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Dustin Hoffman (1937)

Born in Los Angeles, Dustin Hoffman was named after actor Dustin Farnum. His father was in the entertainment business. Hoffman's mother also left her theatrical aspirations to raise Hoffman and his older brother. Performing came naturally to Hoffman, who remembers clowning around for the benefit of his elementary school classmates. By the time he arrived at Los Angeles High School, however, Hoffman had been stricken with the teenage terrors of braces and bad acne, so he mostly kept to himself. After graduation, he bounced around between the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Santa Monica City College, where a professor re-ignited his interest in theater. Hoffman started taking classes at the famed Pasadena Playhouse, where he struck up a friendship with a fellow student Gene Hackman. The two were voted "Least Likely to Succeed." Dustin and Gene went to New York to seek work, and boarded together until Hoffman could find his own place. In 1960, Hoffman got his first paying role in a Sarah Lawrence College production of Yes Is for a Very Young Man, and he made his Broadway debut at the Playhouse Theater the very next year, in A Cook for Mr. General. Over the next six years he took Broadway roles whenever he could get them and also appeared in episodes of such television series as The Naked City and The Defenders. His first feature film came in 1967 but next tried for a part in The Graduate, but his audition went poorly. Fortunately for Hoffman, director Mike Nichols was familiar with his stage work and eventually offered him the role in spite of his inauspicious first reading. Though The Graduate was a monstrous commercial success, it was Hoffman's next film, Midnight Cowboy, that earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination. He achieved four Oscar nominations before grabbing the golden statuette for his role in Kramer vs. Kramer. Though he only made four films during the eighties, Hoffman collected a Best Actor Oscar for one of them, Rain Man. He also made a dramatic return to the stage with widely acclaimed performances in the title roles of Death of a Salesman (on Broadway) and The Merchant of Venice (in London's West End). Other notable movies of Hoffman's career include All The President's Men (1976, with Robert Redford), the cross-dressing comedy Tootsie (1982), the famous flop Ishtar (1987, co-starring Warren Beatty), and the political satire Wag The Dog (1997, with Robert DeNiro).

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