Behind the Camera on TOOTSIE
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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