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This 1967 blockbuster launched the film career of Dustin Hoffman and captured the angst of a generation with its lead character who was caught between growing up and giving up.
1. Hoffman wasn’t the first choice.
For the lead part of Benjamin, the casting department was 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 the story goes, when they told Redford that he didn't get the part, he asked why not. So they asked him if a woman had ever turned him down. Redford allegedly asked, “What do you mean?”
2. Doris Day was approached to play Ms. Robinson.
At first, director Mike Nichols was looking for a big name to play Mrs. Robinson. In his mind, Day, who was 44 at the time, fit the bill. However, Day didn't agree. She stated that she turned down the part because of the film's content. Others believed her manager-husband may have withheld the script from her, so she never got a chance to weigh up the decision. Day's last film, With Six You Get Eggroll, was released in 1968, approximately one year after The Graduate.
3. Other big names were considered for Ms. Robinson.
Patricia Neal was considered, but she was still recovering from the stroke that she had in 1965. The director met with Ava Gardener, but he didn’t think she was up for the role. Others considered were Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Susan Hayward, and 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 supposed to appear in Mel Brooks' The Producers as the crazy playwright of Springtime for Hitler. However, he dropped out of the film after he was cast in The Graduate, which was also going to feature Brooks' wife, Anne Bancroft. He was so excited upon finding out that he actually went to Brooks' house, threw pebbles at his window to wake him, and told him the news. 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.
At the time, Hackman was actually Hoffman’s roommate. After everyone was cast, however, Hackman was fired just before filming began. The role then went to Murray Hamilton. Hackman moved on to Bonnie and Clyde, where he was nominated for an Oscar.
6. Buck Henry has a cameo.
William Goldman was offered the chance to write the screenplay but declined (Goldman later wrote The Marathon Man which starred Hoffman). Buck Henry took over and 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 also played the small role of the hotel clerk.
7. Simon and Garfunkel were hired to write three songs.
But only one made the final cut – “Mrs. Robinson.” The original lyrics were actually “Here’s to you, Mrs. Roosevelt.” Director Mike Nichols was introduced to their music by his brother and felt that their voices matched the main character’s sense of searching. At first, the film was cut using Simon and Garfunkel songs, with the assumption that they were simply filler and would be taken out later. However, in the end, Nichols felt that they fit and fought to have them remain.