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Male actors have often donned drag for successful film roles, among them Lon Chaney in both versions of The Unholy Three (1925 & 1930), Jack Benny in Charley's Aunt (1941), Cary Grant in I was a Male War Bride (1949), Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot (1959), Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman in Ski Party (1965), Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), Nathan Lane in The Birdcage (1996).
The same year Dustin Hoffman was Oscar®-nominated for playing a man disguised as a woman to advance his show business career, Julie Andrews was nominated for playing a woman disguised as a man who advances her show business career by posing as a female impersonator in Victor/Victoria (1982). Also the same year, Barbra Streisand masqueraded as a young male scholar in Yentl (1982).
A new special edition DVD of the film includes a deleted scene of Dorothy Michaels being interviewed by film reviewer Gene Shalit.
The movie's theme song, "All of My Life (It Might Be You)" was a radio hit for Stephen Bishop.
A Thai-produced action comedy was at least partly inspired by this film, as well as a parody of Steven Spielberg's hit war movie entitled Saving Private Tootsie (2002), in which a group of transvestites involved in a border dispute are rescued by a platoon of soldiers, who must put aside their prejudices to carry out the mission.
by Rob Nixon
The movie cost $20-25 million (expensive for its time) but grossed more than $177 million in the U.S. alone. It was the number two box office success for 1983 and in 1985 was number 10 on the list of the 25 highest-grossing movies of all time.
The Ratings Board originally gave the film an R rating, largely because of the brief use of the "F" word in the scene where Michael prepares Sandy for her audition. Pollack appealed and got a PG rating.
After a background in television directing, Sydney Pollack went on to have one of the most successful contemporary film careers, both behind the camera and as an occasional actor. He won a Best Director Academy Award for Out of Africa (1985), and in addition to Tootsie was also nominated for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). He also directed Bobby Deerfield (1977), Absence of Malice (1981), The Firm (1993) and Random Hearts (1999), as well as several other popular and acclaimed works.
As a producer, Pollack has overseen the production of 39 films, both his own and other directors', including The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and Cold Mountain (2003).
As an actor, Pollack has made appearances in several of his own movies as well as such films as Robert Altman's The Player (1992), Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives (1992) and Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
Pollack met Robert Redford when both were in the cast of War Hunt (1962). The two became good friends and collaborators. Pollack directed Redford in seven films: This Property Is Condemned (1966), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Electric Horseman (1979), Out of Africa (1985) and Havana (1990).
Larry Gelbart began his writing career in the 1950s on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, a TV series that also boosted the careers of comedy writers Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. He was also the Emmy-winning writer of the TV series M.A.S.H.. Gelbart wrote the play A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which was made into a film in 1966.
by Rob Nixon
The original concept for Tootsie came from different sources. Whoever was first is still a matter of some dispute, and the number of people who contributed to the idea and the script resulted in the need for arbitration by the Writers Guild of America.
During the filming of Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Dustin Hoffman, cast as a man who suddenly finds himself playing both mother and father to his young son, began to speculate what it might be like to play a woman on screen. He brought in his good friend, playwright Murray Schisgal, to start developing a story for Hoffman's imagined female persona, Shirley. Some sources credit Schisgal for the first draft of the script and Hoffman for the original concept.
Other sources say the original idea came from writer Don McGuire who, in the mid-70s, wrote a draft of a comedy to be entitled "Paging Donna Darling," later called "Would I Lie to You?" It was the story of a down-and-out actor working in a drag club whose agent lands him a role as a female character on a soap opera. The part of the agent was meant to be played by comedian Buddy Hackett, the actor by George Hamilton, and Dick Richards was set to direct. Other writers, including Robert Kaufman, had a go at this version.
At some point, the Hoffman/Schisgal idea met up with McGuire's and plans moved forward to develop a screenplay with Hoffman in mind. Hal Ashby, the director of Coming Home (1978) and Being There (1979), was then lined up to direct, with Richards taking on the producer function.
Comedy writer Larry Gelbart, best known for the TV series M.A.S.H., was brought in to work on the script. According to Gelbart, he met almost daily with Hoffman for a year to discuss plotline and characters. Gelbart found working with Hoffman stimulating, "almost too stimulating. His mind, when talking script, is like a Catherine Wheel - it keeps going round and round, shooting sparks off in all directions." Despite Hoffman's tendency to jump into a new idea before the two had a chance to process the last one, Gelbart said that for the most part, the actor was "fun to be with."
Gelbart said his initial meetings with Ashby did not go well; he felt the director was not on the same wavelength. Ashby was eventually replaced by Sydney Pollack, who also jumped in as co-producer with Richards.
