Dustin Hoffman is born in Los Angeles, 1937. “I got into acting so that I could meet girls,” the actor once said. “Pretty girls came later. First, I wanted to start off with someone with two legs, who'd smile at me and look soft.” A graduate of Los Angeles High School, Hoffman took an acting course at Santa Monica City College before dropping out and training at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and The Pasadena Playhouse. In Pasadena he met Gene Hackman, who eventually left the Playhouse to eek out a living as a New York actor. Hoffman followed suit and, for a time, slept on the kitchen floor of Hackman’s one-bedroom Kips Bay apartment. Hoffman’s movie breakthrough was to have been the role of Franz Liebkind in The Producers (1968). Director Mel Brooks, however, let him audition for another movie just prior to the start of production—a role for which Brooks safely considered Hoffman completely wrong for. He ended up getting the part and getting out of his Producers contract to assume the role of Benjamin Braddock opposite Brooks’s wife, Anne Bancroft, in The Graduate (1967).
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Mike Nichols is born in Berlin, Germany, 1931. In a 2009 New York Times interview, Nichols recalled leaving Europe with his family in 1939 to settle in America, with the only English he knew being “I do not speak English” and “Please do not kiss me.” He improved his English, became a U.S. citizen in 1944 and, at 17, went to work at Howard Johnson’s in New York’s Times Square. “A customer asked me what our ice cream flavor of the week was," said Nichols, ”which was a dumb question because there was a huge banner showing that it was maple. So I told him that it was chicken. The customer laughed, but the manager fired me immediately. They were bastards there.” In show business, he helped start Second City Improv and acted onstage here and there before forming a comedy duo with Elaine May—a hit in nightclubs, television and recordings. Directing for the New York stage primed him for directing for the movies, where he joined the A-list with his first feature, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Oscar nominated for his directorial debut, he won the following year for The Graduate (1967) and received more Academy nominations a couple of decades later for Silkwood (1983) and Working Girl (1988).
Anne Bancroft is born in The Bronx, 1931. Though she gave acclaimed performances in such noteworthy films as The Pumpkin Eater (1964), The Turning Point (1977) and Agnes of God (1985)—and won a Best Actress Oscar for The Miracle Worker (1962)—the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967) is perhaps the part Bancroft is most strongly identified with. As the older woman to Dustin Hoffman, she was, in reality, 35 years old—just five years older than Hoffman and a mere eight years older than Katharine Ross, who played her daughter. “Film critics said I gave a voice to the fear we all have,” Bancroft once said of her portrayal, “that we'll reach a point in our lives, look around and realize that all the things we said we'd do and become will never come to be—and that we're ordinary.” Paul Simon sang “Mrs. Robinson” at her memorial in June 2005 following her death from uterine cancer.