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Given your reputation, would the director Dustin Hoffman have hired the actor Dustin Hoffman?
Yes. It’s a very easy answer. My first directors, Mike Nichols (“The Graduate”) and John Schlesinger (“Midnight Cowboy”), were not like many of the directors who followed, so I thought that was the way movies worked. Mike Nichols rehearsed the principals for months, so we were comfortable in what we were doing. Schlesinger worked differently. Jon Voight and I were in a room with him and the screenwriter, Waldo Salt. He [Schlesinger] had a tape recorder and had us improvise every scene so it could be coordinated into the script. And he didn’t stop until he was done. And then there are some directors who weren’t motivated in that way and were critical of me. They were critical of me in print and that’s something I’ve never done and won’t do.
How were you as a director?
I was less demanding than the first two directors I worked with — and I am very demanding. And Maggie Smith is equally so. There were days when, on the third take, Maggie would say “I don’t know what the [blank] this scene is about” and lose her cool. It was wonderful because she was right. I don’t know whether these stories are true but there are certain stars who they say after one or two takes walk off the stage. Give me someone like Maggie Smith anytime.
(At this point, Hoffman’s assistant interrupts to say that our time is up.)
But I didn’t have a chance to fawn over you.
Oh, well, that’s okay. Do it in print. Are you in New York? We’ll go out one day. I think you’ll like my friend Murray Schisgal.
If you actually call me to go out for drinks, I’ll buy.