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This 1967 blockbuster launched the film career of Dustin Hoffman and captured the angst of a generation in its lead character caught between growing up and giving up.
1. Hoffman wasn’t the first choice.
Casting was at first told to look for a “new Jimmy Stewart”. Among those briefly considered were John Glover, Edward Herrmann, and Harvey Keitel. The list narrowed to six candidates including Charles Grodin, Tony Bill, Robert Lipton, and Robert Redford. As stories go, in telling Redford why he didn’t fit the role, he asked if he had ever been turned down. To which, Redford allegedly said, “What do you mean?”
2. Doris Day was approached to play Ms. Robinson.
Director Mike Nichols was, at first, looking for a name, and Day, approximately 44 at the time, fit the bill. For reference, The Graduate was released in 1967, and Day’s final film role With Six You Get Eggroll, a family-oriented film, came out in 1968. Day maintained that she turned down the part because of its content, while others believe her manager husband may have withheld the script from her.
3. Other big names were considered for Ms. Robinson.
Patricia Neal was considered, but she was still recovering from her stroke in 1965. The director met with Ava Gardener, but didn’t think she was up for the role. One producer thought about Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Susan Hayward, or Shelley Winters. In the end, Anne Bancroft was cast. "Everybody was telling me it was beneath me and that I shouldn't do it. I read the script and I loved the script,” she said.
4. Hoffman turned down Mel Brooks.
Hoffman was scheduled to appear in The Producers as the crazy playwright of Springtime for Hitler. When he found out he was the lead in The Graduate, he ran over and woke Brooks by throwing pebbles at his window. Brooks then jokingly asked him, “You mean you’re deserting me to spend the summer in Hollywood making love to the love of my life?”
5. Gene Hackman was the original Mr. Robinson.
Hackman was actually Hoffman’s roommate. After everyone was hired, however, Hackman was fired just before filming began. The role then went to Murray Hamilton, and Hackman moved onto Bonnie and Clyde, where he was nominated for an Oscar.
6. Buck Henry has a cameo.
William Goldman was the first considered to write the screenplay but he turned it down (Goldman later wrote The Marathon Man which starred Hoffman). Buck Henry eventually took up the writing responsibility, intrigued by the basic premise. He later said, “[Producer] Turman, [Director] Nichols, and I related to The Graduate in exactly the same way. We all thought we were Benjamin Braddock.” Henry played the small role of the hotel clerk.
7. Simon and Garfunkel were hired to write three songs.
But only one made the cut of the film – “Mrs. Robinson”, which was originally sung “Here’s to you, Mrs. Roosevelt.” Director Mike Nichols was introduced to their music by his brother and felt that their voice matched the main character’s sense of searching. The film was cut using Simon and Garfunkel songs, under the assumption that they would later be changed. However, Nichols felt they fit and fought to have them in.