Movie Feature by Kris Griffiths
Dustin Hoffman discusses sex, drugs and growing old gracefully.
MOONLIGHT MILE is very much about parenting - as a parent and grandparent do you remember any specific cases of laying down the law against rebellion?
Well everyone has their own philosophy and my philosophy is that you have to set a framework. It's not a democracy - it's your house, and it becomes their house if they follow the rules. What I've learned as a parent is that they become smarter than you at a very early age and you can't con them. If they get you into a debate then you're lost... stuff like, "so-and-so doesn't have a curfew, why do I?" You have to say, "no discussion - you're home at 10.30, done." Then there's the shock when they hit eighteen and become their own person and all you can do is offer advice. As far as the hard stuff is concerned - drugs and sex - me and my wife fell into the practice of not saying no but simply describing the consequences of unsafe sex and smoking cigarettes. Then they'd say "But you smoked grass daddy" and I'd explain that we didn't know about it then what we know today and there was a big difference in quality (laughs). But what we didn't have back then was ecstasy, which is such a dangerous drug that can damage your brain, and the main thing is that no two brains are the same. We don't really know much about the brain except that women are smarter than men.
If women are smarter than men, why has your country never been led by a woman?
Because it's been controlled by men. It's such an interesting question... I guess it's just the physical, muscular strength that has caused one gender to dominate the other. But it's the testosterone thing that's fucking destroyed us and it's all come to a head right now. War is a male sport and always has been. But women, and I have to generalise here, possess the most powerful element that a human being can possess: the innate need to nurture, to give and to love which I, as a man, am not sure we possess.
There are several echoes of THE GRADUATE in the film, for example your character's name is Ben...
When I got this job I actually said: "Are you sure wanna keep this name? You're gonna get bit all over the place". But he wanted to keep it.
Do you feel that Joe is this generation's Ben Braddock?
Well the character is because he's a little worried about his future and is in that malaise of not knowing what to do next. And like Benjamin in 1967 he's the product of a family that traded material gifts for love.
How does it feel being on such a different generation level?
That's like asking, "Is it fun getting old?" People are always talking about all my awards, but I'd trade them all in a second for a 'Most Promising Newcomer' award. You learn all about the generation gap through your kids and it's so interesting how important it is for them to have secrets. As soon as we find out about it then it's no longer 'cool', so they're always looking for new music, new language, which constantly changes and the dynamics of it is that it excludes anyone who isn't of their generation. The idea to separate and be independent is innate.
Is there much difference between being a father and a grandfather?
Well yeah, I don't mind the word 'daddy' but I don't like the word 'grandpa' - I just don't like the sound of it. You find out how settled you are into your skin about your age. In America, senior citizenship starts at 65 and you can get into a movie for half-price. Now I'd love to get in half-price but don't wanna say I'm a senior citizen (laughs).
In Britain, when you become a senior citizen you get a free bus-pass which means you can use public transport for free. Do you get them in America and if so, have you got one?
I'm afraid I haven't been on a bus in a long time so I wouldn't know (laughs). We have lots of buses running in Los Angeles and I've always wanted to take a ride on one of them but just haven't got round to it.
I only ask because as soon as Sean Connery turned 65, he demanded his free bus-pass! That's the Scottish for you...
Do you wanna hear a good Scottish joke with a bad accent? There's this Scotsman sleeping under a tree wearing a kilt and a Scottish lass walks by and decides that this would be the perfect opportunity to find out whether Scotsmen wore anything underneath their kilts. So she tiptoes up to him, lifts up his kilt, sees him fully exposed and is so excited that she pulls a ribbon from her hair and ties it around his manhood before leaving him. A couple of hours later when the man wakes up, he feels something under his kilt so he lifts it up to have a look and says:
"I doon't knoow where you've been but wherever it was you got first prize!" (laughs)
I hear you're suddenly a member of the Johnny Vegas fan club. Please explain.
I was at the Empire Awards last night and I'd never heard of him before but after seeing him come on I think he's the fastest, most erudite and gifted man with the sharpest, most facile mind that I have seen in a long time. And he wasn't just being funny... he was just extraordinary. In America the comedian is not acknowledged to the degree that they should be but I think it's the most serious form of performing arts. It's definitely the hardest because humour hits about as deep a level as music does and he hits that level. His humour is profound. He must have Dylan Thomas coursing through his veins because there must be a poet in that guy. I know nothing about him though.