Dustin Lee Hoffman was born on August 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, California. His parents were Lillian and Harry Hoffman. His father worked as a furniture salesman and his mother was a jazz pianist.
Hoffman was the second oldest of two children. His older brother, Ronald, was born in 1934. When Hoffman was nine years old, the family moved to Los Angeles.
As a child, Dustin Hoffman was not a good student and often got into trouble. He has said he was “a disciplinary problem, I was very athletic but bored.” He attended Los Angeles High School and was known as a troublemaker. After graduating high school in 1954, Hoffman briefly enrolled at Santa Monica College but soon dropped out.
Acting Career Beginnings
After dropping out of college, Hoffman pursued odd jobs like working as a restaurant cashier, a typist, and a toy salesperson. During this time, he became interested in acting after befriending actor Gene Hackman. At age 19, Hoffman decided to join the Pasadena Playhouse to study acting. He spent several years honing his craft at the Playhouse.
In 1960, Hoffman moved to New York City to seek acting work. He struggled for many years as a struggling actor, taking minor roles in Broadway shows and TV commercials. His first screen role was an uncredited appearance in the TV series Naked City in 1961.
Hoffman’s first major role was in the Broadway musical Eh? in 1966, where he was noticed by famous director Mike Nichols. This launched Hoffman’s film career.
Breakthrough Role in The Graduate
Hoffman gained widespread fame after starring in the 1967 film The Graduate alongside Anne Bancroft. Hoffman played the role of Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who has an affair with an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (played by Bancroft).
The film was a massive hit, grossing over $100 million. Hoffman’s performance was critically acclaimed, earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Though he didn’t win the Oscar, the role made Hoffman an overnight star.
After this breakthrough role, Hoffman went on to star in a string of successful films throughout the late 1960s and 1970s.
Notable Films of the 1960s-1970s
- Midnight Cowboy (1969) – Hoffman played “Ratso” Rizzo, earning his second Oscar nomination.
- Little Big Man (1970)
- Straw Dogs (1971)
- Papillon (1973) – opposite Steve McQueen
- Lenny (1974) – portrayed comedian Lenny Bruce, earned Hoffman his third Oscar nomination
- All the President’s Men (1976) – portrayed reporter Carl Bernstein
- Marathon Man (1976)
Hoffman continued to showcase his acting chops by portraying antiheroes and vulnerable, troubled characters. His collaborations with directors like Mike Nichols established him as one of the most versatile actors of the era.
First Oscar Win for Kramer vs. Kramer
In 1979, Hoffman finally won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Kramer vs. Kramer. He portrayed Ted Kramer, a man who must raise his son after his wife (played by Meryl Streep) abandons them.
The critically acclaimed drama dominated the Oscars that year, winning five awards including Best Picture. Hoffman’s emotional performance as a single father earned widespread praise and cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s greatest actors.
Fun fact: Streep and Hoffman did not get along during filming. At the Oscars, Hoffman joked “I’d like to thank Meryl for not making my life any easier.”
Continued Acclaim in the 1980s
Even after winning an Oscar, Hoffman continued taking on challenging roles in the 1980s that showcased his versatility:
- Tootsie (1982) – Hoffman played an unemployed actor who dresses as a woman to land a role on a soap opera
- Death of a Salesman (1985) – portrayed Willy Loman in TV film adaptation of famous play
- Rain Man (1988) – played autistic savant opposite Tom Cruise, earned second Oscar for Best Actor
Hoffman also made his film directorial debut in 1982 with Quartet.
His performance in Rain Man was praised for bringing empathy and humanity to the portrayal of an autistic character. Hoffman spent months researching his role to accurately depict the disorder.
Career From the 1990s Onwards
In the 1990s and beyond, Hoffman continued working steadily in a variety of films:
- Hook (1991) – played the villainous Captain Hook opposite Robin Williams
- Hero (1992)
- Outbreak (1995)
- Wag the Dog (1997)
- Meet the Fockers (2004) – played Bernie Focker in hit comedy franchise
- The Lost City (2022) – supporting role in action comedy film
He also appeared in several TV shows and films playing himself, parodying his serious actor persona. These included cameo roles in The Simpsons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and comedy films like Dick Tracy (1990).
Some of Hoffman’s other notable later films include:
- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)
- Kung Fu Panda film series (voice acting role as Master Shifu)
- The Cobbler (2014)
- Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot (2015)
Now in his mid-80s, Hoffman continues to work in the entertainment industry sporadically. He is widely considered one of the greatest actors of his generation with a career spanning over 60 years.
In addition to acting, Hoffman has directed several films:
- Quartet (1982) – Hoffman’s directorial debut
- Straight Time (1978)
- American Buffalo (1996)
- Outbreak (1995) – Hoffman did some uncredited directing
While he has directed far fewer movies than he’s acted in, Hoffman has proven to be a capable filmmaker. He often collaborates with actors to bring out their best performances.
Hoffman has been married twice:
- Anne Byrne (1969-1980) – Hoffman married Byrne in 1969. They had two children together – Karina (b. 1966) and Jenna (b. 1970) – before divorcing in 1980.
- Lisa Gottsegen Hoffman (1980-present) – Hoffman married Lisa in 1980. They have four children together – Jacob Edward (b. 1981), Rebecca Lillian (b. 1983), Maxwell Geoffrey (b. 1984), and Alexandra Lydia (b. 1987).
Hoffman resides primarily in Los Angeles with his wife Lisa. His children have also pursued careers in acting and filmmaking.
Despite being known for portraying antiheroes, Hoffman has a reputation as a kind person. He is also known to be very private.
