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Distinguished actor Dustin Hoffman, the winner of two Academy Awards (and seven nominations) as “best actor,” was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1937. He knocked around for a decade on stage and at odd jobs until Mike Nichols cast him in a starring role in The Graduate (1967), which established Hoffman as a representative of a “new generation” of actors playing complex and conflicted characters (his former roommates Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall were two others who became stars around the same time). His next big role was as a drug addict in Midnight Cowboy (1969). Other critically acclaimed performances came in Little Big Man, Lenny (nominated for six Oscars), Kramer vs. Kramer, All the President’s Men, Tootsie, Rain Man, Marathon Man, Straw Dogs, and Death of a Salesman, among other films. Hoffman is also well-known for the roles he’s turned down — including the Richard Dreyfuss role in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind — and for his self-critical insistence, as an actor, on doing retakes, even though he has acknowledged: “I think the most insulting thing you can do to a director is to challenge when he or she is satisfied with your interpretation.” To see him reflecting on his identity as a woman in Tootsie, look below.
In Marathon Man, “I was called on, as the character, to fire point-blank at the Laurence Olivier character, Dr. Szell, and kill him in that last scene. And I said that I couldn’t do it.... I won’t play a Jew who cold-bloodedly kills another human being.... Being a Jew is not losing your humanity and not losing your soul.” —Dustin Hoffman