Tootsie is a 1982 American comedy film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Dustin Hoffman, with a supporting cast that includes Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Bill Murray, Charles Durning, George Gaynes, Geena Davis, Doris Belack and Pollack. The film tells the story of a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman in order to land a job. The film was adapted by Larry Gelbart, Barry Levinson (uncredited), Elaine May (uncredited), and Murray Schisgal from a story by Gelbart and Don McGuire.

Theatrical release poster
Directed bySydney Pollack
Produced byCharles Evans
Sydney Pollack
Dick Richards
Ronald L. Schwary
Screenplay byLarry Gelbart
Murray Schisgal
Barry Levinson (uncredited)
Elaine May (uncredited)
Story byDon McGuire
Larry Gelbart
Music byDave Grusin
CinematographyOwen Roizman
Edited byFredric Steinkamp
William Steinkamp
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • December 17, 1982 (1982-12-17)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$21 million[1]
Box office$177.2 million[1]

The film was a major critical and financial success, the second most profitable film of 1982, and was nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture. Lange was the only winner, for Best Supporting Actress.

In 1998, the Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The theme song, "It Might Be You", was performed by Stephen Bishop, with music by Dave Grusin and lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. It was a Top 40 hit in the United States and hit No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart.


Michael Dorsey is a respected actor, but nobody in New York wants to hire him because he is a perfectionist and difficult to work with. 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, who tries out for the role of hospital administrator Emily Kimberly. In desperation, he impersonates a woman, auditioning 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, which will star himself and Sandy. Michael plays his character as a feisty feminist, which surprises the other actors and the crew, who expected Emily to be (as written) another swooning female. His character quickly becomes a national sensation.

When Sandy catches Michael in her bedroom half undressed because he wants to try on her clothes in order to get more ideas for Dorothy's wardrobe, he covers up by claiming he wants to have sex with her. Exacerbating matters further, he is attracted to one of his co-stars, Julie Nichols, a single mother in an unhealthy relationship with the show's amoral, sexist director, Ron Carlisle. At a party, when Michael (as himself) approaches Julie with a pick-up line that she had previously told Dorothy she would be receptive to, 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—makes it known that she is not a lesbian.

Meanwhile, Dorothy has her own admirers to contend with: older cast member John Van Horn and Julie's widowed father Les. Les proposes marriage, insisting that Dorothy think about it before answering. When Michael returns home, he finds John, who almost forces himself on Dorothy until Jeff walks in on them. Later, Sandy visits Michael, asking why he hasn't answered her calls. Michael admits he's in love with another woman, and Sandy screams and breaks up with him.

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 by a technical problem to perform an episode live, he improvises a grand speech on camera, pulls off his wig and reveals that he is actually Edward, the character's twin brother who took her place to avenge her. The revelation allows everybody a more-or-less graceful way out. Julie, however, is so outraged that she punches him in the stomach once the cameras have stopped rolling, before storming off.

Some weeks later, Michael is moving forward with producing Jeff's play. He also gives Les back his ring, and Les tells Michael: "The only reason you're still living is because I never kissed you."

Michael later waits for Julie outside the studio. She is reluctant to talk to him, but finally admits she misses Dorothy. Michael tells her, "I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man." She forgives him and they walk down the street.



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."[2] 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.[3]) During 1979, Evans co-wrote a screenplay based on the play with director Dick Richards and screenwriter Bob Kaufman.[4] 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.[3] Before Hoffman officially got involved, his role was previously offered to Peter Sellers and Michael Caine.[5]

The film remained in development for an additional year as producers waited on a revised script.[6] As pre-production began, the film ran into additional delays when Richards left the role of director due to "creative differences".[7] 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.[8] In November 1981, Sydney Pollack signed on to the film as both director and producer as per the suggestion of Columbia.[9]

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.[10] Afterwards, Pollack still wanted to keep Coleman on board and cast him as the sexist, arrogant soap opera director Ron Carlisle.[11]

To prepare for his role, Hoffman watched the film La Cage aux Folles several times.[12] 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.[13]

