Sandy: Why is he thanking you for a lovely night in front of the fire.
Michael Dorsey: [long pause] My minds a blank.
Sandy: Micheal, are you gay?
Michael Dorsey: In what sense?
Michael Dorsey is an unemployed actor. Unemployed because he's difficult to work with and no theater company wants him. To find work, there's only one option available: Dress up as a woman, assume the name, Dorothy Michaels, and audition for a day-time soap opera. He does it and gets the part. Things start getting complicated, however, because Michael's friend, Sandy, has fallen in love with Michael, but Michael is falling in love with the soap's star, Julie. Julie, on the other hand, only knows Dorothy. She doesn't know Michael at all. Confused? Get this... They get even more complicated when Julie's father falls in love with Dorothy yet doesn't know Dorothy is actually Michael. More confused? No worries. "Tootsie" will explain everything.
"Tootsie" made its premiere in Hollywood, California on December 1, 1982 before making its broad release on December 17. Almost three months later it would be released to other countries such as France, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and throughout the world.
Having been very successful as a director for various television programs and feature films such as "Jeremiah Johnson," "The Way We Were," "The Electric Horseman," and "Absence of Malice," Sydney Pollack directed "Tootsie" which won critical acclaim. Costing an estimated $22 million, the film went on make over $177.2 million at the Box Office, making it the second largest success in 1982 just behind Spielberg's, "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial."
The successful film starred Dustin Hoffman (Michael/Dorothy), Jessica Lange (Julie), and Teri Garr (Sandy). "Tootsie" also co-starred Charles Durning (Les), Dabney Coleman (Ron), Bill Murray (Jeff), and director Sydney Pollack (George Fields). Also look for Geena Davis as "Tootsie" was her film premiere.
"Tootsie" was such a huge hit that it earned 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Garr) and Best Director, yet would only gain one win for Best Supporting Actress, Jessica Lange. However, the Golden Globes would give them more wins including a Best Actor Globe for Dustin Hoffman, Best Supporting Actress to Jessica Lange, and Best Motion Picture in the Comedy/Musical category. The film would also be a favorite at the BAFTAs, giving Hoffman yet another award as well as the trophy for Best Make Up Artist which went to four individuals.
Written by seven different people, here's some more information on this Totally Awesome Movie of the 80s...
1. Producer Dick Richards was also supposed to direct but was replaced by Sydney Pollack.
2. Peter Sellers and Michael Caine both turned down the role of Michael Dorsey.
3. Dustin Hoffman first got the idea to do this film while working on "Kramer vs. Kramer". He felt his character in that film had to be both a mother and a father, so he started thinking about how to play a man and a woman. Several scripts, several writers and a few directors later, this was the result.
4. Though the working title for the film was originally "Would I Lie to You?", Dustin Hoffman suggested the title "Tootsie." Tootsie was the name of his mother's dog.
5. According to Dustin Hoffman, he wanted Bill Murray to play his friend while director Sydney Pollack disagreed.
6. Bill Murray agreed to omit his name from the opening credits to prevent audiences expecting a "Bill Murray" movie along the lines of "Meatballs" or "Caddyshack".
7. Sydney Pollack had originally wanted Dabney Coleman to play Dustin Hoffman's agent. During a conversation that Hoffman had with Pollack, Hoffman wanted to know what forced his character to wear a dress and pretend to be a woman. Pollack's response was that, if he didn't, he would never work again. Hoffman replied that he wouldn't put on a dress if Coleman told him he would never work again, because Coleman was a fellow actor, and he wouldn't believe him. Because Pollack was the director, Hoffman insisted, he would convince Hoffman to wear a dress. Pollack still refused to play the part, so Hoffman sent him red roses every day with the note, "Please be my agent. Love, Dorothy" until Pollack agreed to take the role.
