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Dustin Hoffman - The Unlikely Cowboy
 
Dustin Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, in the family of Harry Hoffman, a former worker at the Columbia Pictures studios and the descendant of an Ashkenazi  Jewish family who immigrated to America from Ukraine (then part of the Russian empire) and Romania at the end of the XIX century. Despite the ancestry, Hoffmann’s upbringing was not observant – his father was rather atheist than religious. His father was probably one of the main reasons Dustin decided on a career in acting: Harry would come back home from work and tell his son a dozen or so stories about Hollywood’s inner life he heard in the studios.
 
The boy was very slow to grow up – he had not been able to talk until the age of three; this, however, was compensated by his inexhaustible energy and pluck – at the age of two and a half, as his mother would later tell journalists ,  he tried to ride a scooter!
 
His career in acting, as with many a famous actor, was more accidental. Even at an early age he was discouraged by some of his relatives, who told him he did not have the looks to appear on the silver screen. And so he chose the career of a classical pianist, showing quite some promise… But then, while studying at the Santa Monica college he, being extremely shy but very interested in girls, decided to take acting classes, where he could socialize with female co-students in a relaxed atmosphere. There he “caught the acting bug” and got a role in a play at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1960 – together with the future Oscar winner Gene Hackman. Later he moved to New York and starred on Broadway.
 
Hoffmann made his film debut in The Tiger Makes Out in 1967. The same year he starred in The Graduate, the film that brought him his first Academy Award nomination and the passionate love of film executives – he earned Embassy Pictures millions upon millions in ticket sales. Even more, fans swamped the studios and newspapers with letters praising the acting of Hoffmann. 
 
Midnight Cowboy followed in 1969; later Hoffman would tell biographers that the only reason he accepted the role instead of going back to Broadway and continue acting of theater stage was the desire to prove to his critics they were wrong to doubt his acting range. His later works were further proof of his ability to play extremely different characters: Kramer vs Kramer (his first Academy Award), Tootsie (Oscar nomination) and Rain Man (his second Academy Award).
 
Dustin debuted as a director in 2012 with the film Quartet.
 
Hoffmann’s personal life has been as rich as his acting career. He is the father of two children from the first marriage with ballerina Anne Byrne in 1969.
 
The marriage ended in 1980 because of tensions, created by Anne’s desire to go back on stage (she left ballet right after the wedding to take care of the family): Dustin had to take all family responsibilities upon himself and even had to refuse a very lucrative role.
 
He also has four more children from the marriage with Lisa Gottsegen in 1980. He even has two grandchildren. Interestingly, his work (and probably an accident in 1970 when a bomb constructed by a member of the Weathermen who lived in Hoffmann’s basement accidentally went off – the family miraculously survived) led him to become a much more religious man: all of his children from the second marriage had bar or bat mitzvah.
 
Sources:
"Dustin Hoffman Biography" - Biography.com  May 11, 2010.
"Hollywood Legend Talks Films and Faith" - Curt  Schleier / Forward.com. April 15, 2013.
 

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