Not many actors can boast that three of his or her films were featured in Tablet Magazine’s 100 Greatest Jewish Films. Adding to the plaudits, all three Dustin Hoffman films that grace our list, including a Top 10 finish for “The Graduate,” were written about by Jody Rosen–definitive proof that if Jody Rosen has a crush on your stuff then it means your life is a success.
But Hoffman may have always been destined for celluloid glory: his father was a prop supervisor and set director and his mother, who wanted to be a classical pianist, named her son after silent screen cowboy Dustin Farnum. That’s not to say that his path to success was easy. In a story about Hoffman’s first encounter with producer Joseph Levine, who made Hoffman a star with “The Graduate,” Levine apparently first mistook Hoffman for a window washer. Handed such fecund material, Hoffman took out his kerchief and began wiping down a window. (Little known fact: Hoffman’s winning of the lead role in “The Graduate” prevented him from playing Franz Liebkind in Mel Brooks’ film “The Producers.”)
Hoffman was not raised religious or observant and those looking for proof of his fealty to Jewish causes may be disheartened by his calling off of talks to participate in the 2010 Jerusalem Film Festival, which happened in the days following the Israeli raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara (a rep for Hoffman said it had nothing to do with that). Hoffman was also willing to shill for Volkswagen back in 1967, but any grudge held for that offense should be forgiven because the commercial is so ridiculously awesome:
At 75, Hoffman can look back on a full career that has allowed him to play young troubled men (and women), Captain Hook, middle-aged antiheroes, a shrink in a 50 Cent rap video, and grandfather figures as well as voice an array of quirky cartoon characters. All this work across the spectrum of drama, comedy, and some shlock. And to think his older brother is a lawyer!
Happy birthday, Dustin Hoffman!
Dustin Hoffman [Playboy]