Taglines: You get America’s hottest new actress.
Michael Dorsey is an unemployed actor with an impossible reputation. In order to find work and fund his friend’s play he dresses as a woman, Dorothy Michaels, and lands the part in a daytime drama. Dorsey loses himself in this woman role and essentially becomes Dorothy Michaels, captivating women all around the city and inspiring them to break free from the control of men and become more like Dorsey’s initial identity. This newfound role, however, lands Dorsey in a hot spot between a female friend/’lover,’ a female co-star he falls in love with, that co-star’s father who falls in love with him, and a male co-star who yearns for his affection.
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.
About the Story
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 hospital administrator Emily Kimberly, but doesn’t 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 gets 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 attracted to one of his co-stars, 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.
Directed by: Sydney Pollack
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Bill Murray, Geena Davis, Doris Belack, Ellen Foley, Debra Mooney
Screenplay by: Larry Gelbart (screenplay), Murray Schisgal
Production Design by: Peter S. Larkin
Cinematography by: Owen Roizman
Film Editing by: Fredric Steinkamp, William Steinkamp
Costume Design by: Ruth Morley
Set Decoration by: Thomas C. Tonery
Music by: Dave Grusin
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: December 17, 1982