8. While being profiled for "The Directors" series, Sydney Pollack claimed that Dustin Hoffman refused to continue working on the film unless Pollack played his agent. Pollack refused up until Hoffman's agent Michael Ovitz intervened and Pollack reconsidered. He later agreed to play the role. The scenes featuring Hoffman's and Pollack's characters were meant to reflect what happened behind the scenes between the two when they would argue. In fact, Hoffman and Pollack quarreled so furiously during filming that they never did another film together; while they did discuss mending fences in order to work on "Rain Man", ultimately Pollack declined the director's spot for that film, leading to the hiring of Barry Levinson.
9. During the credit sequence Sydney Pollack provides the voice of the unseen play director who tells Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), "We're looking for someone older," then, "We're looking for someone younger," and finally, "We're looking for someone else."
10. The character of Dorothy originally did not speak with a Southern accent, but in doing research Dustin Hoffman discovered his voice fell more closely into the range of female pitch while doing the accent.
11. The greatest challenge for Dustin Hoffman was getting Dorothy's voice right - he reportedly received help and coaching from Meryl Streep (with whom he had just co-starred in "Kramer vs. Kramer"). He would read the role of Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and she would offer feedback.
12. Well known transvestite actor Holly Woodlawn was hired by the producers of "Tootsie" to coach actor Dustin Hoffman in his role as 'Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels' in the intricate art of being a man acting as a woman in films as he prepared for this role.
13. The crew would only give bad news to Dustin Hoffman if he was in drag. They said he was "much nicer as a woman".
14. Dustin Hoffman's "breasts" were custom-fitted prostheses purchased from an outlet specializing in post-mastectomy products, at a cost of $175 each.
15. Dustin Hoffman allegedly tried out his role as Dorothy by passing himself off as his daughter's Aunt Dorothy at her parent's evening at school. His performance was so strong he actually convinced the teachers present. They never suspected.
16. During a 2008 appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman," Dustin Hoffman revealed that, while dressed as Dorothy Michaels, he played a trick on legendary actor José Ferrer. While in an elevator, Hoffman introduced himself as Dorothy, a big fan and member of the Dallas Theater. Ferrer bought it and seemed flattered. Hoffman then asked if he could "suck Ferrer's c**k". After a long pause, Ferrer raised his right-hand and said, "Not right now, thank you." After Hoffman exited the elevator, Ferrer looked at assistant director David McGiffert and asked, "Who was that scumbag of a woman?" A year later, Hoffman ran into Ferrer again at a benefit and teased him for being fooled.
17. Cinematographer Owen Roizman was initially opposed to Dorothy's character wearing glasses, as the reflective nature of their lenses tend to hamper lighting crews. After some tests, however, it was decided that glasses added a distinct, flattering dimension to Dorothy: Hoffman's prominent nose became less obtrusive and the glasses further feminized his personality, creating a more noticeable gender separation between the Dorothy/Michael characters. The glasses stayed, but a compromise was reached when Sydney Pollack suggested that the production try a special non-reflective coating developed by then Panavision head, Robert Gottschalk. The spray had been used to coat camera lenses, improving light transmission through the front elements. When the spray was used on Dorothy's glasses, it proved to be a godsend.
18. Southwest General is a parody of TV's "General Hospital," even referencing the "Sally Armitage is Max Hedges!" storyline plot twist.
19. The bit where Jessica Lange's character reaches behind her and accidentally grabs a corn cob instead of the phone was a genuine mistake in blocking. The director decided to leave it in.
20. In the first scene where Michael Dorsey is waking up to dress as Dorothy, there is a picture of Dustin Hoffman's mother next to the alarm clock.
21. When "Tootsie" screened in Sydney, Australia, director Sydney Pollack commented "No one ever laughed during the shooting of any scenes of the film. It's only funny because of its story structure."
