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Read About Dustin Hoffman’s Early Career — ‘The Graduate’ and Beyond

The California born actor has built quite the resume

California born Dustin Hoffman might not be the face you think of when you imagine leading man, but the now 86-year-old actor made a name for himself as a young thespian and proved his worth in the realm of Hollywood over the years.

Dustin Hoffman, 1967
Dustin Hoffman, 1967Getty

At the age of 19, a young Hoffman said goodbye to Santa Monica City College to pursue a life on the stage and screen in New York. It was there where he leaned on roommate and fellow actor Robert Duvall, as well as Gene Hackman, who lived with his wife nearby and allowed Hoffman to sleep on his couch upon his arrival to the city.

The actor in 1970
Dustin Hoffman, 1970Getty

His early days in New York weren’t easy, and the aspiring actor arrived to the Big Apple with only $50 in his pocket. Before making it big, the young actor would make ends meet with odd jobs here and there before small television roles and off-Broadway work came his way.

His first credited role on the screen was in Naked City, and appearances followed on other shows including The Defenders and The Doctors and the Nurses.

A photo of the young actor playing piano
Young Dustin HoffmannGetty

From there, he could be seen in roles in films such as The Journey of the Fifth Horse, The Star Wagon and The Tiger Makes Out before he got his big break in 1967’s The Graduate.

Hoffman played Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who, in the midst of his post-grad daze, finds himself entangled with an older, married woman, Mrs. Robinson, played famously by Anne Bancroft.

Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate, 1967
Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate, 1967Getty

From there, the actor’s resume only continued to grow. Some of the most famous Dustin Hoffman movies over the course of his years as a young actor include Midnight Cowboy (1969), All the President’s Men (1976), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Tootsie (1982).

The actor in 1969
Dustin Hoffman, 1969Getty

In Kramer vs. Kramer, Hoffman played the part of Ted Kramer, who must take on the responsibility of raising his son when his wife, played by Meryl Streep, leaves him. A custody battle over their son ensues in this 1979 classic. For his role in the film, Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979
Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979Getty

Hoffman earned another Oscar nod for his role in Tootsie, in which he played an out of work actor who disguises himself as a woman and unexpectedly becomes a soap opera star. However, things get complicated when he catches feelings for his co-star, played by Jessica Lange.

Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie, 1982
Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie, 1982Getty

Throughout the 80s, Hoffman took to the stage in addition to the screen before taking on yet another revered role in 1989 in the film Rain Main alongside Tom Cruise. Hoffman played Cruise’s autistic, savant brother, who he seeks out when he learns that his deceased father’s fortune is left to the institution where he lives. Hoffman once again won the Academy Award for Best Actor for this role.

Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, 1989
Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, 1989Getty

These roles set the precedent for the remainder of his career, and the actor is still working to this day both in front of and behind the camera. Most recently, he could be seen in films like Megalopolis (2024) and heard in Kung Fu Panda 4 (2024), as he lent his voice for the character of Shifu.

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