Jennifer Lawrence’s latest movie No Hard Feelings didn’t make any significant strides at the box office. However, in times when mostly only iconic franchises or movies with star-studded casts and intricate plots make real money, it was refreshing to see a fairly simple and feel-good movie.
The romantic dynamic between 19-year-old Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) and significantly older Maddie (Lawrence) was a throwback, akin to romantic comedies like The Rebound (2009) and Afterglow (1997).
The Graduate (1967), which featured Dustin Hoffman, was a bit more intricate but more or less showed the same dynamics and is considered a pioneer in the genre. Turns out, the movie’s behind-the-scenes antics were even more entertaining.
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Why Dustin Hoffman Believed He Would Be Fired From The Graduate
The iconic filmmaker Mike Nichols was at the time only directing his second movie, but the success of his dark comedy Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? instantly established himself among the most sought-after directors of his time.
As such, when the works started for The Graduate, the story about a young college graduate who is seduced by the wife of his father’s business partner, many stars were touted to play the lead role of Benjamin Braddock.
Dustin Hoffman, who became a household name after the late 60s, was still waiting for his maiden lead role at the time and wasn’t considered to be in the running to star in Nichols’ next big project.
Nichols, however, had different plans and by that time he had enough influence to make bold decisions. Accordingly, he handed Hoffman the opportunity to give a screen test, which also featured Katharine Ross (who landed the role of Elaine Robinson).
But the filmmaker’s screen test was tricky. Instead of the usual brief reading on screen, Nichols wanted to do “10 pages all in one take”. Hoffman recalled the experience to the Criterion Collection: “Katharine and I both kept screwing up. We were both violently nervous.”
The actor thought he had bottled the chance after multiple takes, but Nichols surprised him. He continued:
“Mike takes me aside after, god knows, the 10th take or whatever, and I go to talk to him, and I think, ‘Oh, I hope he’s going to tell me, ‘Thank you. Just go back to New York.’ But he says, ‘You know, you seem so nervous, so ill at ease.’ I said, ‘I am … I really am. I told you I don’t think I’m right, and I, you know, don’t know the lines that well. I couldn’t learn them fast enough.’ And I remember he said, ‘Just relax … The curtain’s not going to open. There’s no audience. It’s not the movie that’s going to come out. It’s a screen test.’”
The Closer director was equally nervous about the whole thing, which Hoffman realized after shaking his sweaty hand. Regardless, Nichols saw something brilliant from the whole ordeal and picked the then-young talent for the role.
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Robert Redford Was Also in the Running for Dustin Hoffman’s The Graduate
Nichols’ brilliant story and Hoffman’s equally impressive portrayal of Benjamin worked miracles and the movie made $104.9 million at the box office.
However, it later emerged that he wasn’t the first choice for the role. Producer Lawrence Turman wanted a more popular name to lead his movie, and during that era, only a few were more capable of attracting fans to the theaters than Robert Redford, who these days is rather known for playing Alexander Pierce in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The superstar even gave a screen test with the very beautiful Candice Bergen (who was considered for Elaine’s part). And would you believe it? He missed out on the part because he was just too good-looking.
Redford was keen to lead The Graduate but Nichols thought he wasn’t suited to play a loser (Benjamin) on screen.
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Source: Criterion Collection – YouTube