Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal ArtsNomina
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ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
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Dustin Lee Hoffman (born 1937 in the USA) – American theater and film actor, film director and producer, two-time Academy Award winner (1980, 1989; nominated 5 more times), six-time Golden Globe winner (1968, 1980, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1997; nominated 7 more times) and 3-time BAFTA winner (1969, 1970, 1984; nominated 5 more times). For his life achievements in the field of world cinema, Hoffman was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear of the Berlin Film Festival (1989), the Honorary Cesar Prize (2009) and the Special Prize of the American Film Institute (1999).




Not a very large area of ​​Los Angeles, which does not even have its own municipality, nevertheless, it is noticeable not only on the map of this city or on the map of the United States, but on the world map. Yes, it is only a small part of the city, which is not even the capital of a state – but it is the capital of world cinema!

Its very name – Hollywood – has already become a household name. From this word, other words with a similar meaning are already formed – for example, Bollywood in India, its own mini-Hollywood in the former Bombay, now Mumbai. And that’s not all – there is also Tollywood (films in Telugu language), and Collywood (in Tamil), and a few more smaller studios – Mollywood, Olllywood and others…

Since a film studio has been working for the whole world, it means that the roots of its stars should be not only American. Charlie Chaplin is from England, Greta Garbo is from Sweden, James Belushi is Albanian, Bert Lancaster is Irish, Henry Fonda is Dutch, Liza Minnelli has an Italian father, Kirk Douglas has parents from Mogilev – in general, the whole world!

What about Ukrainian roots? There is also enough – it has already been written about Sylvester Stallone, about Milla Jovovich, Mila Kunis, Leonardo DiCaprio, David Duchovny, Jack Palance, Olga Kurylenko, Liv Tyler and many more should be written in the future.

It is not to mention the harsh critiс of modern Hollywood, which at the beginning of the millennium said in an interview that the golden age of Hollywood is over and television is taking over from it. But he has created many great roles in Hollywood that are worth talking about in more detail.




He was born almost in Hollywood – even the hospital in which he was born is now called Hollywood Presbyterian. His mother was a pianist, his father was an assistant stage director, a property master and a decorator, poorly managing his own business.

His grandfather also bore the usual surname Goikhman for his hometown Bila Tserkva, but after he made the decision to emigrate because of the pogroms, he Americanized it, as many did, and became Hoffman, and his son married a girl from the Romanian city of Iasi.

The Hoffman couple gave their second son the name Dustin. It is often written that his mother named him after the actor and singer Dustin Farnum, but she later said that it was not true and she was not so old to remember the artist who died 9 years before the birth of her son. She just liked the name.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
In childhood

His father told the boy a lot about Hollywood, and his older brother Ronald even starred as an extra in the famous film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, so the scene interested him quite early. In addition, he learned to play the piano and, like many, sold newspapers on the street.




He first appeared on stage in the seventh grade, in a play based on Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Some bully persuaded him that it was necessary for the audience to remember him, to say at the end of the performance in falsetto, “God bless us, damn it!” and a day later he was expelled from school.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
In youth

He nevertheless graduated from school and entered the Los Angeles Conservatory in the piano department. He recalled himself as “a child who was always too young, had braces on his teeth, and had one of the worst acne collections in all of Los Angeles”.

But two years of studying music could not discourage him from becoming interested in the acting profession. He left the Conservatory and entered the Pasadena Playhouse Acting School. There he got his first role – a lawyer in the play View from the Bridge by the third husband of Marilyn Monroe Arthur Miller.

Dustin recalled, “I got into acting, and therefore could date girls. The beautiful ones came later… I wanted to start with those who had two legs, who could smile and be gentle. When it came to kissing, I could never do it… The first time I kissed, you will not believe, in my class, where there was a task to take a girl in my arms and kiss her lips. “

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
In young age

It, of course, pleased him – but not the stage success. He was told that there was something in him, but people needed to see it, and it would not happen soon – in ten years. He did not agree to wait so long, but did not see a chance that it would be different in California, and decided to leave it.




After moving to New York, Hoffman decided to try to enroll in Lee Strasberg’s Acting Studio, which trained superstars such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando. Four times he came to audition – one was worse than the other. He realized that he could not get there, and began to look for other studios. But after a while they called him and said that he was accepted.

