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Tootsie is a 1982 comedy film that tells the story of a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to go to extreme lengths to land a job. The movie stars Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, with a supporting cast that includes Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Bill Murray, Sydney Pollack, George Gaynes, Lynne Thigpen and Geena Davis (in her film debut). Tootsie was adapted by Larry Gelbart, Barry Levinson (uncredited), Elaine May (uncredited) and Murray Schisgal from the story by Gelbart. It was directed by Pollack.

In 1998 the United States 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" by singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, was a Top 40 hit in the U.S.


Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is a respected but perfectionist actor on the verge of turning forty. Nobody in New York wants to hire him anymore because he is so difficult to work with or he is either too old or too young for a role. Not having worked in four months, he eventually hears of an opening on the soap opera Southwest General (a parody of General Hospital) from his friend Sandy Lester (Teri Garr), who initially tries out for the role but doesn't get it. In desperation, he cross-dresses, auditions as ”Dorothy Michaels” and eventually wins the part.

Michael thinks it is just a temporary job to pay the bills, but he proves to be so popular as a feisty hospital administrator that, to his dismay, the producers sign him to a long-term contract. Dorothy is such a hit that she is even featured on the covers of a number of well-known magazines.

Complicating things even further, he is strongly attracted to one of his co-stars, Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange), a single mother and already in an unhealthy relationship with the show's amoral, sexist director, Ron Carlisle (Dabney Coleman). When Michael (at a party as himself) approaches Julie with a line that she had previously told Dorothy she'd be receptive to, she instead throws a drink in his face. Yet when he makes tentative advances (as Dorothy), Julie is shocked to think Dorothy might be a lesbian and later tells “her” that she likes her, but not in a romantic way.

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), both of whom fall for Dorothy, Les even proposing marriage. Michael’s roommate, writer Jeff Slater (Bill Murray), and his agent, George Fields (Sydney Pollack), are in on the masquerade and watch in amazement as the situation barrels out of control.

Michael finds a clever way to extricate himself. When the cast is forced to perform a scene live, he improvises and reveals that he is actually the character’s twin brother who took her place to avenge her, just the sort of weird plot twist for which soaps are noted (in particular the General Hospital “Sally Armitage is really Max Hedges!” storyline). The revelation allows everybody a more-or-less graceful way out. Julie is so shocked and outraged, she slugs him in the stomach (after the cameras are turned off).

Some weeks later, Michael, having made amends with Julie's father, waits for her outside the studio and touchingly confesses that “…I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man” and she forgives him.


Academy Awards




The idea of having director Sydney Pollack playing Hoffman’s agent, George Fields, was Hoffman’s. Pollack initially resisted the idea, but Hoffman eventually convinced him to take the role.

Scenes set in the New York City Russian Tea Room were filmed in the actual restaurant.

Video Release

Original release of the Film took place to 1982 in VHS in United States, distributed by Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment. In Soviet Union released on widely extended "Piracy" Videocassetes with Autor's Translation of Alexey Mihaleov (Алексей Михалёв).


Roger Ebert praised the film, giving it 4 out of 4 stars and observing that:
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.

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 89% fresh rating.

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 highest grossing comedy of 1982.

American Film Institute recognition

Popular culture

On the October 8, 2008 episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert talks about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He mentions his Jewish brethren, "sistren", and "transgender-he-she-thren", at which point she shows a picture of Dustin Hoffman in drag in Tootsie.

See also


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