Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Classic Movies: Tootsie (1982)

The 1982 hit film Tootsie is based on a play Would I Lie to You? about an unemployed male actor who cross-dresses in order to find jobs. The play was being shopped around Hollywood throughout the early 1970’s and the film rights were picked up in 1978 by Charles Evans. In 1979 Evans, screenwriter Bob Kaufman, and the films intended Director Dick Richards wrote a screenplay based on Would I Lie to You? Richards shared the script with Dustin Hoffman who he had a business relationship with. Hoffman agreed to come on board provided he got complete creative control. The film was renamed Tootsie and became a star vehicle for Hoffman.

In 1981 Sydney Pollack became the third director for the film after Dick Richards and his successor Hal Ashby were both removed. Tootsie was released in 1982 and became the second highest grossing film worldwide in that year. Only beaten into second place by E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, but coming in ahead of An Officer and a Gentleman.

Dustin Hoffman put in a wonderful performance, but what made the film great was the exceptional script and a stellar supporting cast including Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Geena Davis, and Charles Durning. But for me the star of the movie was Jessica Lange playing the role of soap opera actress – Julie Nichols. Her performance won her the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. At the same awards she was also up for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the critically acclaimed – Frances. It was a tough year to win that award. It was won by Meryl Streep for the even more critically acclaimed Sophie’s Choice.

It is obvious when you view the movie trailer below that Dustin Hoffman had complete creative rights over the movie. The trailer is all about him. My focus on Jessica Lange in this article is a tiny attempt to redress that imbalance. Jessica Lange as Julie Nichols was the reason I’ve watched the film many times. Why? Well Jessica – “somethings telling me it it might be you…..all of my life”. That’s what Stephen Bishop thought too. Dustin was just part of the furniture.

Five Facts

The role that made Jessica Lange a star.
  1. Prior to Dustin Hoffman joining the production, the lead role of Michael Dorsey/ Dorothy Michaels, had already been offered to Peter Sellers and Michael Caine.
  2. Tootsie was nominated for 9 Academy Awards at the 55th Annual Academy Awards but only won one – Jessica Lange winning for Best Actress in a supporting role. Dustin Hoffman was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, at the 55th Annual Academy Awards. He lost out to Ben Kingsley who won for Gandhi.
  3. The first screenplay was revised by Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal who along with Don McGuire, were given the screenwriting credits and were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen. Gelbart is best known as one of the creators of the hit television series M*A*S*H.
  4. Dustin Hoffman wanted Director Sydney Pollack to take on the role of Michael Dorsey’s agent, George Fields. He was reluctant but was eventually persuaded.
  5. At the time of making Tootsie, Jessica Lange’s partner was famous Latvian ballet dancer and actor – Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Jessica and Dustin. One of them would win and Oscar and it wasn’t Dustin.
Toostsie Trailer

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