It was necessary not only to study, but also to earn a living, and the young actor did little to disdain. He worked as a psychiatrist’s assistant in a mental hospital, as a typesetter in one of the offices, as a toy demonstrator in Macy’s department store. And then he became a cloakroom attendant in one of the New York theaters – to watch the actors play and learn from them during the performance.

In 1966, he graduated from the studio, received a diploma and won a role in the play The Journey of the Fifth Horse, where he played an old mischievous clerk so well that he received the first Obie Award for Best Actor in the Off-Broadway Theater.

It is worth mentioning his first major role in the play by Henry Livings with the laconic title Eh? – critics called his style of playing “a mixture of Ringo Starr and Buster Keaton” and recalled the performance of Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times. For this role, he received two theater awards at once.




With such regalia, he became a famous theater actor, and it is only one step from this position to a movie actor. His first role in the comedy The Tiger Makes Out, starring Eli Wallach (remember Calverra from The Magnificent Seven? – it is he), was already 45 seconds of screen time.

He played his micro role of an eccentric hippie perfectly, but in the list of roles he was already nineteenth – 45 seconds is still not much. It was worse with the next film Madigan’s Millions – the script was not so good, the budget was even worse, but at the last moment he replaced the famous actor George Raft, who suddenly refused the role: it was an honor to replace such a person!

And in his first serious debut, The Graduate, Dustin, who has already reached thirty, played a twenty-year-old anxious virgin seduced by an experienced lady. He absolutely did not correspond to the image prescribed in the script, but at the auditions he played so that the director gladly took a brunette of average height instead of the planned tall blond surfer.

The film was a success and Hoffman was noticed. Director Mike Nichols won an Oscar, and of the five Golden Globes and five BAFTAs, two went to Hoffman – Globe for Best Debut and BAFTA for Debut starring. He was even nominated for an Oscar, but was not given – it was early…




The next work did not bode well – the budget of the film Midnight Cowboy was modest, the novel on which the film was filmed did not make me happy (I read it on purpose later), and the character was just horrible – a beggar, a homeless cripple and a crook nicknamed the Little Rat.

In addition to it, the film received an “X” rating from the authorities, which is typical for soft porn (there was enough said about prostitution, including male, and about same-sex love). And the main role was played by a debutant who first got a role in this particular film – there was no other.

However, this debutant turned out to be Jon Voight, better known to us as the father of Angelina Jolie. But it, by the way, is unfair – now he is a superstar and an actor, in my opinion, is clearly better than his daughter. The role is still the same – he plays a simple guy from a gas station who buys a cowboy suit and leaves for New York to become a “call boy” there: what’s it like?

Hoffman’s character, the Little Rat, cheats him up, blowing out some pennies, promises to put him with serious pimps and does nothing for him. He finds the Rat, but does not beat him half to death, as he was going to, but becomes his friend… Can you believe it? They play in such a way that you believe them unconditionally, moreover, you start to really sympathize with them.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
Voight and Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy

And when, at the end of the film, the Little Rat with tuberculosis goes with a friend in a bus to warm Florida, but does not reach and dies right in the chair, and the driver says that there is nothing to do – we have to go further and Voight’s hero continues his way to the already unnecessary warm lands, hugging a corpse of the only friend, just gasps. The film is heavy, but you must watch it.

Film critics’ predictions of failure were ridiculous. The film won three Oscars (Hoffman was also nominated, but the award was not given), double-digit number of other film awards, was included in the list of the best 100 paintings in the United States and the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.


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There is nothing surprising in the fact that after such an incredibly played role, a wave of proposals falls on Hoffman, but he does not seek to abuse his popularity – he takes no more than one role a year and works on each one very scrupulously, at the limit of possibilities.

He does everything to the stop, to the click – as in the same Midnight Cowboy when he imitated a tuberculous cough so thoroughly that he vomited right on John Voight. Acting the role of the famous comedian Lenny Bruce in the film Lenny, he talked with dozens of his friends, recording everything they said on a tape recorder, and achieved an incredible likeness to the character.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner

Everyone notes his perfectionism – it is not enough for him to be good, he needs to be the best. He did not only rehearse everything in great detail, but also actively helped his colleagues in an accurate understanding of their characters. His work on the role was exemplary.

