Great Scenes… Tootsie
Bizarrely, the best scene in this cross-dressing movie doesn’t have Dustin Hoffman in drag. What it does have is the actor arguing with his director, Sydney Pollack. Thankfully, someone put a camera in front of them…
Word has it that Dustin Hoffman got the idea for Tootsie while working on Kramer vs. Kramer. Playing a father who also had to perform the role of a mother led him on to the story of a washed-up actor who transforms himself into a woman to get his career back on track. In Tootise, Hoffman is wonderful as ‘female’ soap star Dorothy Michaels, but he is just as good as her creator Michael Dorsey, probably because it was a part that was so close to the bone.
To imbue the movie with further realism, Hoffman desperately wanted the film’s director, Sydney Pollack, to play his agent. Pollack resisted the idea, but Hoffman was persuasive, sending the director red roses every day with a card saying: ‘Please be my agent. Love, Dorothy’. Pollack eventually relented. Hoffman, as it turns out, was right.
This early scene in the movie, where Dorsey goes to see his agent, George Fields (Pollack), is just a joy to watch. Hoffman and Pollack would argue off camera anyway, so transferring that dynamic to the screen merely enriched the movie. Pollack, who passed away last year, really was one of the good guys, and was as skilled an actor as he was a director. Sparring with Hoffman and not coming off second best would have been too high a mountain to climb for most full-time performers.
The script here is terrific – crisp, sharp and funny – and the two actors treat it with the care it deserves. Pollack’s delivery of every line is fantastic, particularly: ‘Nobody wants to pay 20 dollars to watch people living next to chemical waste – they can see that in New Jersey!’ The pair’s debate over the logic of a tomato is also great, mainly because it sparks the immortal riposte from a two-time Oscar-winning actor: ‘Nobody does vegetables like me!’
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SCENE FROM TOOTSIE?