Saturday, January 19, 2013
Article: Dustin Hoffman: What I've Learned
Esquire Magazine 2007
I don't understand boredom. All you have to do is walk around the house as if you were blind. How could you be bored? Depressed, yes. That's a different ball game. I know depression. I know every degree of it. But not boredom.
You take the laughs out of Rain Man and it's not the same movie. When we're in the phone booth and I fart, that was a fart. That wasn't written in the script. We were waiting to do the shot and Barry Levinson had the earphones on. The door closed and I snuck one out. We're tight in there, you know. And Cruise looked at me and said: "Did you fart?" And I said, "Yeah." But I stayed in character. "Fart." Barry heard it and he came running over in hysterics and said, "That's in the scene. Put it in, wherever you want." That's a good director: someone who takes advantage of accidents.
Seeing bad work is one of the most painful experiences, because you realize how easy it is to do.
You look at some great work and you wonder: How did they know what they knew when they were twenty-five?
At one point when I was in my twenties, I became addicted to a derivative of morphine called Demerol. I'd been burned and was in the hospital for a month. When I was healing, everything was fine, and this yoke was lifted off me and there was this Zen feeling that people shoot for when they go into meditation. There was this sense of peace. I remember thinking, Why weren't we constructed this way?
I like to mimic my grandkids.
I'm trying to understand the intensity of fixation on a leaf. Kids don't need anything else in their life.
Death of a Salesman.
Once the reviews came in, the play got longer and longer, because the pauses were dramatic and the actors were milking every moment. Suddenly it was running twelve minutes long. Arthur Miller was very sensitive about this. "The audience is like a fish on a hook. I don't want them sitting back. I want them at the edge of the seat." I said, "But Arthur, sometimes the audience is laughing. They're going to lose the dialogue." He said, "Fine, lose it. I don't care. You've got to keep the play going. Do it right and you'll have ambulances lined up around the block."
Certain professions are not given their due. Costume designer is one of them.
You have to understand, they suck the life out of the set once you're ready to shoot. Okay, quiet now! Quiet! Quiet! Suddenly, they've artificialized the ambience, and this feeling of natural behavior is out. Brando would refuse to go along. He'd be talking with someone close to the camera: "What'd you do this weekend? You grilled? What'd you grill?" Action! Then he'd step right into the scene. He wanted the same reality.
There's only one thing that doesn't date. Poverty is not dated. Homeless people have looked the same since the thirteenth century. Go back to the times of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Look at photographs. It's amazing. The face on a homeless person is timeless.
Midnight Cowboy was done on a low budget.
You gotta have money to pay for a scene that includes a bunch of people on the street in midtown Manhattan. So Jon Voight and I were walking in regular traffic and being filmed by a camera hidden in a van across the street. That's a stolen shot. That was a cab that almost hit us. In my brain, I wanted to say, "We're making a movie here, asshole!" But your brain knows that would ruin the take. So I'm walking here! really means We're shooting a film here!
I just started jumping rope again. I like to do it to "La Bamba." Record it over and over and over again so that it runs for an hour. It's best if you can do it like a boxer, with your feet moving up and back so that they're not jumping up and down. It's easier on your knees. And it's great just to listen to "La Bamba."
Courageous? How's this: Jake was a month premature. The placenta had torn off the wall and Lisa was hemorrhaging. Like in one of those TV shows, the doctor got her on a gurney and said we had to hurry. "I need anesthesia! I need this! I need that!" Later we were told that we had a twelve-minute window. Lisa would have expired and Jake would have gone with her. Lisa could sense the urgency of it. She said quietly to the doctor, "If you have a choice, you make sure to save the baby." Just like that. Simple. I don't know anything more courageous. If a man was in that situation, the guy would say, "There's got to be a way to save both of us." Men would negotiate. There has to be a way.
How has God changed for me since the time I was six years old?