Yesterday I was listening to Terry Gross on her National Public Radio show called Fresh Air. Around this area – Tampa/St.Pete/Bradenton/Sarasota the show airs at 12:00 PM and 7:00 PM. daily – or at least weekdays. The broadcast featured Bryan Cranston who will be forever remembered for his stunning role as Walter White on Breaking Bad. Currently, Cranston is trodding the boards on Broadway as former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in a limited engagement of the play All The Way which was authored by playwright Robert Schenkkan.
A bit further back, I heard a Fresh Air show with Terry Gross talking with Joaquin Phoenix who starred in Spike Jonze’s Her. You’d be amazed when you hear an actor discuss his craft, his methods, and what it takes to be a world-class actor. It is sort of like listening to the man behind the curtain, about whom we have been often told to not pay any attention to, or more accurately, the actor inside the role – in his own words
But it was only last week that I listened to the Fresh Air replay of a broadcast (originally in January of 2013) with actor Dustin Hoffman. Now this post is not going to be only about the Fresh Air interview of Hoffman, nor will I write a lengthy piece about my own interaction with Hoffman because no such event ever happened. Rather I am going to have a look at a few of what I consider my favorite Dustin Hoffman films.
From the first time we saw him as a new college graduate who learned in the same film the magic of the word ‘plastics’ and the wonders of love from Mrs. Robinson – we knew that this actor was going to be something special. And through the years, Hoffman has reflected our own lives on-screen as he aged. From the youthful and innocent Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate to the ancient one, Jack Crabb in Little Big Man, from the street-wise hustler that we remember as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy to the damaged yet brilliant Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man, or maybe you recall him as a Pirate known as Captain Hook, a driven investigative reporter in All The President’s Men, or as a husband whose marriage is on the rocks (Kramer vs. Kramer) when hasn’t Dustin Hoffman been a part of our lives with his wonderful performances serving almost as mile-markers for us?
As a comedian in Lenny, or a convict in Papillon, as the tired and slump-shouldered Willy Lomax in Death of a Salesman or as a man known as Babe who seemed perpetually on the run in Marathon Man. or even as a man and a woman while chasing the dreams of an actor in Tootsie – Hoffman has always intrigued us with his skills, beguiled us with his talents, or energized us with his drive.
Dustin began his film career in a barely noticed small role in The Tiger Makes Out in 1967. But Hoffman got a seat on the rocket to stardom in his very next role, which was also a 1967 release, as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate directed by Mike Nichols. In 1967, Hoffman was 29-30 years old yet he gave an Oscar nominated performance as a young (21 year-old) college graduate just drifting along.
That was 47 years ago. But before that, if you lived in New York in the early sixties, you may have dined at a restaurant and your waiter might have been Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, or Robert Duvall. They all knew each other in those days as they all were struggling young actors waiting on tables as they lived the ‘actor’s life’ and waited for the next big thing which was a part in a film. On The Fresh Air show Hoffman quoted himself from that time:
Sir, How is your salmon?
Dustin Hoffman headlined with Robert Redford in All The President’s Men. His role was that of the Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. While personally Hoffman didn’t carry home any Oscars for All The President’s Men, the film walked off with 4 Oscars out of eight nominations. Check out this clip from Turner Classic Movies:
The 70’s were Mr. Hoffman’s best decade as a film actor. Besides All The President’s Men, Hoffman performed in eight other Oscar nominated films in this decade. Think of it – 9 Oscar nominated films in one decade by a single actor. The mind boggles.
The 1980’s: Continue reading