In his breakthrough role, Dustin Hoffman plays Benjamin, the graduate of the title. He returns to his home in the California suburbs where his family pressures him to make a decision about his immediate future. To complicate matters Benjamin is being pursued by one of his parents' best friends, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), while falling in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross). It's a classic triangle situation kept fresh by a sly sense of humor and top-notch acting.
Casting the lead part of Benjamin turned out to be tough. Robert Redford turned it down because he didn't think he could do it justice so Charles Grodin ended up being cast only to quit over money issues. By the time Dustin Hoffman got the part on the strength of a screen test he had already committed to a different film but was able to break his agreement. After all, it would have been hard to say no to a director as innovative as Mike Nichols. He'd done famous comedy routines with Elaine May and made a mark on Broadway before making his directorial debut in 1966 with the film version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Nichols had actually been planning The Graduate earlier, deciding on doing it because of a scene in Charles Webb's original novel where he realized Mrs. Robinson would be "the most interesting person in the picture." Casting that role was a bit easier since Anne Bancroft had been in his mind, though Jeanne Moreau was briefly considered. Also, keep an eye out for the film debuts of Richard Dreyfuss and Mike Farrell (Capt. Hunnicut on TV'sMASH).
Buck Henry and Calder Willingham wrote the Oscar¨-nominated script, which was followed very closely by Nichols since he didn't believe in improvising. The cast spent three weeks in rehearsals to get it right. (As a joke, in Robert Altman's The Player (1992), Buck Henry can be seen pitching a remake of The Graduate to studio executives.) The Simon and Garfunkel songs were added both as commentary and as a marketing scheme. Paul Simon had written a fragment specifically for the film but was asked to expand it into a full song.
Producer: Lawrence Turnman
Director: Mike Nichols
Screenplay: Buck Henry, Calder Willingham
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Costume Design: Patricia Zipprodt
Film Editing: Sam OÕSteen
Original Music: Dave Grusin
Principal Cast: Dustin Hoffman (Benjamin Braddock), Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson), William Daniels (Mr. Braddock), Elizabeth Wilson (Mrs. Braddock), Murray Hamilton (Mr. Robinson).
C-106m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Lang Thompson