- Dustin Lee Hoffman
August 08, 1937 (age 83)
- Actor, Voice Actor, Television Producer, Film Producer
- Lisa Hoffman
- Lillian Gold, Harry Hoffman
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 starring in 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 subsequent 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 been nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning two (for his performances in Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man), thirteen Golden Globes, winning six (including an honorary one) and has won 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 on August 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, 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 Jewish, from an Ashkenazi family of immigrants from Ukraine and Iași (Romania). His upbringing was non-religious; he has said, "I don’t have any memory of celebrating holidays growing up that were Jewish", and that he had "realized" he was Jewish at around age 10. 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." He also took classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City.
Hoffman initially hoped to become a classical pianist, having studied piano during much of his youth and in college. While at Santa Monica College, he also took an acting class, which he assumed would be easy, and "caught the acting bug." He recalls: "I just was not gifted in music. I did not have an ear." Now an aspiring actor, he spent the next ten years doing odd jobs, being unemployed, and struggling to get any available acting roles.
His first acting role was 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. Hoffman, Hackman and Robert Duvall lived together in the 1960s, all three of them focused on finding acting jobs. Hackman remembers, "The idea that any of us would do well in films simply didn't occur to us. We just wanted to work." During this period, Hoffman got occasional television bit parts, including commercials but, needing income, he briefly left acting to teach.
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. Through the early and mid-1960s, Hoffman made appearances in television shows and movies, including Naked City, The Defenders and Hallmark Hall of Fame. His first critical success was in the play Eh?, by Henry Livings, which had its US premiere at the Circle in the Square Downtown on October 16, 1966.
Hoffman made his 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 productions of William Gibson's Two for the Seesaw and William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life for the Fargo-Moorhead 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 (1967), 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 from 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 "if 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 unanimous good reviews. Time magazine called Hoffman "a symbol of youth" who represented "a new breed of actors." The film's screenwriter, Buck Henry, notes that Hoffman's character made conventional good looks no longer necessary on screen:
"A whole generation changed its idea of what guys should look like. . . I think Dustin's physical being brought a sort of social and visual change, in the same way people first thought of Bogart. They called him ugly."
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 a townhouse occupied by members of the Weathermen, when a bomb was accidentally detonated in the townhouse'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 businesswoman 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.
Hoffman is a lifelong fan of Archie Comics and owns a copy of every single issue ever printed.
Hoffman was successfully treated for cancer in 2013.