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 characters.
He first drew critical praise for the play Eh?, for which he won a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk Award. This was soon followed by his breakthrough 1967 film role as Benjamin Braddock, the title character in The Graduate. Since then Hoffman's career has largely been focused on cinema, with sporadic returns to television and the stage. His most notable films include Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, Straw Dogs, Papillon, Lenny,Marathon Man, All the President's Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man, Hook and Wag the Dog.
Hoffman has won two Academy Awards (for his performances in Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man), five Golden Globes, four BAFTAs, three Drama Desk Awards, a Genie Award, and an Emmy Award. Hoffman received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1999, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012.
Hoffman had his directorial debut in 2012, with Quartet.
Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, the second son of Lillian (née Gold) and Harry Hoffman. His father worked as a prop supervisor (set decorator) atColumbia 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 Jewish, from an Ashkenazi family of immigrants from Kiev and Iaşi (Romania). His upbringing was neither religious nor observant. He graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1955 and enrolled at Santa Monica College with the intention of studying medicine. Hoffman left after a year to join the Pasadena Playhouse, although when he told his family about his career goal, his Aunt Pearl warned him "You can't be an actor. You are not good-looking enough."
Hoffman began his acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse, alongside future Academy Award-winner Gene Hackman. After two years there, Hackman headed for New York City, with Hoffman soon following. During this time period, he got an occasional bit television role, but left acting briefly to teach in order to support himself. Hoffman also occasionally performed television commercials; an oft-replayed segment on programs that explore actors' early work is a clip showing Hoffman touting the Volkswagen Fastback.
In 1960, Hoffman was cast in a role in an Off-Broadway production and followed with a walk-on role in a Broadway production in 1961. Hoffman then studied at Actors Studio and became a dedicated method actor. Sidney W. 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 at the Circle in the Square Downtown on October 16, 1966.
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 1967, director Mike Nichols cast Hoffman in The Graduate, his first major role, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Hoffman played the character of Benjamin Braddock, who returns to his wealthy parents' home in California after graduating college. Confused about what to do with his life, he is seduced into having an affair with Mrs. Robinson, an alcoholic and a neurotic, and the wife of his father's business partner.
Although Life magazine joked that "[i]f Dustin Hoffman's face were his fortune, he'd be committed to a life of poverty", The Graduate was a gigantic box-office hit for Embassy Pictures, making Hoffman a major new star at the same time. The film, mostly due to Hoffman's acting, received near unanimously good reviews. Time magazine called Hoffman "a symbol of youth" who represented "a new breed of actors." According to Hoffman biographer and film historian Jeff Lenburg, "newspapers across the country were deluged with thousands of letters from fans," including one published in the New York Times:
I identified with Ben…I thought of him as a spiritual brother. He was confused about his future and about his place in the world, as I am. It's a film one digs, rather than understands intellectually.":35
Turner Classic Movies critic Rob Nixon notes that Hoffman represented "a new generation of actors." He credits Hoffman with breaking "the mold of the traditional movie star and brought to their roles a new candor, ethnicity, and eagerness to dive deep into complex, even unlikable characters." Nixon expands on the significance of the film to Hoffman's career:
In The Graduate, he created a lasting resonance as Ben Braddock that made him an overnight sensation and set him on the road to becoming one of our biggest stars and most respected actors.
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 aDrama 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 and Roy Scheider. 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.
In 1984, Hoffman starred as Willy Loman in the Broadway revival of the 1949 Arthur Miller play, Death of a Salesman, a role he reprised in a TV movie of the same name, for which he won the 1985 Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries. He also went 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. Hoffman 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 Hoffman's performance gained him 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 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 the 1996 revenge-drama/legal-thriller Sleepers (1996) withBrad Pitt, Jason Patric, and Kevin Bacon.
In the mid-1990s, Hoffman starred in—and was deeply involved in the production of—David Mamet's American Buffalo (also 1996), 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 performance in Wag The Dog, in a role that allowed Hoffman the chance to work with both Robert De Niro and Denis Leary. 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 finally had a chance to work with Gene Hackman inGary 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 member.
Seven years after his nomination for Wag the Dog, Hoffman got a second opportunity to perform again with Robert De Niro, co-starring with Barbra Streisand andBen Stiller in the 2004 comedy Meet the Fockers, a sequel to Meet the Parents (2000). Hoffman won the 2005 MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance. In 2005, he voiced a horse in Racing Stripes, and appeared 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 as Shifu in the acclaimed film Kung Fu Panda, which was praised in part for his comedic chemistry with Jack Black (whom he tutored in acting for an important scene) and his character's poignantly complex relationship with the story's villain. He later won the Annie Awardfor 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 franchise's television series. He next voiced Roscuro in The Tale of Despereaux and played the title character in Last Chance Harvey.
He appeared in Little Fockers, the critically panned yet hugely commercially successful 2010 sequel to Meet the Fockers. In 2011, Hoffman reprised his role as Shifu in the commercially and critically successful animated film Kung Fu Panda 2.
Hoffman starred in the HBO horse-racing drama Luck, as a man involved in activities such as bookmaking and casino operations. Luck was cancelled in March 2012 after three horses died on set. Hoffman will also direct Quartet, a BBC Films comedy starring Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay.
Hoffman is the only actor to have top billing in three films which won the Best Picture Oscar: Midnight Cowboy, Kramer v Kramer, and Rain Man.
Hoffman married Anne Byrne in May 1969. Hoffman adopted Karina (b. 1966), Byrne's child from a previous marriage, and with Byrne had daughter Jenna (born October 15, 1970). In 1970, Hoffman and Byrne were living in Greenwich Village in a building next door to the townhouse destroyed by members of the Weathermen 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. The couple divorced in 1980.
He married attorney Lisa Hoffman (née Gottsegen) in October 1980; they have four children – Jacob Edward (born March 20, 1981), Rebecca Lillian (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 from his second marriage had bar or bat mitzvahs and that he is a more observant Jew now than when he was younger; he has also lamented that he is not fluent in Hebrew.
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 protesting the treatment of Scientologists in Germany, which was published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune.
Dustin Hoffman received Kennedy Center Honors in 2012, with the following commendation: "Dustin Hoffman's unyielding commitment to the wide variety of roles he plays has made him one of the most versatile and iconoclastic actors of this or any other generation".