In 1982, Dustin Hoffman made a film with Columbia Studios about an actor who was so difficult to work with that he had to disguise himself as a woman to get work in the acting profession. The film was called Tootsie and Dustin dressed “in drag” to huge acclaim. In an old AFI interview with the star, he talks about the film and his “brainwashed” ideas of beauty and breaks into real Tootsie tears in the video. The video had gone viral and we have it below for your viewing pleasure.
When the film was released “way back in the day,” the biggest question that everyone was asking was if the film was in any way biographical. Not in the sense of Hoffman dressing up as a woman to get work, but the allegations that he, himself, was a difficult actor to work with.
Hoffman had, at that time, a very bad reputation as an almost compulsive perfectionist. He embraced the method and would go to great lengths to ensure that he was being true to his on-screen character, often to the great frustration of his co-actors in the films he worked on.
Sir Lawrence Olivier once remarked on the set of the 1976 film, Marathon Man after Hoffman ran until he was exhausted to get into the right frame of mind for a scene the two had together, “Dear boy, if you’d learned how to act you wouldn’t need to do all that.”
But Olivier aside, what Hoffman does works and has done consistently for him throughout his career. He is a star, not like Richard Burton was or Brad Pitt is, but he is the calibre of actor that film’s can “hang on.”
Dustin Hoffman brought the character of Tootsie and the male actor who played her on screen to life in a way that no other actor could. His tears in the viral video are real, just as real as his performance in the 1982 film.
Hoffman won an Oscar for his role in Tootsie and when he won the award, he said that playing a woman, “made him a better man.” That he had connected with this female that his character portrayed on screen, and that he had touched something in himself that he never knew was there.
In the AFI interview, he says, that he told Columbia he wanted his character, who’d passed the looking like a real woman test, to be more beautiful. He says that the make-up men said, it was not possible, “That’s as good as you’re going to get, Charlie,” the actor says with a laugh and a grin.
But he says that as he looked at his character on screen and thought about what he’d asked the make-up men to do, he had an epiphany.
Hoffman said he rushed home and told his wife that he had to play the part of Tootsie. As he begins to choke up with the memory of his original tearful conversation with his wife, he says, “I’ve got to tell this woman’s story. I’ve been brainwashed and never gotten to know so many interesting women. Because looking at Tootsie, I knew I would never have talked to her.
The video has sparked a huge amount of interest since its “re-emergence” and has gone viral. Whether it is because Dustin Hoffman is crying real “Tootsie” tears in the video or because of his painful epiphany is not clear, but it does give us a glimpse into the mind of one our greatest actors in cinema. Enjoy the video below and don’t forget to have a tissue handy!
By Michael Smith