, Los Angeles, California, USA
Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, California, the second son of Lillian (née Gold) and Harry Hoffman. His father worked as a prop supervisor/set decorator at Columbia Pictures before becoming a furniture salesman. Hoffman was named after stage and silent screen actor Dustin Farnum. His older brother, Ronald, is a lawyer and economist. Hoffman is from a Jewish family of Ukrainian and Romanian descent, but his upbringing was not religious or observant.He graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1955 and enrolled at Santa Monica College with the intention of studying medicine, leaving after a year to join the Pasadena Playhouse.
Hoffman began his acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse alongside future Academy Award winner Gene Hackman. After two years at the playhouse, Hackman headed for New York City with Hoffman soon following. Having considerable difficulty getting roles in part due to his unconventional countenance for an actor of that time, he took a series of odd jobs, including working as a restaurant coat checker, working in the typing department of the city Yellow Pages directory, and stringing Hawaiian leis. During this time period he would get an occasional bit television role but left acting briefly to teach in order to support himself. Hoffman would also occasionally do television commercials; an often-replayed segment on programs that explore actors' early work is a clip showing Hoffman touting the Volkswagen Fastback.
In 1960, Hoffman landed a role in an Off-Broadway production and followed with a walk-on role in a Broadway production in 1961. Hoffman then studied at the famed Actors Studio and became a dedicated method actor. Sidney Pink, a producer and 3D movie pioneer, discovered him in one of his Off-Broadway roles and cast him in 'Madigan's Millions'. His first critical success was in 'Eh?' by Henry Livings which had its US premiere off-Broadway at the Circle in the Square Downtown on October 16, 1966.
Through the early and mid-1960's, Hoffman made appearances in television shows and movies, including 'Naked City', 'The Defenders' and 'Hallmark Hall of Fame'. Hoffman made his theatrical film debut in 'The Tiger Makes Out' in 1967, alongside Eli Wallach.
In 1966, Mike Nichols cast Hoffman in The Graduate, which prevented him from appearing in the acclaimed Mel Brooks film, The Producers as Franz Liebkind. The film began production in March 1967. Hoffman received an Academy Award nomination for his performance and became a major star. Although he initially endured some anti-semitic derision for his unusual looks and ethnicity, Hoffman's outstanding success in this film and his numerous later acclaimed roles is credited with broadening the field of major film roles for other actors of once undesirable ethnicities.
After the success of this film, another Hoffman film, 'Madigan's Millions', shot before 'The Graduate', was released on the tail of the actor's newfound success. It was considered a failure at the box office. In December 1968, Hoffman returned to Broadway to appear in the title role of Murray Schisgal and John Sebastian's musical 'Jimmy Shine'. For his performance in the production Hoffman won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. Just a few weeks after leaving the production, Hoffman's next major film 'Midnight Cowboy' premiered in theatres across the United States on May 25, 1969. For his role as Ratso Rizzo in the film, Hoffman received his second Oscar nomination and the film won the Best Picture honor. This was followed by his role in 'Little Big Man' (1970) where Jack Crabb, his character, ages from teenager to a 121-year-old man. The film was widely praised by critics, but was overlooked for an award except for a supporting nomination for Chief Dan George.
Hoffman continued to appear in major films over the next few years. Less than two years after the Watergate scandal, Hoffman and Robert Redford starred as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, respectively, in 'All the President's Men' (1976). Hoffman next starred in 'Marathon Man' (also 1976), a film based on William Goldman's novel of the same name, opposite Laurence Olivier.
Hoffman next starred in Robert Benton's 'Kramer vs. Kramer' (1979). Hoffman gained his first Academy Award, and the film also received the Best Picture honor, plus the awards for Best Supporting Actress (Streep) and Director. In 'Tootsie' (1982), Hoffman portrays Michael Dorsey, a struggling actor who finds himself dressing up as a woman to land a role on a soap opera. His co-star was Jessica Lange. Tootsie earned ten Academy Award nominations, including Hoffman's fifth nomination.
Hoffman then turned to television in the role of Willy Loman in 'Death of a Salesman', for which he won the 1985 Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries. He would also go on to win a Golden Globe for the same performance. Hoffman's largest film failure was Elaine May's 'Ishtar', with Warren Beatty. The film faced severe production problems, received almost completely negative reviews from critics and was nominated for three Razzie awards.
In director Barry Levinson's 'Rain Man' (1988), Hoffman starred as an autistic savant, opposite Tom Cruise and his performance garnered Hoffman his second Academy Award. Upon accepting, Hoffman stated softly to his fellow nominees that it was okay if they didn't vote for him because "I didn't vote for you guys either."
Throughout the 1990's, Hoffman appeared in many large, studio films, such as 'Dick Tracy' (1990) (where his Ishtar co-star Beatty plays the titular character), 'Hero' (1992) and the ill-fated 'Billy Bathgate' (1991) co-starring with Nicole Kidman who was nominated for a Golden Globe). Hoffman also played the title role of Captain Hook in Steven Spielberg's 'Hook' (also 1991), earning a Golden Globe nomination; in this movie, Hoffman's costume was so heavy that he had to wear an air-conditioned suit under it. Hoffman played the lead role in 'Outbreak' (1995), alongside Rene Russo, Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Donald Sutherland. Following that, he appeared in the 1996 revenge-drama/legal-thriller 'Sleepers' (1996) with Brad Pitt, Jason Patric, and Kevin Bacon.
Dustin Hoffman during the filming of 'Last Chance Harvey' in 2008
It was in the mid-1990's that Hoffman starred in — and was deeply involved in the production of — David Mamet's 'American Buffalo' (also 1996). In 1997, gained his seventh Academy Award nomination for his performance in 'Wag The Dog', in a role that allowed Hoffman the chance to work with both Robert De Niro and Dennis Leary. Hoffman played theater owner Charles Frohman in the J. M. Barrie historical fantasia 'Finding Neverland' (2004), costarring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.
Seven years after his nomination for 'Wag the Dog', Hoffman got a second opportunity to perform again with Robert De Niro, co-starring with Barbra Streisand and Ben Stiller in the 2004 comedy 'Meet the Fockers', a sequel to 'Meet the Parents' (2000). Hoffman won the 2005 MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance.
In 2008, although he was reluctant to perform in an animated film, Hoffman had a prominent role in the acclaimed film Kung Fu Panda, which was praised in part for his comedic chemistry with Jack Black and his character's poignantly complex relationship with the story's villain. He later won the Annie Award for Voice Acting in an Animated Feature for Kung Fu Panda and has continued into the role in the franchise's subsequent filmed productions outside of the upcoming television series.
Hoffman will be starring in the HBO horse-racing drama Luck, as a man involved in activities such as bookmaking and casino operations. He will also direct Quartet, a BBC Films comedy starring Maggie Smith and Albert Finney. He also starred in 'Little Fockers', the 2010 sequel to 'Meet the Fockers'.
Hoffman married Anne Byrne in May 1969. The couple had two children, Karina (b. 1966) and Jenna (born October 15, 1970). Karina is adopted. The couple divorced in 1980. He married attorney Lisa Hoffman (née Gottsegen) in October 1980; they have four children — Jacob Edward (born March 20, 1981), Rebecca (b. March 17, 1983), Maxwell Geoffrey (born August 30, 1984), and Alexandra Lydia (born October 27, 1987). Hoffman also has two grandchildren. In an interview, he said that all of his children from his second marriage had bar or bat mitzvahs and that he is a more observant Jew now than when he was younger; he also lamented that he is not fluent in Hebrew.