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Dustin Hoffman breaks down at Bafta talk

Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman broke down twice during an on-stage interview at Bafta as he discussed highlights of his career in cinema.

The star, who has spent 45 years in film, was first reduced to tears when recounting his experience on Kramer vs Kramer.

Before starting work on the divorce drama in 1979, Hoffman recalled: “It was a low point in my life. I was getting a divorce from my first wife. I was struggling. I had partied with drugs. It was the ‘70s and I had gone through my experimental few years doing it and it depleted me in every way.”

After initially rejecting the script, writer-director Bob Benton agreed to go into a hotel room with the actor for three months to re-write it.

“[Bob] later asked if I wanted a co-writing credit and like a fool I said no and it got the Academy Award,” he said.

But Hoffman soon became emotional when recounting how they found “the spine of that film”.

“It’s simply that people don’t split up from relationships because they’ve suddenly stopped loving each other. They wished it were. But if it is real love it doesn’t snap off like the branch of a tree. You split up because, for whatever reasons, you can’t inhabit the same space. It’s intolerable for both.”

The actor attempted to lift the mood and said: “I don’t love my first wife. I haven’t for years. My wife is here and will be wondering why I’m crying.”

Hoffman is in London to promote Quartet, his directorial debut that screened at the BFI London Film Festival on Monday.

His on-stage ‘Life in Pictures’ interview at Bafta with Radio 4 presenter Francine Stock included a look back at highlights of his career such as The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy and Tootsie.

Hoffman told how, during 1982’s Tootsie, he bumped into his acting hero Jose Ferrer in a lift at Woody Allen’s offices while dressed as character Dorothy Michaels. After passing himself off as a woman, he ended the conversation with: “Would you mind very much if I sucked your cock?”

Ferrer replied: “Not right now.” After Hoffman had left, Ferrer asked Hoffman’s friend: “Who was that scumbag of a woman?”

Hoffman said he met Ferrer again years later and said: “I gotcha!”

The actor broke down again later when recalling his time on Rain Man, in which he played an autistic man.

After initially struggling with the role, threatening to quit the film after three days, director Barry Levinson showed him footage where he had unwittingly found the character.

“It was that marvellous feeling when you find yourself in a territory when you think you’re not getting it. It’s feeling like you’re in between worlds.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Dustin has proven himself to be a very good actor and has had a career which has spanned over 50 years.The film "The Graduate" made him a star and the funny thing is they started running his VW commercial because of his new found fame. He returned to his theatre roots and I saw him in "Death of a Salesman" on Broadway and he was terrific.
    He shoul djust be smiling at this time of his life because most actors at his age aren't

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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