It was a vintage Dustin Hoffman performance: high-minded and a little
lecherous all in one long breath.
Hoffman came to Cannes Friday, to announce a partnership with an Aussie
outfit (Village Roadshow Productions) to permit Hoffman to produce six films
each costing under $10 million. Hoffman took dead aim at Hollywood, saying
"The films I've liked in the last few years have all been these independent,
In trying to greenlight "a shelf full of projects" that had been sent to his
Punch Production company, he got frustrated with the Big Boys. "You take a
small budget film to the agents and they all say 'A slam dunk,' and then you
can't get the studios to do 'em because they say 'The project is
"Well," said the tan, fit Hoffman (a condition one British writer was at
pains to compliment) "I challenge that assumption."
Asked by one female broadcast reporter if he was following Robert Redford's
Sundance lead, Hoffman replied, " I'm not Redford. I don't have his business
sense." Pause. "When you were out at Sundance," Hoffman winked, "did you
have a date with him?"
Hoffman said he wanted to make films like "Il Postino" or those made by
Chinese director Zhang Yimou ("Shanghai Triad", "To Live", "Judou"), whom he
described as one of the two or three great directors in the world." Hoffman
blamed the media in general and TV in particular for changing the film
landscape: "Whenever it happened that boxoffice became more important than
the film itself, and the media reportage combined with the public's ability
to rent a video three months after a film came out and didn't do well,"
according to Hoffman, sealed the fate of serious film. "Perception of a
film's worth is tied to how much it makes in the first weekend," he said,
noting that the legendary "Jules and Jim" only made $200,000 when it came out
30 years ago.
While Hoffman denied that it was star salaries that caused the cost problem,
he also let Hollywood off the hook, saying it was as disenchanted with the
problem as he was. The trashing of the culture is a media problem also
affecting "the nation's best newspapers, Hoffman said, responding to a
question from the female reporter for the Washington Post, whom he called on
using a bit of dialogue business from "All the President's Men" about
"getting the job over 500 applicants." "Where'dja go, to Brown," he flirted.
Back to the business of being a man who cares, Hoffman continued, "The
Washington Post and New York Times are hanging on by their fingernails," and
only barely resisting the slide toward "TV tabloid journalism."
Fed a question about literal-minded film critic Michael Medved's campaign to
clean up Hollywood, Hoffman dismissed Medved as irrelevant and went on to
excoriate the media's emphasis on violence, saying it affected "the worldwide
global village from Scotland to Tasmania," recalling the recent massacres
there. "It's commerce mixed with violence," said Hoffman, in a way he thought
he'd never see. Tears positively welled up in the actor's eyes at this (Think
"Small dog yanks baby from burning building, dies").
Cannes has changed since his first experience here for "Lenny" in 1974,
Hoffman recalled. "I came and saw a porn producer who'd made a movie in which
a woman has sex with a pig, and the producer was walking around Cannes - with
the pig, and the pig was wearing a ribbon." (Not Babe's mother). Things have
gotten worse, Hoffman continued. The man who drives Hoffman (no ribbon)
around the city told him, "Twenty years ago you used to see Gary Cooper
walking around Cannes, which was a little village with a film festival, but
no more." Hoffman blamed TV for transforming Cannes into a marketplace.
Aside from Coop being dead 20 years ago, which probably caused a minor stir
when he took his stroll on the lamented human-scale Croisette, Hoffman always
has time for charm. He complimented another female reporter, "I really like
your hair," and yet another "Hey, nice outfit!. I mean that."
Hoffman also plugged the afternoon screening of David Mamet's "American
Buffalo," in which he stars. Not included in the official festival, the film
screened in the market only for people in the business. The press was turned
Back to Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.