Both Dustin Hoffman and his former roommate, Gene Hackman, had their big breaks in 1967. Hoffman in The Graduate (1967) and Hackman in Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
I wanted to be a jazz pianist, but I wasn't good enough. I got into city college because I didn't have the grades to get into university. I took acting because it was a way to get three credits. I just needed three credits and my friend told me to take acting because it was like gym - nobody fails you. I took it and that's literally how I got involved in acting.
Dustin Lee Hoffman
8 August 1937, Los Angeles, California
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 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 role 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, which pre-empted him from appearing in the acclaimed Mel Brooks film, The Producers as Franz Liebkind. 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 May 25, 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 in the category of 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. However, Hoffman and Beatty liked the film's final cut and tried to defend it. 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, during the episode featuring the Itchy & Scratchy movie, Lisa claims that Dustin Hoffman had a cameo in that movie but didn'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 and has continued into the role in the franchise's subsequent filmed productions outside of the upcoming television series. 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, 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 October 15, 1970). Karina is adopted. The couple divorced in 1980. He married attorney Lisa Gottsegen in October 1980; they have four children — Jacob Edward (born March 20, 1981), Rebecca (b. March 17, 1983), Maxwell Geoffrey (born August 30, 1984), and Alexandra Lydia (born October 27, 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.
In 2009 he received the freedom of the Italian city Ascoli Piceno for being there during 1972 to shoot the movie "Alfredo Alfredo" by Pietro Germi where he acted the role of Alfredo Sbisà.
Was considered for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972).
During the filming of Wag the Dog (1997) Hoffman, his co-star Robert De Niro and director Barry Levinson had an impromptu meeting with President Bill Clinton at a Washington hotel. "So what's this movie about?" Clinton asked De Niro. De Niro looked over to Levinson, hoping he would answer the question. Levinson, in turn, looked over to Hoffman. Hoffman, realizing there was no one else to pass the buck to, is quoted as saying, "So I just started to tap dance. I can't even remember what I said."
October 1997: Ranked #41 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
His parents named him Dustin after actor Dustin Farnum.
January 1999: He was awarded $3m in damages and compensation in a case against "Los Angeles" Magazine, because it had printed a digitally altered image of him in a dress (cf. Tootsie (1982)). In July 2001 a federal appeals court overturned the verdict. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that because the photo appeared in an article, not an advertisement, the use of the actor's likeness did not constitute "commercial speech" and was entitled to the full protection of the 1st Amendment.
Brother-in-law of producer Lee Gottsegen.
Was in early consideration for the role of Rick Deckard in Blade Runner (1982). The role eventually went to Harrison Ford.
Has known Gene Hackman since 1956.
Has a house in the Kensington area of London.
3/6/70: He and wife Anne Byrne Hoffman were living in a brownstone on 11th St. in New York City's Greenwich Village when the house next door blew up. Luckily, he and his family weren't home. Members of the radical 1960s domestic terror group The Weathermen were living in that house unknown to anyone and had stored a large cache of explosives that accidentally detonated, killing three of the group's members. Henry Fonda's ex-wife, Susan Wager, was also a neighbor in that block and witnessed the explosion. He was a neighbor of Mel Brooks in New York and was set to play the role of Franz Liebkind in Brooks' first film, The Producers (1968). Just before production was to commence, Hoffman was offered the role of Ben Braddock in The Graduate (1967), co-starring Brooks' wife Anne Bancroft, and asked to be let out of his contract. The role of Liebkind eventually went to Kenneth Mars.
Met actor Gene Hackman in their first month at Pasadena Playhouse and had several classes with him. Hackman failed out after three months and moved to New York to try his luck as a stage actor.
After attending the Pasadena Playhouse, Hoffman decided to move to New York and looked up former Playhouse classmate Gene Hackman. The two of them roomed together in New York at Hackman's one-bedroom apartment on 2nd Ave. and 26th St. Hoffman slept on the kitchen floor. Originally Hackman had offered to let him stay a few nights, but Hoffman would not leave. Hackman had to take him out to look for his own apartment.
Another thespian he roomed with in New York was Robert Duvall.
As roommates, Hoffman and Gene Hackman would often go to the apartment rooftop and play the drums. Hoffman played the bongo drums while Hackman played the conga drums. They did it out of their love for Marlon Brando, who they had heard played music in clubs. They wanted to be like Brando and were big fans of his.
Entered into The Guinness Book of World Records as "Greatest Age Span Portrayed By A Movie Actor" for Little Big Man (1970) in which he portrayed a character from age 17 to age 121.
