starred as a thief. His next film, Michael Apted's Agatha, was with Vanessa Redgrave as Agatha Christie. Hoffman next starred in Robert Benton's Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) as workaholic Ted Kramer whose wife (Meryl Streep) unexpectedly leaves him; he raises their son alone. Hoffman gained his first Academy Award, and the film also received the Best Picture honor, plus the awards for Best Supporting Actress (Streep) and Director.
In Tootsie (1982), Hoffman portrays Michael Dorsey, a struggling actor who finds himself dressing up as a woman to land a role on a soap opera. His co-star was Jessica Lange. Tootsie earned ten Academy Award nominations, including Hoffman's fifth nomination.
Hoffman then turned to television in the role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, for which he won the 1985 Emmy Award for Outstanding lead actor in a TV movie or miniseries. He would also go on to win a Golden Globe for the same performance. Hoffman's largest film failure was Elaine May's Ishtar, with Warren Beatty. The film faced severe production problems, received almost completely negative reviews from critics and was nominated for three Razzie awards. Hoffmann and Beatty were unaffected by the flop, and Ishtar became a cult film. James House, who later became a country music artist, served as Hoffman's vocal coach in the film.
In director Barry Levinson's Rain Man (1988), Hoffman starred as an autistic savant, opposite Tom Cruise. Levinson, Hoffman and Cruise worked for two years on the film, and his performance garnered Hoffman his second Academy Award. Upon accepting, Hoffman stated softly to his fellow nominees that it was okay if they didn't vote for him because "I didn't vote for you guys either." After Rain Man, Hoffman appeared with Sean Connery and Matthew Broderick in Family Business. The film did relatively poorly with the critics and at the box office. In 1991, Hoffman voiced substitute teacher Mr. Bergstrom in The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Substitute", under the pseudonym Sam Etic. As a reference to this episode, on the episode portraying the Itchy & Scratchy movie, Lisa says that Dustin Hoffman has a cameo but doesn't use his real name.
Throughout the 1990s, Hoffman appeared in many large, studio films, such as Dick Tracy (1990) (where his Ishtar co-star Beatty plays the titular character), Hero (1992) and the ill-fated Billy Bathgate (1991) co-starring with Nicole Kidman who was nominated for a Golden Globe). Hoffman also played the title role of Captain Hook in Steven Spielberg's Hook (also 1991), earning a Golden Globe nomination; in this movie, Hoffman's costume was so heavy that he had to wear an air-conditioned suit under it. Hoffman played the lead role in Outbreak (1995), alongside Rene Russo, Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Donald Sutherland. Following that, he appeared in Sleepers (1996) with Brad Pitt, Jason Patric, and Kevin Bacon. It was in the mid-1990s that Hoffman starred in — and was deeply involved in the production of — David Mamet's American Buffalo (also 1996), one of the very few "pure art projects" he is known for, and an early effort of film editor Kate Sanford. In 1997, Hoffman starred opposite John Travolta in the Costa Gavras film Mad City and gained his seventh Academy Award nomination for his role in Wag The Dog. He next appeared in Barry Levinson's adaptation of Sphere (1998), opposite Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, Queen Latifah and Liev Schreiber. Hoffman next appeared in Moonlight Mile (2002), followed by Confidence (2003) opposite Edward Burns, Andy García and Rachel Weisz. Hoffman would finally have a chance to work with Gene Hackman, in Gary Fleder's Runaway Jury (also 2003), an adaptation of John Grisham's bestselling novel.
Hoffman played theater owner Charles Frohman in the J. M. Barrie historical fantasia Finding Neverland (2004), costarring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. In director David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees (also 2004), Hoffman appeared opposite Lily Tomlin as an existential detective team.
Hoffman co-starred with Barbra Streisand, Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in 2004's Meet the Fockers, the sequel to Meet the Parents (2000). Hoffman won the 2005 MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance. In 2005, he featured in cameo roles in Andy García's The Lost City and on the final episode of HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm's fifth season. Hoffman appeared in Stranger than Fiction (2006), played the perfumer Giuseppe Baldini in Tom Tykwer's film Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (also 2006) and had a cameo in the same year's The Holiday.
In 2007, he was featured in an advertising campaign for Australian telecommunications company Telstra's Next G network, appeared in the 50 Cent video "Follow My Lead" as a psychiatrist, and played the title character in the family film Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. In 2008, although he was reluctant to perform in an animated film, Hoffman had a prominent role in the acclaimed film Kung Fu Panda, which was praised in part for his comedic chemistry with Jack Black and his character's poignantly complex relationship with the story's villain. He later won the Annie Award for Voice Acting in an Animated Feature for Kung Fu Panda. He next voiced Roscuro in The Tale of Despereaux and played the title character in Last Chance Harvey.
Hoffman will be starring in the HBO horse-racing drama Luck (TV Series), as a man involved in activities such as bookmaking and casino operations. He will also direct Quartet, a BBC Films comedy starring Maggie Smith and Albert Finney. He will also be starring in Little Fockers, the sequel to Meet the Fockers.
Hoffman married Anne Byrne in May 1969. The couple had two children, Karina (b. 1966) and Jenna (born 15 October 1970). Karina is adopted. The couple divorced in 1980. He married attorney Lisa Gottsegen in October 1980; they have four children — Jacob Edward (born 20 March 1981), Rebecca (b. 17 March 1983), Maxwell Geoffrey (born 30 August 1984), and Alexandra Lydia (born 27 October 1987). Hoffman also has two grandchildren. In an interview, he said that all of his children had bar or bat mitzvahs and that he is a more observant Jew now than when he was younger; he also lamented that he is not fluent in Hebrew.
In 1970, Hoffman and Byrne were living in Greenwich Village in a building next door to the townhouse destroyed by members of The Weatherman when they detonated a bomb in the building's basement, killing three people. In the 2002 documentary The Weather Underground, Hoffman can be seen standing in the street during the aftermath of the explosion.
A political liberal, Hoffman has long supported the Democratic Party and Ralph Nader. In 1997, he was one of a number of Hollywood stars and executives to sign an open letter to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, which protested the treatment of Scientologists in Germany.
Robert Duvall was a roommate of Hoffman's during their struggling actor years in New York City. 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 still good friends with actor Gene Hackman, who was also friends with Duvall during their years as struggling actors.
There were many rumors and discussions on July 2010 about Hoffman canceling his appearance on Jerusalem Film Festival, as a reaction to the Gaza flotilla raid. However his representatives told The New York Times there was “no truth” to this report.