AMERICAN FILM MAGAZINE:December 1988|
Acting His Age continued
"I used to tell everyone that THE GRADUATE was my first movie," Hoffman says, and for good reason; his role in THE TIGER MAKES OUT (1967) was so fleeting that "when my parents saw, it they thought I was another actor."
Even as THE GRADUATE was being filmed, however, "I was convinced they'd made a huge mistake. I read years later that Larry Turman, the producer, showed the film at his home just before its release, and people commented to him, 'What a great movie. But what a shame they miscast the lead.' "
Thrust into the unlikely role of hot young romantic star, Hoffman followed it up by portraying the "repellent" Ratso Rizzo in MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969), a move that seemed to court career suicide. "People were walking out of the screenings. My manager was saying, 'If this movie is a disaster, it is extremely important that you come back as a human being.' " As a result, Hoffman "succumbed to a lot of nervous decision making" to play a more conventional romantic lead in JOHN AND MARY (1969).
A string of more personal "experiences" followed. In LITTLE BIG MAN (1970), Hoffman undercut his youthful image as a 121-year-old survivor of Custer's Last Stand. In STRAW DOGS (1971), "I liked the idea of a guy who was appalled by the violence of the times and was running away, but had not resolved the violence in himself. I think he's a lot like me: I'm a physical coward, l don't like to get into fightsbut I'm always front row at the fights."
Hoffman's growing reportorial skills served him well on ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976) in his portrayal of journalist Carl Bernstein, opposite Robert Redford.
Hoffman has a healthy actor's ego, he regularly compares his work with peers like Nicholson and De Niroand a competitive edge. During the' dentist scene in MARATHON MAN, his co-star Laurence Olivier was concerned about hurting Hoffman."We were using real tools. And I remember thinking, 'If I can fool Olivier ...' The take that's actually in the movie, I went through the roof and scared the shit out of him. He didn't know I was acting. It was my finest moment."
MARATHON MAN also brought to full circle Hoffman's first decade in Hollywood, reuniting him with MIDNIGHT COWBOY director John Schlesinger while playing a college-age student. "I was 37. And I remember saying to my wife, 'This is the last time I'll get to be in.college.'"
One day during the making of that movie, Hoffman was
at the home of MARATHON MAN's producer, Bob Evans.
Entering the house with Evans, he noticed, right above
the front door, a nest of birds that had just hatched.
"Look at that!" Hoffman said. Evans nodded
and kept walking.
"If that scene had been in the film rushes," Hoffman told Evans, "you would have watched them for 15 hours, and couldn't have gotten enough."
Hoffman is really talking about himself. Like Evans, he'd "lived and breathed movies." A successful career had reinforced his insulation from the world at large. But for the next decade, a series of traumatic events let him know he was leaving the nest in more ways than one.