Here's to You, Dustin Hoffman
He has played a freshly minted college grad, a street con man, an astrophysicist and the oldest man alive—and that's just in the few years after his breakout role in "The Graduate." Here, in honor of Dustin Hoffman's 80th birthday, are 20 on-screen moments that reflect the consummate actor's amazing range.
"The Graduate" (1967)
The most awkward—and funny—start of an affair ever. Finally inside their hotel room, Benjamin Braddock makes his move and kisses Mrs. Robinson, who seconds later exhales a lungful of cigarette smoke. Ben eventually turns to the wall and starts knocking his head against it. Dustin Hoffman improved that bit to hide the fact that he was cracking up.
"Midnight Cowboy" (1969)
"Hey, I'm walking' here! I'm walking' here!" Ratso Rizzo shouts at a cab driver. One of the most quoted lines in the movie, it was ad-libbed by Hoffman when an actual New York taxi jumped a traffic light and lurched into his path while the camera was rolling.
Having switched genders to land a part on a soap opera, struggling actor Michael Dorsey—in drag as Dorothy Michaels—swings by the Russian Tea Room to test his feminine wiles on his agent (played by director Sydney Pollack), who promptly orders a double vodka. And for the lady? "How about a Dubonnet with a twist?"
"Marathon Man" (1976)
"Is it safe?" Definitely not, as a Nazi dentist (Laurence Olivier) goes to work on Ph.D. candidate "Babe" Levy's neglected teeth.
"The Kid Stays in the Picture" (2002)
This documentary recounts the rise and fall and second coming of Robert Evans, the colorful producer of "The Godfather" and "Chinatown." At the end, as the credits roll, there's a bonus—Hoffman's hilarious impersonation of Evans, who also produced "Marathon Man."
"Rain Man" (1988)
"Let's play some cards." As autistic savant Raymond Babbit, Hoffman remains perfectly deadpan at the blackjack table as he effortlessly beats the house.
"All the President's Men (1976)
Channeling investigative reporter Carl Bernstein, Hoffman conveys the newsman's passion even as he ultimately defers to editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards). Both Hoffman and co-star Robert Redford hung out in the Washington Post's newsroom for weeks to prepare for their roles.
"Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979)
The scene in the restaurant, when the divorce turns into a battle over custody. Without warning Meryl Streep, Hoffman violently broke a glass as he left the table, and Streep's anger was genuine. So was Hoffman's: He was in the middle of a real-life divorce. "It was the first time I ever made a movie where I was living through what I was acting," he said later.
"Straw Dogs" (1971)
Mild-mannered astrophysicist David Sumner finally goes ballistic, defending himself and his wife against their attackers. Hoffman said he only took the role in Sam Peckinpah's ultraviolent thriller for the money, but it's undeniably powerful.
"I hate, I hate, I HATE Peter Pan!" Captain Hook declares. So much so that he threatens suicide ("Don't try to stop me") in one of the movie's funniest scenes.
"How many men in this room have ever had their blah blahed?" Lenny Bruce asks his audience, which includes cops eagerly waiting to arrest him for obscenity. Near the end of Bob Fosse's black-and-white biopic, Hoffman does Bruce's stand-up act verbatim, in one seamless take.
An unlikely pair of convicts bond on Devil's Island, and in the final scene one begs the other not to attempt the leap to freedom that seems sure to kill him. Hoffman achieved something amazing with this movie: He shared top billing with Steve McQueen.
"Straight Time" (1978)
Hard to picture Dustin Hoffman as a hardened criminal? Then you missed this crime drama, which didn't get as much attention as it deserved. Here, the thief played by Hoffman and his pal Jerry (Harry Dean Stanton) relax poolside, and in no time they're planning to rob a high-stakes poker game.
"Little Big Man" (1970)
Hoffman got into the Guinness Book of World Records for this one, in which his character ages from 17 to 121—the "Greatest Age Span Portrayed by a Movie Actor." Memorable scene: The pious Mrs. Pendrake (Faye Dunaway) hand-bathes young Jack Crabb. A century later he still remembers it as "the greatest bath I ever had in my life."
Critics panned it—some even called "Ishtar" the worst movie ever made—but Elaine May's overblown comedy actually has some funny bits. Case in point: Hoffman and Warren Beatty and the blind camel. (Maybe you have to be in the mood.)
"Dick Tracy" (1990)
Despite the "Ishtar" fiasco, Hoffman teamed up with Warren Beatty again three years later. Beatty starred and directed, but Hoffman had the more amusing role—Mumbles, the mob henchman interrogated in this scene.
"Death of a Salesman" (1985)
Biff (John Malkovich) confronts his father with the truth in this TV movie adaptation of Arthur Miller's classic play. Hoffman shines as the tragic everyman Willy Loman.
"Wag the Dog" (1997)
In this scene, a spin doctor (Robert De Niro) enlists a Hollywood producer (Hoffman) to create a phony war to distract the American public from a Washington sex scandal. You know, politics as usual.
"Midnight Cowboy" (1969)
"I'm falling apart here," says Ratso Rizzo on the bus to Miami, a destination he'll never reach, in the film's most moving scene..
"The Graduate" (1967)
"ELAINE!!! ELAINE!!!"Ben shouts to Mrs. Robinson's daughter, the woman he's determined to marry. He's at the church where she has just tied the knot with another man, but you know what they say: It's never too late.
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