Dustin Hoff­man at 80

The leg­endary US ac­tor tells con­stantly feels like a fail­ure. why he still

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Af­ter­noon Mediter­ranean light pours into an open door­way where Dustin Hoff­man sits, grin­ning. He’s turned 80 this sum­mer and his hair, still full, is mostly white. But he looks re­mark­ably good. Age has done lit­tle to dim his ea­ger­ness for en­gage­ment, his mis­chievous wit or, it turns out, his pro­cliv­ity for con­tin­ual self­ex­am­i­na­tion. In Noah Baum­bach’s The Meyerowitz Sto­ries (New and Se­lected), which com­peted for the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val ear­lier this year, he plays a mostly for­got­ten ab­stract artist whose failed am­bi­tions and self­ob­ses­sion have in­stilled deep neu­roses into his chil­dren (Adam San­dler, Ben Stiller, El­iz­a­beth Mar­vel).

Hoff­man, a two-time Os­car win­ner, might seem to have lit­tle in com­mon with Harold Meyerowitz, but he dis­agrees. ‘‘Feel­ing like a fail­ure, it’s con­stant,’’ says Hoff­man. ‘‘I do try hard to im­prove each day, but you don’t. I’ve been in therapy for­ever. In fact, I have a deal with my an­a­lyst that af­ter I die she’ll come and sit at the grave site and we’ll find a way to com­mu­ni­cate.’’

At even a celebrity-stuffed film fes­ti­val such as Cannes, Hoff­man was a stand­out. A ‘‘leg­end’’, as he was ac­cu­rately called at a press con­fer­ence – a la­bel Hoff­man re­acted to with an eye roll. ‘‘I re­sent peo­ple who say they grew up with my movies,’’ he re­sponded. He’d have pre­ferred to play ei­ther Ben Stiller or Adam – a joke, but also not.

May wasn’t Hoff­man’s first trip to Cannes. He was there in 1974 with Lenny, and more re­cently with Kung Fu Panda.

‘‘More than a few peo­ple came up to me and told me that Kung Fu Panda was my best work. So I vowed never to go there again,’’ he says with an ear-to-ear smile.

And he lived it up this time around, dancing with co-star Emma Thomp­son on the red car­pet, bor­row­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher’s cam­era at the photo call and pon­der­ing whether one young re­porter with the last name of Hoff­man was a long-lost son. ‘‘It was that press tour 25 years ago,’’ he joked.

The Meyerowitz Sto­ries, which will de­but on Net­flix on Oc­to­ber 13, drew head­lines for San­dler’s dra­matic turn, but Hoff­man is also pre­dictably great in it. He calls his char­ac­ter – prickly, psy­cho­log­i­cally abu­sive, self­ish, funny – a com­bi­na­tion of his own fa­ther and Baum­bach’s.

‘‘If your fa­ther feels like a fail­ure but doesn’t re­ally feel that he should be, it’s par­tic­u­larly bur­den­some on many chil­dren, and I cer­tainly was one of them,’’ Hoff­man says. ‘‘You keep try­ing to change their third act. You keep try­ing to save them. Even if they’re dead, you some­how want to see them more pos­i­tively than was ac­cu­rate in their life.’’

At this stage in his life, Hoff­man can’t help but re­flect on his suc­cess, the kind that so painfully eludes Harold Meyerowitz.

‘‘I do be­lieve you don’t learn from suc­cess, that it crusts you over. You learn from fail­ure, but that has noth­ing to do with what the cul­ture says,’’ says Hoff­man. ‘‘I’ve of­ten won­dered, at least in my busi­ness – which it is – or in my art form that what­ever amount of drugs or drink­ing or dif­fer­ent types of self-de­struc­tion, that they were think­ing as they were com­ing up, that if they ever hit that mo­ment of money and suc­cess, that that would be it. And then they found out that it has noth­ing to do with your in­ner self – not a shred. It may for a while, if you kid your­self, and yet it doesn’t fill up that hole. I do feel that about Trump very strongly.’’

The elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, re­cent com­par­isons of White House scan­dal to Water­gate and the hard­nosed re­port­ing of many, in­clud­ing The Wash­ing­ton Post, have given one of Hoff­man’s hall­mark films, All the Pres­i­dent’s Men, a new rel­e­vance.

Hoff­man agrees, ‘‘Ab­so­lutely,’’ and says he’s en­joyed watch­ing his old char­ac­ter, Carl Bernstein, on CNN.

With the sun­light start­ing to fade, Hoff­man is due back at his ho­tel. But be­fore he goes, he’s stopped cold by a ques­tion of whether act­ing has helped him, along with all those years of therapy.

‘‘Yes, I think I have to say yes,’’ he says af­ter some thought. ‘‘I’ve al­ways said that there’s no such thing as play­ing a char­ac­ter. You give your­self a walk or a dif­fer­ent ac­cent, cer­tain as­pects of a char­ac­ter. But you keep your­self there. You’re not per­form­ing some­one else.’’ – AP

The Meyerowitz Sto­ries (New and Se­lected) will de­but on Net­flix on Oc­to­ber 13.

In The Meyerowitz Sto­ries (New and Se­lected), Dustin Hoff­man plays Harold Meyerowitz, a mostly for­got­ten ab­stract artist whose failed am­bi­tions and self-ob­ses­sion have in­stilled deep neu­roses into his chil­dren, in­clud­ing Ben Stiller’s Matthew.

Last Chance Henry’s Emma Thomp­son and Dustin Hoff­man re-team for The Meyerowitz Sto­ries (New and Se­lected).

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