Tribeca 2017: Dustin Hoffman and Noah Baumbach Tease and Talk Filmmaking

Dustin Hoffman participated in Tribeca Talks: Directors Series alongside Noah Baumbach to talk about filmmaking inspirations and techniques.

When two generations of Hollywood come together — one of the most distinguished stars of the last 50 years and the other a prominent and talented indie filmmaker of the 21st century — it is both nostalgic and promising. On Monday, April 24, at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center as a part of the Tribeca Film Festival, Noah Baumbach and Dustin Hoffman indulged the audience in an engaging conversation about inspiration, working together and anything filmmaking.

The two were promoting their upcoming film “The Meyerowitz Stories,” helmed by Baumbach. They had a fiery chemistry on stage and teased each other throughout the night. Hoffman kept up a recurring joke about Baumbach’s desire to have actors say their lines exactly as written.

“Well, when we worked together, it was only the second time in 50 years that I worked with a director who wanted me to say every single word that was on the page,” Hoffman said. “And the last time that I had been asked to do that was ‘The Graduate.’”

Hoffman later acknowledged that throughout his career, he has come to realize why directors such as Baumbach cherish the words they write and want actors to stick close to the script.

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“[The dialogue] is stylized, but it’s stylized in such a way that the audience is not consciously aware of it. It’s music, and it took me a long time to really understand why you were so specific,” Hoffman said addressing Baumbach.

Baumbach is a leading figure in the independent film sphere and is perhaps most well known for his semi-autobiographical film “The Squid and the Whale” (2005), for which he garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Hoffman asked him about the the correlation between one’s life and the films they create.

“There’s a nuance in doing something that’s extremely personal and also using biographical elements and actual autobiography. I think also making a movie that is autobiographical is not [created only] by memories, it’s impossible. There’s so much invention, even by just bringing actors in,” said Baumbach.

Though Hoffman was the one interviewing Baumbach, he managed to sneak in a few anecdotes from his extensive career, including the now well-known story about the beloved “I’m walkin’ here!” line from “Midnight Cowboy.”

“So we finally get it after the 50th take and we were so happy at this point in the dialogue, Jon [Voight] and I, and we’re at the corner and it turns green and we’re able to keep walking, and a fucking cab — the truth is that this is the way the brain works,” Hoffman said. “What was in my head was, ‘We’re making a movie here!’ and just as I’m about to say that I realized you can’t, so the brain changes it to ‘I’m walkin’ here!’ but what was really being said for me was ‘We’re shooting here.’”

Hoffman and Baumbach offered the crowd an insightful conversation, rich with humor and thoughtful recollections about their experiences in the ever-changing film industry. Two worlds merged in a captivating event.

Email Daniella Nichinson at [email protected].

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