Playback: Dustin Hoffman on ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ and Trump’s ‘Kernels of Truth’

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

Stopping by the studio this week is two-time Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman. He stars this year in Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” and his performance as a self-absorbed artist patriarch ranks right up there with some of his very best work. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May and finally washed up on North American shores last week with a New York Film Festival premiere.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

“It was an interesting character to try to get ahold of,” Hoffman says of his role in the film. “The past life of this guy, he had been a very successful sculptor. It was very early in his career. And then nothing. Well, in my profession, I’ve known a few people like that, and I certainly don’t want to mention them by name but they’re not just actors. They’re screenwriters, directors — and you always say with that person, ‘What happened?’ So that was a study about that kind of character, with no awareness of malice, but enough unresolved cynicism in him to really hurt his sons.”

Hoffman came up during an exciting time for his craft. What screen acting could be was really evolving in the 1960s, in the wake of stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean, not to mention great teachers of the day. Will there be another seismic shift in the form? Hoffman notes that the lack of those great mentors is missing, and also, the demands of new media help dictate those changes.

“I studied with Strasberg. [Robert] Duvall studied with Sandy Meisner. Other people studied with the greats — Stella Adler, Bobby Lewis. I don’t think that’s been replaced, and they were giants,” Hoffman says. “Also, when there was stage, before film, your job was to be real for the last row of the balcony. You had to reach them. There was an artifice to it and yet it needed a reality. When film came along, I think it put a demand on plays that film didn’t need. If you do a close-up on film and you show the face, the actor really doesn’t have to do anything to convey different things that an audience will fill in. They always say the audience is the third writer.”

Also, with press freedoms under attack more and more with the current presidential administration, it’s tempting to ask for Hoffman’s thoughts on all of that, given his work on the 1976 film “All the President’s Men.” He has a different take than you might expect.

“As it says in that film, you need two sources before something is printed,” he says. “I don’t think that exists anymore, and there’s a reason. There’s such competition. They’re trying to get the readership, the people, and I think they’d do just about anything to do that. It isn’t news. Some of the things Trump says, there are kernels of truth in it.”

For more, including reaction to the canceling of HBO’s “Luck” and other thoughts on the modern broadcast news landscape, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” at iTunes.

Dustin Hoffman photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

More Film

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas Ed Asner Elliott

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Ed Asner, Elliott Gould Seek SAG-AFTRA Board Seats

    Ed Asner, Elliott Gould and Jonathan Taylor Thomas are seeking SAG-AFTRA national board seats as members of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Asner is the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving two terms from 1981 to 1985, and winning five Emmys for his role as Lou Grant and two others [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor Comic Con

    Comic-Con: Marvel 'Shock and Awe' Strategy Dominates Twitter Buzz

    Disney’s Marvel Studios handily won the hype trophy from this year’s Comic-Con International San Diego. Marvel Studios — which returned to the 2019 Comic-Con stage with a chock-full Phase 4 slate of announcements — dominated the discussion on Twitter out of the convention, capturing the biggest volume of buzz for nine of the top 10 [...]

  • Chris Rock - Netflix

    Chris Rock's 'Saw' Reboot Moves Up Five Months to May 2020

    Lionsgate has moved Chris Rock’s upcoming “Saw” reboot forward by five months to May 15, 2020, vacating the pre-Halloween date of Oct. 23, 2020. The studio indicated Monday that it decided to move the untitled “Saw” movie into the summer slot after seeing early footage from the set of the film currently shooting in Toronto. The move [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content