Dustin Hoffman Breaks Down Talking About ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ & His Real-Life Divorce

dustin hoffmanWe tend to think of actors as some slick, stylized breed of superhuman. Right? Probably because we think of them as celebrities first, actors second. But Dustin Hoffman is the opposite. Hoffman didn't get into movies to get famous, he got into movies to "push all the stuff I was going through out there," as he put it at a recent event held by the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) in honor of his career. Hoffman was speaking specifically about the role that won him his first Academy Award, a dad devastated by divorce in the classic Kramer vs. Kramer. That "stuff" being Hoffman's divorce from his first wife, an experience so heartbreaking that even after all these years, he broke down in tears talking about it.


If you've ever seen (and sobbed over) Kramer vs. Kramer, you're probably not surprised to hear that personal tragedy informed Hoffman's performance. But as it turns out, the entire movie ended up benefiting from the actor's struggle: Initially he rejected the part, telling the director and producer that the "script has no feeling of what I'm going through." The director didn't want to lose Hoffman, so they let him help rewrite the script, turning it into one of the most sincere and moving portrayals of divorce in film history -- and beyond that, one of the most sincere and moving portrayals of the human experience in film history.

And isn't that the point? Of acting and film and theatre and art in general? It's supposed to be about somehow articulating those universal highs and lows and in-betweens of the human experience, bringing people together in the process. Thanks, Mr. Hoffman, for the heartfelt reminder ...

Does hearing about Dustin Hoffman's emotional breakdown make you think or feel differently about actors and movies?

Image via Garry Knight/Flickr

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