Dustin Lee Hoffman is one of the finest actors of all time and is a living legend of cinema. He was born on August 8th, 1937 in Los Angeles, California, of Jewish decent from Ukrainian and Romanian immigrants. Hoffman began his acting career working alongside Gene Hackman at the Pasadena Playhouse, and the pair soon left for New York City, acquiring small roles in television shows, commercials, and Off-Broadway productions. In the early 60s, he attended the Actors Studio and studied method acting. As a result, his success on stage began to grow, which then led to bigger roles in television shows like Naked City, as well as landing him his first film, The Tiger Makes Out (1967). Later that same year, Dustin Hoffman would receive the role of a lifetime, and break out in a big, big way.
Director Mike Nichols cast Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, a confused and frustrated young man who had recently finished college to return home to find himself in The Graduate (1967). The role and film made Hoffman an overnight star, and his outstanding performance earned him his first Academy Award nomination. After the success of The Graduate, Hoffman starred in a few smaller productions in film, stage, and television, before his next big film, Midnight Cowboy (1969), hit theatres. In John Schlesinger’s grim buddy drama, Hoffman gave what I believe to be the best performance of his career as Rico “Ratzo” Rizzo, a feeble and sickly street hustler who befriends a male prostitute (Jon Voight) in New York City. Hoffman received his second Academy Award nomination while the film went on to win Best Picture.
Hoffman then began the 70s – his finest decade as an actor as far as I’m concerned - with the underrated Little Big Man (1970), playing Jack Crabb, the sole white survivor of The Battle of Little Bighorn. The off-beat comedy/drama received critical praise, but remains a film I wish received more recognition today. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly urge you to seek it out. His success continued with films like Straw Dogs (1971), Papillon (1973), and Lenny (1974), the latter of which Hoffman received his third nomination for Best Actor. Two short years after the Watergate scandal broke, Hoffman played real-life Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein alongside Robert Redford in the political drama All the President’s Men (1976). The same year he reteamed with director John Schlesinger and starred opposite Laurence Olivier and Roy Scheider in Marathon Man, an excellent suspense/thriller based on William Goldman’s novel of the same name. He would finish the decade at the top of his career, winning his first Academy Award for his role as a workaholic single father in Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). When all was said and done, Hoffman had starred in eleven feature films during the 1970s.
In 1982, Hoffman returned to the screen in Sydney Pollack’s wildly hilarious gender-bender, Tootsie. He would receive his fifth Academy Award nomination playing a struggling actor who disguises himself as a woman in order to land a role on a soap opera. In 1984 he starred as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman on Broadway as well as in a television movie, winning both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the latter. Then came Ishtar (1987), and that is all I have to say about that. No matter how disastrous Ishtar may have been, it didn’t affect Hoffman’s career one bit. He would go on to win his second Oscar the following year in Barry Levinson’s Rain Man (1988), in which he starred as an autistic savant getting to know his estranged brother (Tom Cruise). The buddy film would go on to win the Best Picture Oscar that year, becoming the third film on Hoffman’s resume to do so.
The 1990s and beyond have been full of fires and misfires for Hoffman. Some of his more memorable work coming in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990), Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991), Wolfgang Petersen’s Outbreak (1995), and a pair of Barry Levinson films: Sleepers (1996) and Wag the Dog (1997), the latter of which he received his seventh, and most recent, Academy Award nomination. In the time since, Hoffman has chosen smaller roles in films like Runaway Jury (2003), Meet the Fockers (2004), Finding Neverland (2004), I Heart Huckabee’s (2004), Stranger Than Fiction (2006), and Barney’s Version (2010), as well as voicing the role of Shifu in Kung Fu Panda (2008), for which he won the Annie Award for Voice Acting. He reprised the role in the sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). His most recent work can be seen in HBO’s short-lived horse-racing drama, Luck, which was canceled prematurely after several horses died on set. Later this year Dustin Hoffman will make his (credited) directorial debut with the comedy/drama Quartet, which takes place in a home for retired opera singers, and stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Billy Connolly.
My Circuit 3 for Dustin Hoffman:
- The Graduate (1967)
- Midnight Cowboy (1969)
- All the President’s Men (1976)
What are your three favorite/best Dustin Hoffman movies? You can view his entire filmography here.
Tags: All the President's Men, circuit 3, Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer, Midnight Cowboy, Rain Man, Straw Dogs, The Graduate, Tootsie