In 1979, Hoffman starred in the film Kramer vs. Kramer – a judicial drama where he plays the father, to whom his leaving wife left their son, but then decided to take him away (the film was also in the USSR). This brilliantly played role finally brings him the long-deserved Oscar. And the film itself was nominated for 50 different film awards, and 35 of them actually received.




Already a recognized master, he is invited to play in a new film directed by Sydney Pollack (we also remember him from the movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?) With a very eccentric plot – about the adventures of a man-actor disguised as a woman.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
Sydney Pollack

Hoffman, already a world-famous actor, actively influenced the filming process. He persuaded him to take on the role of his neighbor, the popular actor Bill Murray, was able to convince Sydney Pollack to play his agent and suggested calling the film by the nickname of his mother’s dog – Tootsie.

In the US cinematography, the topic of drag queen is not taboo – just remember Some Like It Hot, known in our box office as There are only girls in jazz. Dressing up and crime in Tootsie came out a little less, and paradoxes – at least the same.

The hero of the film, an unemployed actor, in order to get the role of the administrator of the hospital in the series, disguises himself as a woman and takes this role from his own girlfriend. As a result, he breaks up with her and falls in love with a filming partner, whose father wants to marry the disguised “star”… Who has not watched Tootsie, which has collected only $ 177 million in the cinema?

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
In the image of Tootsie

The film was very successful and received many awards: three Golden Globes, two BAFTAs (including Hoffman personally for Best Actor), an Oscar for an Actress in a Supporting Role… and a lot of nominations, including Hoffman for male role – but again they did not give it to him!




But the second Oscar Hoffman still received, and more than deservedly – for the most difficult job of playing the role of a person suffering from savantism (a condition in which people with disabilities have an “island of genius” in some small branch of knowledge).

To play the role truthfully, Hoffman has been actively communicating with autism patients and their families for more than a year – thoroughness and meticulousness in his work have long become his second nature. He became especially close to two of these people – they largely became the prototypes of his hero, the autistic Raymond.

According to the plot of the film, his brother Charlie, a young businessman, learns that his millionaire father left all his fortune for the autistic Raymond, and decides to take him out of the hospital and not return him there until half of the inheritance is given to him – it is such a tough beginning…

Raymond is worldly helpless enough, but he thinks like a computer and remembers exactly how many people died in plane crashes, so he refuses to fly, and Charlie is forced to take him across the country… But during this time, the relationship between them changes dramatically.

Charlie helps Raymond to better get used to this world, Raymond, thanks to his abilities, wins a lot of money in the casino and helps Charlie out of trouble. And then Charlie realizes that the “rain man” song, who sang him in childhood, is Raymond. With his help, Charlie reconciles with his girlfriend and returns his brother to the clinic, where he can visit him often.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
Rain Man

Rain Man has collected four Oscars (and personally for Hoffman), two Golden Globes, Golden Bear of the Berlin Festival and a number of other awards. And everyone who has seen the film will not forget Raymond’s constant question “Who is first base?”, even without understanding anything about baseball.




You can continue to list the successful roles of Dustin Hoffman, there are a lot of them, but these, perhaps, will be enough – almost everyone has seen and knows him. Now he is filming less, but is mastering new genres – television projects, cartoons scoring, directing (the film Quartet in 2012).

By Hollywood standards, he has a prosperous personal life. However, his first marriage with the ballerina Anne Bjorn broke up, but literally a week after the divorce, he married lawyer Lisa Gottsegen. Dustin lives well with her and raises four children (otherwise she will sue him).

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Dustin Hoffman, grandson of immigrants from Bila Tserkva, two-time Oscar winner
With wife and children

In 2012, he saved the life of a 27-year-old lawyer whose heart stopped while jogging in the park. Hoffman, walking in the same park, immediately called the emergency service, and they managed to help him. The rescued said that he was very grateful (who would doubt it!).

Let’s hope that we will still hear about the new successes of the grandson of the inhabitants of Bila Tserkva – of course, far from us, but who is to blame? Thing are only treasured after they’ve disappeared. We must at least remember about such people and live so that they do not leave us.


All illustrations from open sources

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