With everyone off on different projects, it was slow going getting the script finished. Hoffman and Pollack's agents arranged for them and Gelbart to hole up in Connecticut to work on it, but Gelbart refused to leave his family. According to the writer, this soured his relationship with the other two, especially Hoffman. When the three did eventually come together in California for extensive script work, Gelbart said Hoffman accused him of creating "a subtext of contempt for his ideas."
Various other writers were brought in to work on the script, even as it was being shot. Some sources say the final version largely bears the stamp of Elaine May, who did not receive credit for her work. She did, however, receive $450,000 for three weeks work. The final cost of the screenplay alone was around $1.5 million.
The film's final title was taken from a childhood game Hoffman's mother used to play with him, throwing him in the air and saying, "How's my tootsie wootsie?"
The writers tailored the script closely to Hoffman's acting style and his reputation for being difficult and demanding, which became the basis for the Michael Dorsey character.
Although the project was designed specifically for Dustin Hoffman, he refused to play the role until he was sure he had passed a screen test as Dorothy because he wanted to be convincing as a woman and not just a parody drag act. He so identified with Dorothy that when asked during the test if she would ever have children, he broke down crying in character and responded, "I think it's a little late in the day for that." Hoffman later told The New York Times, "I felt so terrible I would never have that experience. Nothing like that ever happened to me. I've been acting for nearly 30 years and I've never had a moment like that before in my life."
Pollack hired Jessica Lange for the female lead and Hoffman brought in Bill Murray, who reportedly improvised many of his lines. Hoffman kept at Pollack to take on the role of George, even sending him flowers with a card that read, "Be my agent, Love, Dorothy."
by Rob Nixon
Despite the disputes over who deserved credit for the script, most everyone agrees the character of Michael/Dorothy was largely Dustin Hoffman's invention. He based his female character on his own mother, who was then very ill and near death.
Hoffman and Pollack reportedly fought often and loudly over the shape of the story and the approach to the material, earning the production the nickname "Troubled Tootsie." Hoffman was said to favor an outrageous comic exploration of the craft of acting, while Pollack was more attuned to the relationships and didn't believe audiences cared much about an actor's life and work. Both men say reports of their disputes have been greatly exaggerated and that the film could never have been made if they were fighting as bitterly as the press claimed.
Dorothy's costumes were designed to conceal Hoffman's Adam's apple and 16-inch neck.
Hoffman went to great lengths to get Dorothy's voice right, even to working with an oscilloscope at Columbia University to tune his vocal chords to an authentic female wave pattern. He found he could do a falsetto but only in a French accent. Then one day he discovered he could get the pitch and inflections right by using a Southern accent and went with that technique. He auditioned the new voice for Meryl Streep, his co-star in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), performing extracts of Blanche's speeches from the play A Streetcar Named Desire.
Hoffman's two-hour make-up preparations included shaving his legs, arms and the back of his fingers while in a sauna, taping back his facial skin to tighten his features and installing daintier-looking false teeth. No amount of make-up, however, could conceal Hoffman's five-o'clock shadow for very long. He could only be filmed for three to four hours at a time.
Hoffman tested his look on his daughter's teacher and by making several overtures to actor Jose Ferrer on an elevator. They were both fooled. Hoffman despaired, however, over the fact that he wasn't a very attractive woman.
Lange said that at first she had trouble modulating her performance for a comedy. Having just completed the highly emotional drama Frances (1982), she found herself giving too much intensity to some scenes, particularly one that called for her to be angry. "I came out of my dressing room and tore the set apart," she said. "After the take, there was this incredible stillness."
Lange credits Pollack with guiding and shaping her performance. "He has almost impeccable taste about what's right and what he needs and doesn't need," she said shortly after filming. "I really think he did something with my performance in the editing room - made it more interesting."
The picture was filmed primarily in New York City between April and August 1982. The bar scene between Michael and Les was filmed at the Hurley Mountain Inn in upstate New York. Tootsie premiered December 17, 1982.
by Rob Nixon
Most actors would say that their job consists largely of learning to walkaround in another person's shoes. In Tootsie (1982), however, DustinHoffman did that quite literally, learning to walk in heels and gaining anew appreciation for what it meant to be a woman. As an unemployable actorwho achieves stardom when he becomes leading lady on a daytime soap, hescored one of his biggest hits. The 1982 film was an almost instantclassic and remains one of the top-grossing comedies of all time.
