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Academy Award–winning actor Dustin Hoffman starred in films like The Graduate (1967), Tootsie (1982), and Meet the Fockers (2004).
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Dustin Hoffman (born 1937) began acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he met fellow actor Gene Hackman. After a string of bit parts in television shows and films, he got his break with 1967's The Graduate. After ten more films and three nominations,
"I lived below the official American poverty line until I was 31."
"About the time I realized we were Jews, maybe when I was about 10, I went to the delicatessen and ordered bagels and draped them around the tree."
"One thing about being successful is that I stopped being afraid of dying. Once you're a star you're dead already. You're embalmed."
About co-star Meryl Streep: "She's an ox when it comes to acting. She eats words for breakfast. Working with her is like playing tennis with Chris Evert—she keeps trying to hit the perfect ball."
Hoffman won the Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Other notable movies include Tootsie (1982), Rain Man (1988), and Meet the Fockers (2004).
Dustin Lee Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, California, on August 8, 1937, to Lillian and Harry Hoffman. Though the family is Jewish, Hoffman and his brother were not raised in a religiously observant family. When asked about the family's observance of the holidays, Hoffman once said, "About the time I realized we were Jews, maybe when I was about 10, I went to the delicatessen and ordered bagels and draped them around the tree."
Hoffman's acting career began when at age 19 he dropped out of college to pursue the stage at the Pasadena Playhouse. There, Hoffman befriended another young actor, Gene Hackman. Eventually, the two would move to New York City together, looking for work in television and in off-Broadway plays. An unconventional-looking actor for the time period, Hoffman had difficulty getting roles in an industry primarily looking for pretty faces. To make ends meet, he took got odd jobs and the occasional bit role to pay the bills. He later recounted, "I lived below the official American poverty line until I was 31."
Slowly but surely, Hoffman began building a critical reputation through smaller roles. Soon word of mouth reached Hollywood and in 1966 Mike Nichols invited the young actor to do a screen test for his upcoming movie The Graduate. Beating out Hollywood heavyweights like Robert Redford and Charles Grodin, Hoffman was stunned when he received news that he had gotten the lead role in the film. The enormously popular movie changed the landscape of American cinema in the 1960s and would in turn make Hoffman an unlikely star.
Before returning to the big screen, the newly minted Academy Award nominee acted in a few Broadway productions, one of which garnered him a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. In 1969, Hoffman struck gold again with the gritty Midnight Cowboy, in which he played the part of Ratso Rizzo, a homeless man in New York City. This performance won him a second Oscar nomination.
On a roll in the 1970s, Hoffman acted in more than 10 movies and, after three nominations, finally won an Oscar for his performance in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). The movie, which costarred Meryl Streep, went on to win numerous Academy Awards. When asked about working with the talented actress, Hoffman said, "She's an ox when it comes to acting. She eats words for breakfast. Working with her is like playing tennis with Chris Evert—she keeps trying to hit the perfect ball."
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