Despite being old friends and roommates with Gene Hackman back in the 1960s, it was literally decades before he appeared on screen with him. He finally starred with Hackman in Runaway Jury (2003).
He was voted the 28th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Was interested in playing Shylock in Michael Radford's adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice": The Merchant of Venice (2004). However, by the time he contacted Radford, Al Pacino had already been cast for the role.
While filming Finding Neverland (2004) lost the tip of a finger and performed one day of shooting on morphine.
Has appeared in two films about "Peter Pan" (Hook (1991) and Finding Neverland (2004)). Following his appearance in ""Hook", close friend and former roommate Gene Hackman began calling him "Hook" as a joke. The name stuck and his contemporaries call him by that nickname to this day.
Both he and Robert Duvall said one of the best reasons why they went to acting classes were the girls. When they were young, the classes were a gold mine to them.
April 2005: Recipient of a Lincoln Center tribute.
Had expressed an early desire to play the title role in Gandhi (1982), but was offered Tootsie (1982) the same year and ended up taking the latter role. He eventually lost the Oscar that year to Ben Kingsley who played Gandhi.
In 1993 he, together with Anne Bancroft, accepted the Oscar for "Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium", on behalf of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who wasn't present at the awards ceremony.
He was so boyish looking at age 30 that he played a generation younger than Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967), even though she is only six years older than him.
He is from a family of Polish Jews.
Was considered for the role of Beau Burruoghs in Rumor Has It... (2005), but the part eventually went to Kevin Costner. Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger envisioned a cast of Al Pacino, Julie Christie and Laurence Olivier for "Marathon Man" (1976). Pacino has said that the only actress he had ever wanted to work with was Christie, who he claimed was "the most poetic of actresses." Producer Robert Evans, who disparaged the vertically challenged Pacino as "The Midget" when Francis Ford Coppola wanted him for The Godfather (1972) and had thought of firing him during the early shooting of the now-classic film, vetoed Pacino for the lead. Instead, Evans insisted on the casting of the even-shorter Dustin Hoffman! On her part, Christie -- who was notoriously finicky about accepting parts, even in prestigious, sure-fire material -- turned down the female lead, which was then taken by Marthe Keller (who, ironically, became Pacino's lover after co-starring with him in Bobby Deerfield (1977)). Of his dream cast, Schlesinger only got Olivier, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
His performance as "Ratso" Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy (1969) is ranked #7 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie (1982) is ranked #33 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man (1988) is ranked #88 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
His performance as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie (1982) is ranked #39 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
His performance as "Ratso" Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy (1969) is ranked #33 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Two of his films are on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time. They are Rain Man (1988) at #63 and All the President's Men (1976) at #34.
While having dinner with Paul McCartney, Dustin Hoffman told the story of the death of Pablo Picasso and his famous last words, "Drink to me, drink to my health. You know I can't drink anymore." Paul had a guitar with him and immediately played an impromptu chord progression while singing the quote. Thus, "Picasso's Last Words", one of the highlights of the "Band On The Run" album, was made.
Is active in a commercial campaign with the Swedish clothing company KappAhl.
On an episode of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (1992), Dustin Hoffman said that his cameo in the film The Holiday (2006) was not scripted and unplanned. He was driving by the Blockbuster shown in the film and saw all of the cameras and equipment so he decided to stop in and see what was happening. Because he knew director Nancy Meyers, they worked up a scene which ultimately made the final cut.
Was Warner Brothers' first consideration for "The Penguin" in Batman Returns (1992).
Was an L.A. high school classmate of Johnnie L. Cochran Jr..
Was in talks to appear in The Verdict (1982).
Has 6 children: Jenna Byrne and Karina Hoffman-Birkhead (born 1966 - adopted) with his first wife Anne Byrne Hoffman; Jake Hoffman, Rebecca Hoffman, Max Hoffman and Alexandra Hoffman with his second wife Lisa Gottsegen.
Is one of the main supporters and contributers to the Santa Monica College Madison Theatre in Santa Monica, CA.
The only actor in history to have top billing in three films that won the Best Picture Oscar: Midnight Cowboy (1969), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Rain Man (1988).
The bathroom scene in Runaway Jury (2003), where Roar confronts Finch is the first ever dialog in a movie between him and Gene Hackman. It was added when someone on the crew found out that the two, though they had been friends for 50 years, had never starred in a movie together.
As of 2008, he and Philip Seymour Hoffman are the only two winners of best actor in a leading role at the Oscars to share a last name. Philip won for Capote (2005) and Dustin won for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Rain Man (1988).
