Dustin Hoffman stepped into a woman’s shoes for the 1982 comedy Tootise where he played a cross-dressing woman. But while the film may have been a comedy for audience members, it was something much deeper for the actor.
Sitting down with AFI, Dustin recalls how it all began with Tootsie co-writer Murray Schisgal asked one simple question: “How would you be different if you were born a woman?” As he went about doing all the make-up tests for the role, he would walk around the streets of New York as a woman for the character – not as a man dressing as a woman.
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When he first saw photos of himself as a woman, Dustin explained, “I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive. I said, ‘Now you have me looking like a woman, now make me beautiful.’ I thought I should be beautiful if I was going to be woman. I would want to be as beautiful as possible.”
But it wasn’t as simple as Dustin thought when the make-up artists told him that that was impossible, which struck a chord within him.
“It was at that moment I had an epiphany, and I went home and started crying,” he said as tears well up in his eyes. “Talking to my wife, I said, ‘I have to make this picture,’ and she said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘Because 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.’”
He continued, “She says, ‘What are you saying?’ and I said, ‘There’s too many interesting women I have… not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.’”
Dustin composses himself by the end of the viral clip, showing that he finally understands the meaning of true female beauty.