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 were also filmed in Hurley, New York as well as at the National Video Studios in New York City.[14] Additionally filming took place in Fort Lee, New Jersey[15]


Box office

Tootsie opened in 943 theatres in the United States and Canada and grossed $5,540,470 in its opening weekend.[1] After 115 days, it surpassed Close Encounters of the Third Kind as Columbia's biggest domestic hit of all time.[16] Its final gross in the United States and Canada was $177,200,000,[1] 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.[17]

Critical response

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.[18]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 90% approval rating, based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 7.69/10. The critical consensus reads, "Tootsie doesn't squander its high-concept comedy premise with fine dialogue and sympathetic treatment of the characters".[19]


The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards; Jessica Lange was the only winner, for Best Supporting Actress.[20]

The other nominations were:

Golden Globe Awards

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.[21]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Musical adaptation

A stage musical of the movie premiered at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago from September 11 to October 14, 2018 before opening on Broadway in the spring of 2019. The musical has music and lyrics by David Yazbek; Robert Horn wrote the book; Denis Jones choreographed and Scott Ellis directed. Santino Fontana starred as Michael Dorsey.[25] He is joined by Lilli Cooper as Julie Nichols, Sarah Stiles as Sandy Lester, John Behlmann as Max Van Horn, Andy Grotelueschen as Jeff Slater, Julie Halston as Rita Mallory, Tony winner Michael McGrath as Stan Fields and Tony nominee Reg Rogers as Ron Carlisle.

Home media

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.[26] 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.[27]

See also


  1. "Tootsie (1982) > Summary > Production Budget > Domestic Total Gross". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
  2. Eller, Claudia. "Real Key Is How Goldwyn Is Treated." Los Angeles Times. July 28, 1995.
  3. Cook, Philip S.; Gomery, Douglas; and Lichty, Lawrence Wilson (1989) American Media: The Wilson Quarterly Reader. Washington, D.C.: Wilson Center Press, p. 95, ISBN 0943875102.
  4. Thompson, Kristin (2001) Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, p. 75, ISBN 0674010639.
  5. Evans, Bradford (31 January 2013). "The Lost Roles of Peter Sellers". Splitsider. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  6. "Marilyn Beck's Hollywood: Angie Dickinson bares all for 'Dressed to Kill role". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. July 25, 1980. p. 3. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  7. Blowen, Michael (December 12, 1982). "Dustin Hoffman tells why he was tough about 'Tootsie'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  8. Dawson, Nick (2011). Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813134635.
  9. Dworkin, Susan (2012). Making Tootsie: A Film Study with Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollack. Newmarket Press. ISBN 978-1557049667.
  10. "How Conflict Gave Shape to 'Tootsie'." New York Times. December 19, 1982. p. 1, 16.
  11. Joe Morgenstern (February 8, 2008). "Sketches of Sydney Pollack". Retrieved 2008-02-15.
  12. Beck, Marilyn (1980-04-03). "Marilyn Beck's Hollywood: Producers Finding Financing Rough". The Victoria Advocate. Victoria, Texas. p. 11D. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
  13. "Dustin Hoffman on TOOTSIE and his character Dorothy Michaels". American Film Institute on YouTube. 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  14. Maslin, Janet. "'Tootsie': A Woman Who Is Dustin Hoffman." New York Times. July 13, 1982.
  15. Anderson, Betsy (24 March 1991). "And the Winner Is . . . New Jersey, as a Location for Top Films" via
  16. "'Tootsie' Windfall". Variety. April 13, 1983. p. 3.
  17. "Tootsie (1982)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  18. Roger Ebert (December 17, 1982). "Tootsie". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-12-22.
  19. "Tootsie (1982)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
  20. "The 55th Academy Awards (1983) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
  21. "Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time". March 22, 2011. ABC News. Missing or empty |series= (help)
  22. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  23. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  24. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  25. McPhee, Ryan. " 'Tootsie' Musical, Starring Santino Fontana, Will Play Chicago Before 2019 Broadway Premiere" Playbill, January 24, 2018
  26. "Tootsie - 25th Anniversary Edition". 5 February 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  27. "Tootsie (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] [2016]". Retrieved 19 July 2018.
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