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Dustin Hoffman Lets Off a Little Steam Over ‘Bathgate’

Dustin Hoffman is disappointed in the outcome of “Billy Bathgate.” Speaking to The Times on the Chicago set of “Hero,” Hoffman said about the film:

“We (Hoffman and director Robert Benton) had an agreement that it’d be the same kind of working relationship we had in ‘Kramer vs. Kramer,’ ” Hoffman said. “We’d be partners. I told him there were certain things I didn’t like going in, but he said we’d be able to work it out in re-shooting.”

But Hoffman says Benton didn’t take his suggestions, to the film’s detriment: “I told him at the beginning that we were going up against Coppola and Scorsese, people who had their stories in their gut, and we needed something different. And we had it. No one had done anything on the era of the Jewish gangsters before. I did a lot of research. I met some of those old Jews who were hit men in their day. They were like Catskills comics. They were terrific, funny characters.

“Then there was the story itself. It should be a triangle between the boy, the girl and me. I’m (playing) Daddy and may ask him to kill Daddy’s girl. Without that bond between us, there’s no tension.”

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Hoffman maintains that there was no friction on the set. “At the end, Benton put his arm around me and said, ‘This is the best experience I’ve ever had.’ I just said, ‘It’s your picture. We’re not partners.’ I was just there to serve.”

“I’m sorry Dustin feels that way,” Benton said. “I thought it was very collaborative. A huge amount of his input is in this picture. I’m very proud of it.”


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