"Kids on the street, if they recognize me, they’ll say, ‘Hey, Ratso!’" Dustin Hoffman boasted in a rare 1971 interview, which was recently rereleased.
“I’m a star,” the phenom said during the chat, which took place a few years after his breakout roles as Midnight Cowboy’s Ratso Rizzo and The Graduate’s Benjamin Braddock. “I’m treated… like a veteran and I’m only 33.”
Dustin in the 1967 film The Graduate.
But after four decades on-screen, Dustin, 78, is less enamored with Hollywood. He recently bashed the industry, calling it “the worst film has been in the 50 years that I’ve been doing it.” He added, “It’s hard to find leading parts.”
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That’s partially a function of his age, but mostly because the film industry has changed over the last half-century, and not for the better. “When his career was at his hottest, you could do a serious movie and get well-paid for it,” The Star-Ledger critic Stephen Whitty tells Closer. “Today’s Top 10 are all superhero movies and cartoons — if you’re a 65-year-old actor, you can maybe get a job playing a superhero’s father who gets killed in the first 15 minutes.” Or in Dustin’s case, the voice of Jack Black’s mentor in the Kung Fu Panda series.
Dustin with wife Lisa Hoffman at the 2014 BAFTAs in LA.
Dustin waxes philosophical about his career’s evolution. “I was a freak accident — [The Graduate] was like a light switch went on and I was an instant star,” says the actor, whose unconventional looks made him an unlikely leading man. “You reach a certain age and you become the supporting actor. That is full circle.”
In fact, “Dustin has always seen himself as a character actor,” a friend tells Closer. “And he’s always marched to the beat of his own drummer. He’s chosen more off-the-radar film projects in recent years.” Some, like his cameo in Adam Sandler’s direct-to-video dud The Cobbler, barely even registered as a blip. “He’s an actor who wants to work,” says Whitty. “If acting is what you love, you’ve got to stay in the game.”
For the full story on Dustin, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly on newsstands now!
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