Was considered for the role of Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. (1993).
Did a brief stint while he was a struggling actor working at the toys' department at Macy's. As a joke, he set Gene Hackman's toddler son up on a display and tried to pass him off as a large doll, until a woman offered to buy him.
Nominated for the 1990 Tony Award (New York City) for Actor in a Drama for "The Merchant of Venice".
Good friends with The Graduate (1967) co-star Katharine Ross and Liev Schreiber.
As of 2010, Marlon Brando and he are the only actors to win two Oscars for leading roles in pictures that earned Oscars for best pictures: Brando won for his performances in On the Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1972) and Hoffman won for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Rain Man (1988).
We all believe what we read. I read how Tom Cruise and I were two big egos holding up shooting. I know that isn't true - but if I wasn't making a movie with him and I just picked up the paper, I'd believe it. That's interesting, isn't it?
I got into acting so that I could meet girls. Pretty girls came later. First, I wanted to start off with someone with two legs, who'd smile at me and look soft.
I lived below the official American poverty line until I was 31.
You go to the cinema and you realize you're watching the third act. There is no first or second act. There is this massive film-making where you spend this incredible amount of money and play right to the demographic. You can tell how much money the film is going to make by how it does on the first weekend. The whole culture is in the crap house. It's not just true in the movies, it's also true in the theater.
Stardom equals freedom. It's the only equation that matters.
I grew up thinking a movie star had to be like Rock Hudson or Tab Hunter, certainly nobody in any way like me.
God knows I've done enough crap in my life to grow a few flowers.
A good review from the critics is just another stay of execution.
[on the administration of President George Bush and its invasion of Iraq] "For me as an American, the most painful aspect of this is that I believe that [this] administration has taken the events of 9/11 and has manipulated the grief of the country and I think that's reprehensible. I don't think, like many of us, that the reasons we have been given for going to war are the honest reasons. If they are saying it's about the fact they have biological weapons and might have nuclear weapons and that gives us the liberty to pre-empt and strike because we think they might hit us, then what prevents Pakistan from attacking India, what prevents India from attacking Pakistan, what prevents us from going into North Korea? I believe--though I may wrong because I am no expert--that this war is about what most wars are about: hegemony, money, power and oil."
One thing about being successful is that I stopped being afraid of dying. Once you're a star you're dead already. You're embalmed.
[About his new film Stranger Than Fiction (2006)] "I'm really proud of it, and I've only said that about three times during my career."
[About acting] "You get caught off guard during a take. Your mind goes wild and it just comes out 'Waaa, you talking to me!' "
Euthanasia is legal in Hollywood. They just kill the film if it doesn't succeed immediately.
I don't like the fact that I have to get older so fast, but I like the fact that I'm aging so well.
[in 2005] "I became an actor because I believed I was a failure. In acting, because so few of us ever get work, I could feel proud and fail with dignity. I was born into what I now know was a dysfunctional family. I found that out in therapy three weeks ago."
[on he and Gene Hackman as young stage actors and roommates in New York]: Psychologically, Gene/myself, we did not think about making it in the terms that people think about. We fully expected to be failures for our entire life. Meaning that we would always be scrambling to get a part. We were actors. We had no pretensions. There was more dignity in being unsuccessful.
[on working with Meryl Streep in "Kramer Vs. Kramer"] She's an ox when it comes to acting. She eats words for breakfast. Working with her is like playing tennis with Chris Evert -- she keeps trying to hit the perfect ball.
[on Mike Nichols] He makes you feel kind of like a kite. He lets you go ahead and you do your thing. And then when you're finished he pulls you in by the string. But at least you've had the enjoyment of the wind.
(2004 quote) I once met Clint Eastwood, and it was remarkable. I studied him as I spoke to him. I looked down, and his pants were a little short -- they showed a bit too much of his socks. There was something so timid and shy and almost gawky about him in real life. I remember thinking to myself, Someone should have cast him in Meet John Doe, the Frank Capra movie, because that's the real him. There's not a wisp of aggression about him. That's the real essence, not the guy who says, "Make my day."
The truth is, the older you get, the less variety of parts you are offered. If you're a star and you've spent most of your career being able to take your pick of the litter, you notice when the offers start to diminish. You're too old to play leads, so you're offered the supporting role - but many stars don't want to make that transition. They see it as a sign of symbolic impotence. And that the audience will no longer regard them as a star. I love acting, and I'm not going to determine what I do based on what I fear other people might think. I do what I want to do.
