Birmingham Stage Company

Olivier and Hoffman

11 May 2008

There's a famous story about Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman filming MARATHON MAN which has become mythic. But often retold incorrectly, as in the Sunday Telegraph today. "Why don't you just act dear boy" was the put-down Olivier was supposed to have given Hoffman, fueling a debate between two different approaches to acting. When I interviewed Hoffman at The Playhouse Theatre to raise money for the fledgling BSC, he told us the real story.

A scene in the movie supposedly happens after Hoffman's character has been awake for three days without sleep. So Hoffman, who was curious, decided to keep awake for three days before filming the scene to see what it felt like. (He said two days was just about OK but by the third day he began to hallucinate). When Olivier arrived on set, he came across a very dishevelled actor. "My poor boy, what on earth has happened to you?" he asked the crumpled Hoffman. "I've stayed awake for three days to film this scene" Hoffman replied. "My dear chum" said a concerned Olivier, and with a strong affection for the young star "why don't you just act, dear boy, it's a lot easier". Soon after Hoffman told this story himself to a journalist as a dig at his own acting mania, but it was reported as a snide retort from the English actor. Hoffman has always regretted this interpretation.

Whatever approach they used, they're both pretty sensational in the film!

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