The finished product: Hoffman tops off his new look with a convincingly feminine tilt of the head.
It's his first film role since Kramer vs. Kramer and the Oscar for best actor in 1979. So what has Dustin Hoffman at long last chosen to portray? An actress! Well, an actor who pretends to be an actress, anyway--and a thoroughly credible female he is, thanks to the inventive genius of makeup artist Allen Weisinger. To transform Dustin into soap opera star Dorothy Michaels (a.k.a. "Tootsie" in the $20 million comedy of the same name), Weisinger starts by adjusting face-lifts to tighten Hoffman's skin. The steps that follow add up to a daily 90-minute ordeal. A four-pound silicone bosom, well-padded posterior, bouffant wig and fussy frock are coups de grace. Dustin is believable as Dorothy because of the attention to details. His hands are shaved, his pores shrunk. He even puts in fake teeth, slightly longer and thinner than his own. "It's the most difficult makeup I've ever had to maintain," says Weisinger of a look that took a year to develop. The challenge is Hoffman's exacting desire to really become Dorothy rather than settle for easy laughs as a man obviously impersonating a woman. "It offends me when they use the word 'drag," carps Dustin. "I'm not in drag, I'm playing a character." Does it work? Judge for yourself.
FROM WIG TO WIGGLE
Hoffman stares at a mirror through Dorothy's eyes as he adjusts his wig of human hair.
Ample bosom already strapped in place, Hoffman eases his jogger's calves into a pair of pantyhose.
Wardrobe's Franke Piazza tightens the waist cincher that Hoffman wears under other layers of feminine armor.
One last touch: Dustin-Dorothy-Tootsie holds still as makeup chief Allen Weisinger applies lip gloss.
Pinch a little, puff a little: Dorothy's derriere is a not-so-minor miracle of structural engineering. The pantie girdle is standard feminine issue augmented with two pads of the softest foam rubber.
WAGING A ONE-MAN WAR OF THE SEXES
At day's end, Hoffman deals a quick poker hand as a hair stylist pulls out his pin curls.
Dorothy mugs for onlookers while a sound mart checks a well-concealed body microphone.
Now listen closely. In Tootsie Hoffman plays a New York actor named Michael Dorsey who so despairs of finding work that he decides to try his luck masquerading as an actress. He calls himself Dorothy Michaels. Eureka! Dorothy promptly lands the role of Emily Kimberly, hospital administrator on a popular soap, and wakes up to find herself a TV star. Tootsie, to be released this winter, gives Hoffman (along with $4 million in salary) a chance to crack farcical gender jokes across the whole spectrum of contemporary sexuality. There's the girlfriend (Ten Garr), who discovers pantyhose in the apartment Michael shares with a roommate (Bill Murray) and concludes that her fellow must be gay. Michael meanwhile has fallen for soap costar Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange), who has begun to wonder if her dear friend Dorothy might not be of lesbian bent. Taken to lunch at Manhattan's Russian Tea Room by the theatrical agent who had written Michael off as an unemployable nut, Dorothy flirts brazenly with her embarrassed host. Michael's own comeuppance is the unexpected ardor of Julie's widowed dad (Charles Durning). He flips for the lovely Dorothy, finally begging for her (hairless) hand in marriage. "It's the story of a man who puts on a dress and becomes a better man," says director Sydney Pollack. Maybe so, but Tootsie's feminist aspirations did nothing to curb a flush of sexist and bathroom humor with which Hoffman regaled cast and crew off-camera. "How can I pick my nose with these fake fingernails?" he asked. (His own are bitten to the quick.) On better behavior, Dustin as Dorothy used one break in the filming to visit his daughter Jenna, 11, at school in Manhattan. "Gee," said one of her classmates when the ruse was disclosed, "I thought you were just a nice lady with a skin condition."
Dorothy in three scenes from Tootsie: lunching with her agent, played by director Sydney Pollack; dancing at the Copa with her suitor (Charles Durning); and sharing the only available bed on a country weekend with her soap co-star (Jessica Lange).