Dustin Hoffman played Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie over 30 years, and just last year he became overcome with emotion while opening up about the inspiration behind the iconic role.

When most people look back at Tootsie, starring Hoffman as the difficult actor who goes in drag as a woman to land a part, and Jessica Lange and Teri Garr, they see it primarily as a comedy. With all of the comedies that have come out in recent years, with men playing women or men playing men dressed up as women, it becomes easy to see Tootsie as just another film (albeit a good one) using a man in drag for laughs. Hoffman insists the motive behind the plot of Tootsie was far from that, and says he doesn’t even look back on the film as a comedy.

The 75-year-old actor said that the question the film strived to deal with was: “If you were born a woman, how would you be different?” Before the film could get the greenlight, Hoffman wanted to make sure that makeup could make him a convincing woman. “When we got to that point and looked at it on screen, I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive,” Hoffman admitted in his interview with AVI. “I said, ‘Now you have me looking like a woman, now make me a beautiful woman.’ Because I thought I should be beautiful.… And they said to me, ‘That’s as good as it gets.’”

Hoffman revealed that later he went home and cried and spoke with his wife. He told her, “I have to make this picture… I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. 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 women have to have in order to ask them out.”

Recalling the conversation through choked tears, Hoffman continued, “There’s too many interesting women I have… not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”

Tootsie was nominated for a total of 10 Academy Awards in 1982, including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Director. Jessica Lange was the only winner, taking home the trophy for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

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