Some of Hoffman’s hobbies and interests outside of acting include:
- Tennis – Hoffman is an avid tennis player and enjoys playing regularly
- Music – He has a passion for jazz music and plays piano
- Political activism – Hoffman supports various liberal causes and democratic politicians
Over his long career, Hoffman has avoided many of the downfalls of fame and maintained a steady, humble persona off-screen. He continues to be regarded as one of Hollywood’s “good guys.”
Accolades and Achievements
Dustin Hoffman has won numerous awards and honors for his acclaimed acting career:
- 7 Academy Award nominations, won 2 Oscars for Best Actor
- 6 Golden Globe wins out of 13 nominations
- BAFTA Award for Best Actor for Rain Man (1989)
- Cannes Best Actor Award for Marathon Man (1977)
- Cecil B. DeMille Award (2017)
- Kennedy Center Honors Award (2012)
- AFI Life Achievement Award (1999)
Some other major honors include:
- Named by Premiere magazine as the greatest actor in history (1998)
- Received the Honorary César award, France’s highest film honor (2012)
- Hollywood Walk of Fame star (1997)
- BAFTA Fellowship (2016)
Hoffman also has a thriving career on Broadway, earning multiple Tony Award nominations and wins for his stage performances in musicals and plays.
With his extensive filmography and award-winning performances in Hollywood and theater, Hoffman has cemented his legacy as one of the most iconic and celebrated actors of the 20th century.
Acting Style and Legacy
What makes Dustin Hoffman such an exceptional actor? A few key points about his acting style and legacy:
- Method acting – Hoffman is renowned for his intense method acting approach. He immerses himself fully into character.
- Realistic portrayals – Hoffman is known for bringing honesty and realism to his roles, avoiding caricature-like acting.
- Vulnerable characters – Many of Hoffman’s acclaimed roles involve playing antiheroes or men in crisis. He expertly portrays vulnerability.
- Comedic skills – Hoffman has proven adept at comedy as well, showing off excellent comedic timing in films like Tootsie.
- Lasting impact – Hoffman’s career has spanned over 6 decades and he continues to have an influence on actors today. His roles are considered classics.
- Versatility – Few actors have shown such incredible range as Hoffman, from cold and calculating villains to warm and likable characters.
- Authenticity – There is an authenticity to Hoffman’s portrayals. He inhabits characters fully and convincingly.
Dustin Hoffman’s legacy as one of the greatest actors of the 20th century is well cemented. His method acting approach and knack for bringing honesty and realism to roles of all types has made a lasting impact on cinema. Hoffman’s films stand the test of time as classics of American cinema.
In summary, Dustin Hoffman is considered one of the most talented and decorated actors of the 20th century. Over a career spanning more than 60 years, he has left an indelible mark on cinema with his portrayals of vulnerable antiheroes and ability to inhabit roles fully and authentically.
Hoffman first rose to prominence with his breakthrough performance in The Graduate in 1967. He went on to star in an impressive string of acclaimed films that showcased his versatility, comedic skills, and intense commitment to method acting. Hoffman finally won an Oscar for Best Actor for his heartbreaking performance in Kramer vs. Kramer in 1979.
Even after winning Hollywood’s highest honor, Hoffman continued challenging himself with complex roles in films like Tootsie, Rain Man, and Wag the Dog. He also occasionally worked as a director, helming films like Quartet and Straight Time. Beyond the big screen, Hoffman has an extensive resume of successful Broadway performances as well.
Now in his mid-80s, Hoffman has secured a lasting legacy. He is renowned for his realistic portrayals and vulnerability on screen, his dedication to method acting techniques, and for excelling in both comedic and dramatic roles. With two Oscar wins and seven nominations to his name, along with many other accolades, Hoffman is rightfully considered one of the greatest actors in American film history. His career serves as an inspiration to actors today.
Frequently Asked Questions about Dustin Hoffman’s Life and Career
When and where was Dustin Hoffman born?
Dustin Hoffman was born on August 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, California.
What was Dustin Hoffman’s big break as an actor?
Hoffman’s big break was being cast in the role of Benjamin Braddock in the 1967 film The Graduate. His critically acclaimed performance as Braddock propelled him to instant stardom.
How many Oscar awards has Dustin Hoffman won?
Hoffman has won two Academy Awards for Best Actor – for Kramer vs. Kramer in 1979 and Rain Man in 1988. He has been nominated for seven Oscars in total over his career.
What was the first Oscar nomination Dustin Hoffman received?
Hoffman’s first Oscar nomination was for Best Actor for his role as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate in 1967. He lost to Rod Steiger that year.
Which actor did Hoffman co-star with in the Rain Man film?
Hoffman co-starred with Tom Cruise in the 1988 movie Rain Man. Hoffman played autistic savant Raymond Babbitt while Cruise played his younger brother Charlie.
Is Dustin Hoffman married?
Yes, Hoffman has been married twice – first to Anne Byrne from 1969-1980 and then to his current wife Lisa Gottsegen Hoffman since 1980. He has six children total from both marriages.
What was Hoffman’s big Broadway hit in 1968?
In 1968, Hoffman starred in a Broadway production of Jimmy Shine. Hoffman’s performance earned him a Theatre World Award and drew the attention of Hollywood, further spurring his film career.
What political movement did Hoffman support in the 1970s?
In the 70s, Hoffman was a prominent supporter of the American Indian Movement. He participated in protests advocating for Native American rights.
When did Hoffman make his directorial debut?
Hoffman directed his first feature film Quartet in 1982. The romantic comedy drama starred Hoffman along with Maggie Smith and Alan Bates.
How many children does Dustin Hoffman have?
Hoffman has six children – two daughters named Karina and Jenna from his first marriage, and four children – Jacob, Rebecca, Maxwell, and Alexandra with his wife Lisa whom he married in 1980.