Women who bemoan the absurd standards of beauty society demands of them have an unexpected ally in Dustin Hoffman. The Mary Sue released a 2012 AFI archive interview with the two-time Academy Award winning actor in which he discusses his role in Tootsie.
Hoffman recalls how a makeup test for his cross-dressing role in the film inspired an epiphany about society’s expectations of women. While Hoffman passed as a woman in the initial test, he immediately requested to be made more beautiful. Echoing a thought many women probably experience on a daily basis, Hoffman explains, “If I was going to be a woman I would want to be as beautiful as possible.” After the makeup team explained that was impossible (“That’s as good as it gets”) Hoffman relates how he returned home to his wife and broke down crying, determined to make the film.
“I think I’m an interesting woman,” Hoffman explains, “and I know that if I met myself at a party I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think woman have to have in order for us to ask them out.” A tearful Hoffman laments, “There are too many interesting woman I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”
It’s telling that Hoffman, a successful male actor, was reduced to tears after being subjected to the expectations of female beauty for one screen test, expectations that women are subjected to for their entire lives. A choked up Hoffman finishes the interview with a simple, “That was never a comedy for me.” One can only hope Hoffman’s thoughtful and honest comments will inspire other such epiphanies.