Dustin Hoffman to Receive Kennedy Center Honor - The Jewish Voice
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Dustin Hoffman to Receive Kennedy Center Honor

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Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman (Photo credit: George Biard)Two-time Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman will be among those feted later this year at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC. The 35th annual ceremony will also honor Buddy Guy, Led Zepplin, David Letterman, and Natalia Makarova.

Since his big-screen breakthrough as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate in 1967, Hoffman has been one of Hollywood’s most revered leading men, often mentioned in the same breath as Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Gene Hackman when discussing the best American actors. He has won two Oscars, an Emmy, and five Golden Globe Awards.

“Dustin Hoffman’s unyielding commitment to the wide variety of roles he plays has made him one of the most versatile and iconoclastic actors of this or any other generation,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

Hoffman was born in Los Angeles on August 8, 1937, the second son of Jewish parents Lillian (née Gold) and Harry Hoffman. He occupied himself with a lot of television and stage work in the 1960s before Mike Nichols cast him opposite Anne Bancroft in The Graduate. Following that film’s success, Hoffman appeared in some of the most acclaimed films of the 1970s and 1980s, including Midnight Cowboy, Lenny, All the President’s Men, Kramer vs. Kramer (his first Oscar), Tootsie, and Rain Man (his second Oscar). Younger audiences have gotten to know Hoffman from his supporting roles in Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers, in which he and Barbra Streisand played the hippie parents of Ben Stiller.

On the Broadway stage, Hoffman transformed the role of Willy Loman into something totally his own in the 1984 revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. He later recreated the role for the TV-movie adaptation, which won him an Emmy. He again appeared on Broadway in 1989 as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

Hoffman was most recently seen in the HBO series Luck, in which he played a Jewish ex-con who makes plans to take control of the Santa Anita racetrack in Los Angeles, while simultaneously plotting revenge against the ones he holds responsible for sending him to prison. The show was a critical and ratings winner but was cancelled due to a series of unfortunate events in which three horses died during filming.

Hoffman’s next project will not feature him in front of the camera. He has directed the film version of Ronald Harwood’s play Quartet, which is scheduled to be released in January. The mostly British cast includes Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, and Pauline Collins.

Since its inception in 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors have been one of the most prestigious accolades artists can receive, more elusive than even the Oscar. Past Jewish Kennedy Center honorees include Mel Brooks, Neil Diamond, Kirk Douglas, Mike Nichols, Itzhak Perlman, Neil Simon, Stephen Sondheim, Steven Spielberg, and Barbra Streisand.

The President and Mrs. Obama will receive the honorees and members of the artists committee who nominate them, along with the Kennedy Center board of trustees at the White House prior to the gala performance. The Kennedy Center Honors medallions will be presented on December 1st, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The gala will air December 26th on CBS at 9:00 p.m. EST.

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