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Date of Birth: 08/08/1937
Biography: An American actor with a career in film, television, and theatre since 1960. He has been known for his versatile portrayals of antiheroes and vulnerable characters.
He first drew critical praise for the 1966 Off-Broadway play Eh? for which he won a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk Award. This was soon followed by his breakthrough movie role as the good looking but troubled Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (1967). Since then Hoffman's career has largely been focused on cinema with only sporadic returns to television and the stage. Some of his most noted films are Papillon, Marathon Man, Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, Lenny, All the President's Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man, Wag the Dog, and Meet the Fockers.
Hoffman has won two Academy Awards (for his performances in Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man), five Golden Globes, three BAFTAs, three Drama Desk Awards, a Genie Award, and an Emmy Award. Dustin Hoffman received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1999.
Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, the second son of Lillian (nee Gold) and Harry Hoffman. His father worked as a prop supervisor/set decorator at Columbia Pictures before becoming a furniture salesman. Hoffman was named after stage and silent screen actor Dustin Farnum. His older brother, Ronald, is a lawyer and economist. Hoffman is from an Ashkenazi Jewish family of immigrants from Ukraine and Romania. His upbringing was not religious or observant. He graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1955 and enrolled at Santa Monica College with the intention of studying medicine, leaving after a year to join the Pasadena Playhouse.
Hoffman began his acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse, alongside future Academy Award-winner Gene Hackman. After two years there, Hackman headed for New York City, with Hoffman soon following. Having considerable difficulty getting roles, he took a series of odd jobs, including working as a restaurant coat checker, working in the typing department of the city Yellow Pages directory, and stringing Hawaiian leis. During this time period he got an occasional bit television role, but left acting briefly to teach in order to support himself. Hoffman also occasionally performed television commercials; an oft-replayed segment on programs that explore actors' early work is a clip showing Hoffman touting the Volkswagen Fastback.
In 1960, Hoffman was cast in a role in an Off-Broadway production and followed with a walk-on role in a Broadway production in 1961. Hoffman then studied at the famed Actors Studio and became a dedicated method actor. Sidney Pink, a producer and 3D movie pioneer, discovered him in one of his Off-Broadway roles and cast him in Madigan's Millions. His first critical success was in Eh? by Henry Livings which had its US premiere off-Broadway at the Circle in the Square Downtown on October 16, 1966.
Through the early and mid-1960s, Hoffman made appearances in television shows and movies, including Naked City, The Defenders and Hallmark Hall of Fame. Hoffman made his theatrical film debut in The Tiger Makes Out in 1967, alongside Eli Wallach.
In 1967, immediately after wrapping up principal filming on The Tiger Makes Out, Hoffman flew from New York City to Fargo, North Dakota, where he directed a production of William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life for the Emma Herbst Community Theatre. The $1,000 he received for the eight-week contract was all he had to hold him over until the funds from the movie materialized.
In 1966, Mike Nichols cast Hoffman in The Graduate, which prevented him from appearing in the acclaimed Mel Brooks film, The Producers as Franz Liebkind. The film began production in March 1967. Hoffman received an Academy Award nomination for his performance and became a major star. After the success of this film, another Hoffman film, Madigan's Millions, shot before The Graduate, was released on the tail of the actor's newfound success. It was considered a failure at the box office.
Hoffman continued to appear in major films over the next few years. Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971), Straw Dogs (also 1971), and Papillon (1973) were followed by Lenny (1974), for which Hoffman received his third nomination for Best Actor in seven years.
Less than two years after the Watergate scandal, Hoffman and Robert Redford starred as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, respectively, in All the President's Men (1976). Hoffman next starred in Marathon Man (also 1976), a film based on William Goldman's novel of the same name, opposite Roy Scheider. Hoffman's next roles were less successful. He opted out of directing Straight Time (1978) but starred as a thief. His next film, Michael Apted's Agatha, was with Vanessa Redgrave as Agatha Christie.
Hoffman next starred in Robert Benton's Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) as workaholic Ted Kramer whose wife (Meryl Streep) unexpectedly leaves him; he raises their son alone. Hoffman gained his first Academy Award, and the film also received the Best Picture honor, plus the awards for Best Supporting Actress (Streep) and Director.
In Tootsie (1982), Hoffman portrays Michael Dorsey, a struggling actor who finds himself dressing up as a woman to land a role on a soap opera. His co-star was Jessica Lange. Tootsie earned ten Academy Award nominations, including Hoffman's fifth nomination.
In director Barry Levinson's Rain Man (1988), Hoffman starred as an autistic savant, opposite Tom Cruise. Levinson, Hoffman and Cruise worked for two years on the film, and his performance garnered Hoffman his second Academy Award. Upon accepting, Hoffman stated softly to his fellow nominees that it was okay if they didn't vote for him because "I didn't vote for you guys either."
Throughout the 1990s, Hoffman appeared in many large, studio films, such as Dick Tracy (1990), Hero (1992) and the ill-fated Billy Bathgate (1991) co-starring with Nicole Kidman who was nominated for a Golden Globe). Hoffman also played the title role of Captain Hook in Steven Spielberg's Hook (also 1991), earning a Golden Globe nomination; in this movie, Hoffman's costume was so heavy that he had to wear an air-conditioned suit under it.
Hoffman next appeared in Moonlight Mile (2002), followed by Confidence (2003) opposite Edward Burns, Andy Garcia and Rachel Weisz. Hoffman finally had a chance to work with Gene Hackman, in Gary Fleder's Runaway Jury (also 2003), an adaptation of John Grisham's bestselling novel.
Seven years after his nomination for Wag the Dog, Hoffman got a second opportunity to perform again with Robert De Niro, co-starring with Barbra Streisand and Ben Stiller in the 2004 comedy Meet the Fockers, a sequel to Meet the Parents (2000). Hoffman won the 2005 MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance.
He appeared in Little Fockers, the critically panned, 2010 sequel to Meet the Fockers, this time in a much smaller role. In 2011, Hoffman reprised his role as Shifu in Kung Fu Panda 2.
Hoffman married Anne Byrne in May 1969. The couple had two children, Karina (born 1966) and Jenna (born 1970). Karina is adopted. The couple divorced in 1980.
He married attorney Lisa Hoffman (nee Gottsegen) in October 1980; they have four children - Jacob Edward (born 1981), Rebecca (born 1983), Maxwell Geoffrey (born 1984), and Alexandra Lydia (born 1987). Hoffman also has two grandchildren. In an interview, he said that he is a more observant Jew now than when he was younger; he also lamented that he is not fluent in Hebrew.
In 1970, Hoffman and Byrne were living in Greenwich Village in a building next door to the townhouse destroyed by members of the Weathermen when they detonated a bomb in the building's basement, killing three people. In the 2002 documentary The Weather Underground, Hoffman can be seen standing in the street during the aftermath of the explosion.