22. In an interview conducted a year before his death (in 2009), writer Larry Gelbart revealed that he nursed a grudge against Dustin Hoffman, because Hoffmann claimed that his friend, writer-producer Murray Schisgal, had conceived the movie. In his last major interview, given in 2008, Gelbart told Salon.com's Mike Sacks: "Tootsie is my vision, despite Dustin Hoffman's lifelong mission to deprive anybody of any credit connected with that movie, except for his close friend, the writer and producer Murray Schisgal. I say that because Dustin appeared with James Lipton on 'Inside the Actors Studio' in 2006 and declared that the Tootsie idea sprang from Schisgal's intestines. I don't know much about gastroenterology, but I do know that the central theme for Tootsie came from me. And the central theme was that Dustin's character, Michael Dorsey, would become a better man for having been a woman. That was the cornerstone of the film. All of the other details are just floating around that idea."
And now you know.
This film was huge in its time. The reason I say that is because in 1982 the LGBT community needed something of significance that would make not just Hollywood notice, but all of America. The LGBT community had a voice. And with other politics being news-worthy and in the forefront of the media happening in the 70s and 80s, something more among the light-hearted was necessary. Dustin Hoffman's portrayal delivered a home run.
"Tootsie" was a part of LGBT history during that time in that other films with a gay or lesbian theme were made including "Making Love" (1982) starring Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson and Harry Hamlin, "Cruising" (1982) starring Al Pacino, "Victor Victoria" (1982) starring Julie Andrews, James Garner and Robert Preston, and "Personal Best" (1982) starring Mariel Hemingway and Scott Glenn. Not only that, "Tootsie" was one three films providing four performances that were Oscar nominated for drag at the 1983 Academy Awards ceremony, an all-time record for any one year. The movies and actors were: Dustin Hoffman for "Tootsie", Julie Andrews and Robert Preston for "Victor Victoria", and John Lithgow for "The World According to Garp."
Enjoy these picture stills from the film, followed by Dorothy's revealing monologue that spilt all the beans on Southwest General...
Dorothy Michaels: Thank you, Gordon. Well, I cannot tell you all how deeply moved I am. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be the object of so much genuine affection. It makes it all the more difficult for me to say what I'm now going to say. Yes. I do feel it's time to set the record straight. You see, I didn't come here just as an administrator, Dr. Brewster; I came to this hospital to settle an old score. Now you all know that my father was a brilliant man; he built this hospital. What you don't know is that to his family, he was an unmerciful tyrant - a absolute dodo bird. He drove my mother, his wife, to - to drink; in fact, she - uh, she she she went riding one time and lost all her teeth. The son Edward became a recluse, and the oldest daughter - the pretty one, the charming one - became pregnant when she was fifteen years old and was driven out of the house. In fact, she was so terrified that she would, uh, that, uh, that, that, that the baby daughter would bear the stigma of illegitimacy that she, she - she decided to change her name and she contracted a disfiguring disease... after moving to Tangiers, which is where she raised the, the, the little girl as her sister. But her one ambition in life - besides the child's happiness - was to become a nurse, so she returned to the States and joined the staff right here at Southwest General. Well, she worked here, she knew she had to speak out wherever she saw injustice and inhumanity. God save us, you do understand that, don't you, Dr. Brewster?
John Van Horne: I never laid a hand on her.
Dorothy Michaels: Yes, you did. And she was shunned by all you nurses, too... and by a, what do you call it, what do you call it, a - something like a pariah, to you doctors who found her idealistic and reckless. But she was deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply loved by her brother. It was this brother who, on the day of her death, swore to the good Lord above that he would follow in her footsteps, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, just, just, just, just, just, just, just, just, just, just owe it all up to her. But on her terms. As a woman. And just as proud to be a woman as she ever was. For I am not Emily Kimberly, the daughter of Dwayne and Alma Kimberly. No, I'm not. I'm Edward Kimberly, the recluse brother of my sister Anthea. Edward Kimberly, who has finally vindicated his sister's good name. I am Edward Kimberly. Edward Kimberly. And I'm not mentally ill, but proud, and lucky, and strong enough to be the woman that was the best part of my manhood. The best part of myself.