Hoffman got the idea for Tootsie while working on Kramer Vs.Kramer (1979), in which he won an Oscar® for playing a man who hadto be both father and mother to his son. When he discussed the idea withplaywright Murray Schisgal (Luv), the project was born. Schisgalwas hardly the only writer to work on the story, though. By the time thefilm was ready for release, the Writers Guild had to sort through threeboxes of scripts to assign the writing credits. They finally went toSchisgal and Larry Gelbart (creator of the M*A*S*H televisionseries), with Gelbart and Don McGuire credited with the story. Elaine Mayprobably could have earned a credit, too, but she didn't want one, happywith a $450,000 check for three weeks of work adding a woman's perspectiveto the story. Tootsie also went through several directors,including Hal Ashby (Being There, 1979) and Dick Richards (TheCulpepper Cattle Company, 1972), before going to Sydney Pollack (TheyShoot Horses, Don't They?, 1969), who co-produced with Richards.
But more than any personnel, the make or break deal for Hoffman was hisfemale characterization. If he couldn't turn in an acceptable screen testas the woman eventually named Dorothy Michaels, he was going to step asidein favor of another actor (Dudley Moore was mentioned most often). Throughweeks of work with makeup men, costumers and two coaches (drag performerHolly Woodlawn and television star Polly Holliday of Alice andFlo) he finally came up with an acceptable performance. During onetest, when Dorothy admitted she was too old to have children, he even brokedown in tears. He modeled the characterization largely on his mother andeven took the film's title from a childhood game in which she would throwhim in the air and say, "How's my tootsie wootsie." Originally, he couldonly do the female voice with a French accent. Anything else made him dropinto his male register. Then in the shower, he discovered he could get anequally feminine effect with a Southern accent.
During location shooting in and around New York, Hoffman could only shoot in characteras Dorothy for three to four hours a day before his beard became toostrong. He had to have his legs, arms and even the backs of his fingersshaved (the high necklines that hid his Adam's apple spared him fromshaving his chest). He also used lifts to tighten his face and false teethto hide his own, more masculine choppers. When a summer heat wave brokeout, however, he developed a new problem - his first case of acne since hewas a teen.
Filling out the rest of the cast were newcomers like Jessica Lange, finallyscoring a comeback after her disastrous film debut in King Kong (1976), andGeena Davis, making her film debut as an actress on Dorothy's soap.Pollack also cast comic experts like Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, CharlesDurning and Bill Murray, who improvised most of his lines as Hoffman'sroommate. Murray eschewed an acting credit so fans wouldn't come to thefilm expecting a comedy like his hits Caddyshack (1980) and Stripes (1981).After much fighting, Hoffman got his first choice to play his character'sagent. Pollack wanted to give the role to Coleman, but knowing that thedirector had started as an actor, Hoffman lobbied fiercely to get him todirect himself. He even sent him flowers with a card reading, "Be myagent. Love, Dorothy." The crew took a perverse pleasure in watchingtheir boss stricken with stage fright before every scene.
With delays caused by Hoffman's makeup and his frequent quarrels withPollack, the film's budget rose to $21 million -- high for a comedy at thattime. But it was well worth the effort when the picture was hailed bycritics and earned almost $100 million domestically, the highest takeColumbia Pictures had ever had for a comedy. It was second only toE.T. in the end-of-year box-office standing. It also cleaned up at award ceremonies, with Golden Globes for Hoffman, Lange and the pictureitself (as Best Picture -- Musical/Comedy); National Society of FilmCritics Awards for the film, the script, Hoffman and Lange; New York FilmCritics Awards for Pollack, Lange and the script; and a Writer's GuildAward. It also picked up ten Oscar® nominations, though it only wonfor Lange's supporting performance, confirming her arrival as a majordramatic star (she was also nominated for Best Actress that year forFrances). Sixteen years later Tootsie picked up anothermajor honor when it was voted a place on the National Film Registry,granting it official recognition as an American treasure.
Producer: Sydney Pollack, Dick Richards
Director: Sydney Pollack
Screenplay: Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal and (uncredited) Elaine May,Robert Kaufman, Valerie Curtin, Barry Levinson and RobertGarner
Based on a Story by Gelbart and Don McGuire
Cinematography: Owen Roizman
Art Direction: Peter Larkin, Thomas C. Tonery
Music: Dave Grusin
Principal Cast: Dustin Hoffman (Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels), JessicaLange (Julie), Teri Garr (Sandy), Dabney Coleman (Ron), Charles Durning(Les), Bill Murray (uncredited, Jeff), Sydney Pollack (George Fields),George Gaynes (John Van Horn), Geena Davis (April), Doris Belack (Rita),Ellen Foley (Jacqui), Lynne Thigpen (Jo), Debra Mooney (Mrs. Mallory),Estelle Getty (Middle-Aged Woman), Christine Ebersole (Linda), MurraySchisgal (Party Guest).
