Dustin Hoffman has called this Golden Globe winner for best comedy or musical, if not the best film he ever made, certainly the best directed. And in fact, he owes his career to director Mike Nichols, who cast him to play a role which was described as an all-American pretty boy in the novel on which it was based, a role which might’ve gone to Robert Redford.
Hoffman brought a comic sensibility to the part, which was a perfect match for Nichols’ groundbreaking quirky sophistication. Through word of mouth, the film became the most popular movie of the year and made a fortune for Joseph E. Levine’s Embassy Pictures, which was known for releasing dubbed versions of Italian imports (Hercules). It grossed $104.9 million, which, if adjusted for inflation, would be $754 million today.
The film owed much to Simon and Garfunkel. Their already chart-topping songs, particularly “The Sound of Silence,” were an essential element of the film, and even the one they wrote for the film “Mrs. Robinson” was actually a reworking of a planned song “Mrs. Roosevelt.” In what is conceivably the biggest blunder in Golden Globe history, the best song that year was awarded to “If Ever I Should Leave You” from Lerner and Lowe’s Camelot, deemed an original written for the film.
Anne Bancroft won for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy and Richard Harris best actor for Camelot. Even though Bancroft had won the Oscar five years earlier, this is the performance that made her a superstar. Surprisingly, the role was first offered to Doris Day, who turned it down. Ironically in a long career that has spanned 50 years and eighty films, Hoffman never worked again with Nichols, who died in 2014.
At his recent press conference for the Meyerowitz Stories, Hoffman revealed that the only time he was offered a chance to work with him was for a proposed film of Rambo, but not the Sylvester Stallone version of the novel. Obviously, that didn’t work out.