Tootsie is a 1982 American comedy film that tells the story of a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman to land a job. The movie stars Dustin Hoffman, with a supporting cast that includes Bill Murray, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Geena Davis (in her acting debut), Doris Belack and producer/director Sydney Pollack. Tootsie was adapted by Larry Gelbart, Barry Levinson (uncredited), Elaine May (uncredited) and Murray Schisgal from the story by Gelbart and Don McGuire.
In 1998, the Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The theme song to the film, "It Might Be You," which was sung by singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, whose music was composed by Dave Grusin, and whose lyrics were written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, was a Top 40 hit in the U.S., and also hit No. 1 on the U.S. adult contemporary chart.
Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is a respected but perfectionist actor. Nobody in New York wants to hire him anymore because he is difficult to work with. According to his long-suffering agent George Fields (Sydney Pollack), Michael's attention to detail and difficult reputation led a commercial he worked on to run significantly over-schedule, because the idea of a tomato sitting down was "illogical" to him. After many months without a job, Michael hears of an opening on the popular daytime soap opera Southwest General from his friend and acting student Sandy Lester (Teri Garr), who tries out for the role of a hospital administrator Emily Kimberly but does not get it. In desperation, and as a result of his agent telling him that "no one will hire you", he dresses as a woman, auditions as "Dorothy Michaels" and wins the part. Michael takes the job as a way to raise $8,000 to produce a play, written by his roommate Jeff Slater (Bill Murray) and to star Sandy, titled Return to Love Canal. Michael plays his character as a feisty, feminist administrator, which surprises the other actors and crew who expected Emily to be (as written) another swooning female in the plot. His character quickly becomes a television sensation.
When Sandy catches Michael in her bedroom half undressed (he wanted to try on her clothes in order to get more ideas for Dorothy's outfits), he covers up by professing he wants to have sex with her. They have sex despite his better judgment about her self-esteem issues. Michael believes Sandy is too emotionally fragile to handle the truth about him winning the part, especially after noticing her strong resentment of Dorothy. Their relationship, combined with his deception, complicates his now-busy schedule. Exacerbating matters further, he is strongly attracted to one of his co-stars, lovely, soft-spoken Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange), a single mother in an unhealthy relationship with the show's amoral, sexist director, Ron Carlisle (Dabney Coleman). At a party, when Michael (as himself) approaches Julie with a pick-up line that she had previously told Dorothy she would be receptive towards, she throws a drink in his face. Later, as Dorothy, when he makes tentative advances, Julie—having just ended her relationship with Ron per Dorothy's advice—confesses that she has feelings about Dorothy which confuse her, but is not emotionally ready to be in a romantic relationship with a woman.
Meanwhile, Dorothy has her own admirers to contend with: older cast member John Van Horn (George Gaynes) and Julie's widowed father Les (Charles Durning). Les proposes marriage, insisting Michael/Dorothy "think about it" before answering; he leaves immediately and returns home to find co-star John, who almost forces himself on Dorothy until Jeff walks in on them. John apologizes for intruding and leaves. The tipping point comes when, due to Dorothy's popularity, the show's producers want to extend her contract for another year. Michael finds a clever way to extricate himself. When the cast is forced to perform the show live, he improvises a grand speech on camera, pulls off his wig and reveals that he is actually the character's twin brother who took her place to avenge her. Sandy and Les, who are all watching at home, react with the same level of shock as the cast and crew of the show, with the exception being Jeff, who simply remarks, "That is one nutty hospital!" The revelation allows everybody a more-or-less graceful way out. Julie, however, is so outraged that she slugs him in the stomach in front of the cast once the cameras have stopped rolling before storming off. Some weeks later, Michael is moving forward with producing Jeff's play. He awkwardly makes peace with Les in a bar, and Les shows tentative support for Michael's attraction to Julie. Later, Michael waits for Julie outside the studio. Julie resists talking but finally admits she misses Dorothy. Michael confesses, "I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man." At that, she forgives him and they walk off, Julie asking him to lend her a dress.
- Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey / Dorothy Michaels
- Bill Murray as Jeff Slater
- Jessica Lange as Julie Nichols
- Teri Garr as Sandra "Sandy" Lester
- Dabney Coleman as Ron Carlisle
- Charles Durning as Leslie "Les" Nichols
- Sydney Pollack as George Fields
- George Gaynes as John Van Horn
- Geena Davis as April Page
- Doris Belack as Rita Marshall
- Lynne Thigpen as Jo
- Estelle Getty as Middle Aged Woman
- Willy Switkes as Man at Cab
- Tobin Bell as Waiter (uncredited)
In the 1970s, fashion company executive Charles Evans decided to get into movie-making. It was an industry which his brother, Robert Evans, was successful in as an actor, producer, and studio executive. Evans told the Los Angeles Times in 1995 that he got into producing "because I enjoy movies very much. I have the time to do it. And I believe if done wisely, it can be a profitable business." His first foray into film production was a massive success. Playwright Don McGuire had written a play in the early 1970s about an unemployed male actor who cross-dresses in order to get jobs. Titled Would I Lie to You?, the play was shopped around Hollywood for several years until it came to the attention of comedian and actor Buddy Hackett in 1978. Hackett, interested in playing the role of the talent agent, showed the script to Evans. Evans purchased an option on the play. (Delays in the film's production forced Evans to renew the option once or twice.) During 1979, Evans co-wrote a screenplay based on the film with director Dick Richards and screenwriter Bob Kaufman. A few months into the writing process, Richards showed it to actor Dustin Hoffman, his partner in a company which bought and developed properties for development into films, but Hoffman wanted complete creative control, and Evans agreed to remove himself from screenwriting tasks. Instead, Evans became a producer on the film, which was renamed Tootsie. Before Hoffman officially got involved, his role was previously offered to Peter Sellers and Michael Caine.
The film remained in development for an additional year as producers waited on a revised script. As pre-production began, the film ran into additional delays when Richards left the role of director due to "creative differences". He assumed the role of producer instead, being replaced as director by Hal Ashby. Ashby was subsequently forced to leave the project by Columbia Pictures because of the threat of legal action if his post-production commitments on Lookin' to Get Out were not fulfilled. In November 1981, Sydney Pollack signed on to the film as both director and producer as per the suggestion of Columbia.
The idea of having director Sydney Pollack play Hoffman's agent, George Fields, was Hoffman's. Originally the role was written for, and to be played by, Dabney Coleman. Pollack initially resisted the idea, but Hoffman eventually convinced him to take the role; it was Pollack's first acting work in years. Afterwards, Pollack still wanted to keep Coleman on board, and recast him, as the sexist, arrogant soap opera director Ron Carlisle.
To prepare for his role, Hoffman watched the film La Cage aux Folles several times. He also visited the set of General Hospital for research, and conducted extensive make-up tests. In an interview for the American Film Institute, Hoffman said that he was shocked that although he could be made-up to appear as a credible woman, he would never be a beautiful one. He said that he had an epiphany when he realized that although he found this woman interesting, he would not have spoken to her at a party because she was not beautiful and that as a result he had missed out on many conversations with interesting women. He concluded that he had never regarded Tootsie as a comedy.
Scenes set in the New York City Russian Tea Room were filmed in the actual restaurant, with additional scenes shot at Central Park and in front of Bloomingdale's Scenes also filmed in Hurley, New York as well as at the National Video Studios in NYC.
Its opening weekend gross in the United States was $5,540,470. Its final gross in the United States was $177,200,000, making it the second-highest-grossing movie of 1982 after E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 56.9 million tickets in the US.
Roger Ebert praised the film, giving it 4 out of 4 stars and observing:
Tootsie is the kind of Movie with a capital M that they used to make in the 1940s, when they weren't afraid to mix up absurdity with seriousness, social comment with farce, and a little heartfelt tenderness right in there with the laughs. This movie gets you coming and going...The movie also manages to make some lighthearted but well-aimed observations about sexism. It also pokes satirical fun at soap operas, New York show business agents and the Manhattan social pecking order.
The other nominations were:
- Best Picture: Sydney Pollack and Dick Richards
- Best Actor in a Leading Role: Dustin Hoffman
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Teri Garr
- Best Director: Sydney Pollack
- Best Original Screenplay: Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal and Don McGuire
- Best Original Song ("It Might Be You"): Dave Grusin (music), Alan and Marilyn Bergman (lyrics)
- Best Sound: Arthur Piantadosi, Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander and Les Lazarowitz
- Best Cinematography: Owen Roizman
- Best Film Editing: Fredric Steinkamp and William Steinkamp
- Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (won)
- Best Director: Sydney Pollack
- Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy: Dustin Hoffman (won)
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture: Jessica Lange (won)
- Best Screenplay:Larry Gelbart & Murray Schisgal
In 2011, ABC aired a primetime special, Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time, that counted down the best movies chosen by fans based on results of a poll conducted by both ABC and People Weekly Magazine. Tootsie was selected as the No. 5 Best Comedy.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #62
- 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #2
- 2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
- 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- Rita: "I'd like to make her look a little more attractive. How far can you pull back?"
- Cameraman: "How do you feel about Cleveland?"
- – Nominated
The film was first released on CED Videodisc in 1983, on VHS and Betamax videocassettes by RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video in 1985, and on DVD in 2001. These releases were distributed by Columbia Tristar Home Video. The film was also released by The Criterion Collection in a laserdisc edition in 1992. A special 25th Anniversary edition DVD, released by Sony Pictures, arrived in 2008. In the high-definition era, the film was released on the visually superior Blu-ray Disc format in 2013, albeit at this point in time it was only distributed in selected international territories such as Germany and Japan. The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Criterion Collection on December 16, 2014.