by Frank Miller
"Mr. Pollack and the writers of the screenplay have taken a wildly improbable situation and found just about all of its comic possibilities, not by exaggerating the obvious but by treating it with inspired common sense." - Vincent Canby, New York Times, December 17, 1982
"It is not just the best comedy of the year; it is popular art on the way to becoming a cultural artifact." - Time, December 1982
"Tootsie sounds as if one superb comedy writer had done it all...[It] has what the best screwball comedies had...[Hoffman] gives a master actor's performance: he's playing three characters and they're shaped so that Dorothy fits inside Michael and Emily fits inside Dorothy. Even Hoffman's self-consciousness as an actor works in this performance..." - Pauline Kael, The New Yorker, December 27, 1982
"Tootsie is a lulu. Remarkably funny and entirely convincing, film pulls off the rare accomplishment of being an in-drag comedy which also emerges with three-dimensional characters." - Variety, January 1983
"The kind of project that could have turned into a disaster, one that might have elicited "What-could-they-have-been-thinking?" responses. But it works beautiful...Film has many hilarious scenes, others touch emotions." - Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic.
"It's jaunty, witty, and somehow satisfying despite being simple. Perhaps its strength comes from how it isn't just a star vehicle for Hoffman, but more of a true ensemble comedy with Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, and particularly Dabney Coleman doing very well. Even director Sydney Pollack, in a brief appearance as Dorsey's agent, is funny and makes the role more than just a cameo." - William Gallagher, BBC, October 20, 2002
"The tone is quick-witted and appealing, with some of the smartest dialogue this side of Billy Wilder, and a wonderfully sure-footed performance from Jessica Lange...But the film never comes within a thousand miles of confronting its own implications: Hoffman's female impersonation is strictly on the level of Dame Edna Everage, and the script's assumption that 'she' would wow female audiences is at best ridiculous, at worst crassly insulting to women." - David Pirie, TimeOut.
"What Tootsie is actually about is how a modern man can be metamorphosed by feminism without anything important changing at all, for him or for the women around him. If that seems a contradiction, it is. As Dorothy Michaels is not what she seems, so, wonderful fun though it may be, neither is Tootsie." - Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times.
"America needs a lady in the age of Reagan cum liberation, and this is one of the messages of Tootsie. Funnier than farce and more forthright than camp, the film is a sensitive tuning fork for the current attitudes towards relations between the sexes and the gay community too. The send-up of the transvestite costume drama is a gentle one, yet Tootsie is mainly social romance....In the end, the audience becomes as fond of Dorothy as Hoffman does; when the charade is over one of the characters says, "I miss Dorothy." We have to admit we do too." - Marsha McCreadie, Films in Review.
"Filmgoers love Tootsie. Mainstream critics love Tootsie. Inexplicably, however, these same critics gloss over or reject the film's implicit sexism and the mixed "feminist" message that undercuts itself in deference to the system that produced the picture. It depicts women as weak, powerless, banal emotional blobs, saved only by a man's inspiring assertiveness in the guise of a soap-opera actress-heroine in designer blouses." - Deborah H. Holdstein, Jump Cut.
"Some critics are using the word "classic" when they talk about Tootsie, which shows how starved the reviewing clan is for first-rate fare. In fact, Tootsie is a lively farce with quite a few laughs - nothing more, nothing less. It might have reach classic dimensions if it explored the social and sexual ambiguities that spring from its subject matter instead of using them as mere springboards for standard movie routines." - David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor.
Awards & Honors
Tootsie was chosen in 1998 to be one of the motion pictures preserved on the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.
It won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award® for Jessica Lange.
It also received Oscar® nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress (Garr), Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Song ("All of My Life (It Might Be You)" by Dave Grusin, Alan and Marilyn Bergman).
Other honors include:
- British Academy Awards for Best Actor, Make-up; nominations for Best Film, Director, Actress (Lange), Supporting Actress (Garr), Screenplay, Costume Design, Song.
- Golden Globe Awards to Hoffman, Lange and the film; nominations for Pollack and the screenplay.
- National Society of Film Critics Awards to Hoffman, Lange, screenplay and Best Film.
- New York Film Critics Awards to Pollack, Lange and the screenplay.
- Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay.
- Writers Guild of America Award to Gelbart and Schisgal for the screenplay.
- American Cinema Editors nomination for Fredric and William Steinkamp.
Compiled by Rob Nixon & Jeff Stafford