On filming Kramer vs. Kramer (1979): What makes divorce happen is that you can't be in the same space any more, for whatever reason - but the love stays. And that's the killer. That's where the vehemence and anger and rage comes from.
I know it's written that I'm difficult. Barry Levinson - who I did four films with - told me that every press person comes up to him and asks, 'How do you work with that guy?' and he says, 'I've done nothing but extol what a privilege and fun it's been.' But not one interviewer has ever printed that. Look, the medical metaphor I use is, it's like you're on a table for brain surgery and you're being wheeled in and the guy leans in and says, 'Hi I'm your brain surgeon and don't worry - I'm not difficult, I'm not a perfectionist.' I am no different from the focus puller - you're either sharp or you're not.
On why he turned down great roles: I failed everything growing up. I was convinced I was failing for a reason. I wasn't intelligent or like most people. I could barely get through school. I was considered in my family to be a loser. My brother, who is older, was an A student - captain of the football team and the baseball team, and I was the comedian. And someone saying, 'Boy, you're a real comedian,' is like someone saying, 'Boy, you're a real loser.'
On how he became an actor: I started junior college in Los Angeles because I didn't have the grades to go to university and I didn't want to go into the military. So in my first year of junior college I'm failing and I don't know what to do. I don't want to get a job, I want to be a student, and a friend says, 'Take acting, because they don't flunk you - it's like gym, nobody gets an F.' "I took it and suddenly it was the first thing I ever did that wasn't painful. Where I held focus. And suddenly, rehearsing with somebody - learning lines - hours could pass by. And I begged my parents to let me go to this acting school, because I knew I couldn't fail."
On meeting Gene Hackman at the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts: They kicked him out after three months because he had no talent.
[Acting coach Barney Brown] told me, you can have a life. He didn't say anything about success. He said, 'Whether you direct, write, act or stage-manage, you're in the right place.' And he said, 'Go to New York and understand one thing - nothing is going to happen to you for 10 years. Give yourself 10 years and nothing is going to happen.' It was true. I found work where I could fail with dignity. Because 90% of us didn't get jobs.
On working at the New York Psychiatric Institute: It was one of the most illuminating experiences I ever had. You see all the devils we have and just see it out of control. The only thing that frightened me was, I had to hold people down while they were given shock treatments, but after a few months I said, 'I can't do it any more.' [At the time, he was reading "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest," and couldn't get over how close it mirrored life at the psychiatric institute.] You went in there normal and came out crazy in those days. You came out worse.
To this day, Robert Duvall says it was one of the best times of when we were all living together. Because I'd come home and they'd say, 'What did so-and-so do today?' and I'd act out the characters I'd met there. Gene Hackman would spend his entire day in the cinema. It was a place where the homeless went, because for 35 cents they could sleep there all day. He was in there at 10am and he heard one homeless guy in the balcony saying, 'You're sorry? You're sorry? What do you mean, you're sorry? You piss all over my date and you say you're sorry?'
On choosing a profession where he felt secure in failure: It's very painful for us to feel we deserve a life. That's the toughest thing. That we deserve to have a life. That can take a lifetime.
Working with Federico Fellini? That destabilised everything. That makes liars out of my parents. Because I believed what they told me. I should not have turned down Fellini. If he wants you to do it in mumbo jumbo, if it's the worst script you've ever read, you do not turn down the great artists. I turned Samuel Beckett down! I didn't show up for a meeting at a bar in Paris. I got too scared. It was to do 'Godot.' They called me up and said he waited there for an hour! That's the title of my autobiography - 'I Turned Beckett Down.' But I just froze. I look back and I can't call up Federico now and say, 'I changed my mind. Will you work with me?'
On first turning down The Graduate (1967): It was like a bad dream for me. And it came at a time when I was beginning to get work off-Broadway as an actor and I'd just been in a hit and I'd gotten awards and I thought for the rest of my life my dream will come true: I will be an off-Broadway actor for the rest of my life. And that would have been enough. More than enough. Steady employment was the goal. If God had come down at that moment and said to me or Gene Hackman or Robert Duvall, 'Sign a contract here that says "You're never going to be successful, you're never going to have a lead, you're never going to be rich and famous, you will never be on Broadway, you will never be in the West End - you'll be not even off, but off-off-off-Broadway, but you will never see a day without work' - we would have signed on the dotted line in a New York minute.
[On Meryl Streep]: She's extraordinarily hardworking, to the extent that she's obsessive. I think that she thinks about nothing else but what she's doing.