12 Things You Never Knew About The Making Of The Graduate
Released in 1967, The Graduate launched Dustin Hoffman's career -- but do you know your Graduate trivia? The movie has been endlessly analyzed as a document of the shifting political, social, and above all, sexual, standards of the era. It's identified with the so-called generation gap, wrestles with the issue of disappointing your parents, and carries a whiff of the sexual openness that emerged that same year in the Summer of Love. Just about every college graduate at the time had a little bit of Benjamin Braddock in them.
But The Graduate might have been a very different film -- the Simon & Garfunkel theme song we all know so well almost didn't happen, and Dustin Hoffman almost didn't get the part. The poster image isn't what you thought it was, and Anne Bancroft is nowhere near as scandalous a lover for Hoffman as we're led to think. Read on for rare facts and unusual stories about The Graduate.
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross and a Bunch of No-Names
Interestingly, only Benjamin Braddock and his friends are known to have first names in the film. Every adult in The Graduate is addressed as Mr. or Mrs. Even after Benjamin slept with Mrs. Robinson, he never addressed her by her first name. This is said to have been a clear sign of the generation gap that was so prevalent at the time.
The Ages Are All Wrong
Anne Bancroft was just six years older than Dustin Hoffman, but their characters are supposed to be a generation apart. Even if we say that Ben Braddock is slightly older than Elaine (Katharine Ross), and that Mrs. Robinson gave birth to Elaine in her teens, the math still doesn't work. Gene Hackman, the actor who was initially cast as Mr. Robinson, was fired on the grounds that Mike Nichols felt he was too young to play Mrs. Robinson's husband, although in real life he's just one year older than Anne Bancroft. Nevertheless, Hoffman and Ross were both in their late 20s when making The Graduate -- a little old for college kids.
Neither of the Songs You Know Was Going to Be in the Movie
Paul Simon was contracted to write multiple songs for The Graduate, but the two he turned in to director Mike Nichols were rejected: "Hazy Shade of Winter" and "Punky's Dilemma." These would both show up on Simon & Garfunkel's 1968 album Bookends. Nichols had been using The Sound of Silence as a place-holder while editing the movie's audio track. Ultimately he decided that the song had the right feel and decided to purchase the rights to use it in key scenes (it plays three times in the film). Nichols still needed another song out of Simon, and Garfunkel came up with the solution. "I said to Mike, 'You know, Paul is working on a song called 'Mrs. Roosevelt,'" Garfunkel recalled for Forbes. "Mike said, 'Do you know how right that could be if we just changed the name – the syllables are perfect?' ... So Mike heard the duet, bought the whole idea, but of using Mrs. Robinson instead of Mrs. Roosevelt. There was no verse yet, so in the movie you hear: 'doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo' – that’s called a song not written yet."
Interestingly, "Hazy Shade of Winter" showed up 20 years later for another movie about a disaffected young man returning home to California from an east coast college. The film was Less Than Zero, and the song was covered by The Bangles.
There's debate over who actually wrote the script
After optioning Charles Webb's novel, director Mike Nichols reached out to fellow comedy writer Buck Henry to take a crack at the screenplay. At the time Henry was working on Get Smart during the day and The Graduate by night while living in the Chateau Marmont.
As far as Henry and Nichols are concerned, the screenplay belongs solely to Henry, but a lawsuit by screenwriter Calder Willingham earned the Paths of Glory scribe a credit on the film. Henry told Vanity Fair:
I didn't even know there were other scripts until I was finished, but Willingham sued for credit, and won. I was stunned at first, but it's interesting, because from that moment on, I never [cared] about credit. Give me the money, credit whom you want. And in some cases, I don't really want my name on the movie!
Benjamin Is The Alter Ego Of Mike Nichols
While speaking with Vanity Fair, Hoffman theorized that Nichols saw Benjamin as a younger version of himself, which led Hoffman to essentially play Mike Nichols in the movie. He said:
[Benjamin was] his alter ego, meaning that he always felt that he was the outsider, born in Germany, coming to this country at an early age, perhaps feeling that he was odd-looking, like me, at least in terms of what we call the leading man. He guided me in such a way that I was an alter ego of a younger version of himself. He saw himself in the character.
Mrs. Robinson Is Meant To Look Like A Predator
One of the most brilliant things about The Graduate is the way that there's no judgement placed on Anne Bancroft's character. She has wants and needs just like anyone else, but the way she goes about getting what she wants is somewhat extreme. To give Mrs. Robinson the feel of a predator without going to far overboard Nichols and his production designer, Richard Sylbert, dressed the character in $25,000 in furs.
The cast rehearsed like a play
Before filming, the cast had three weeks to rehearse which is a huge deal. Katherine Ross says:
We could have taken The Graduate on the road, we knew it so well. We rehearsed on a soundstage complete with tape marks and rehearsal furniture. Mike had just come off directing all those Neil Simon hits.
Hoffman says that he didn't realize how much of a luxury it was to have rehearsal time:
[I didn't know it] was unusual to rehearse as if we were doing a play, finding the character, which is what you do in theater. This was my first film, so I thought that was it! It was the best rehearsal I'd ever had, and the most creative time. But once we started shooting, I felt more frightened and insecure, brought on by my fear that Mike thought he had made a mistake in casting me. At a certain point, I was terrified that I was going to get fired.
Emotional filmmaking at it's finest...
Oscar winner Robert Surtees was the cinematographer on The Graduate, and in a piece for Action magazine in 1967 he wrote that this was the first film he ever worked on where the visuals were dictated by the emotions onscreen:
We did more things in this picture than I ever did in one film. We used the gamut of lenses ... hidden cameras, prefogged film [as well as handheld cameras]. We would do whatever we could think of to express the mood, the emotion of the scene.
Mrs. Robinson's Famous Leg Is Not Mrs. Robinson's Leg
Linda Gray’s leg was used as a stunt double on the poster advertising The Graduate in the '60s. At the time she was an unknown model without any film credits. Her first credited work would come in 1974 (an episode of Marcus Welby, MD). In 1978, in the series permiere, she began her run in the role on the show that defined her career: Sue Ellen Ewing on Dallas.
Hoffman Was Totally Wrong For The Part
The character as described in the book and screenplay was a tall, handsome, Californian WASP, more or less -- not a short Jewish kid from New York. Robert Redford was up for the role and Hoffman is the first to admit that Redford fit the bill. Redford wanted it -- but Nichols put the kibosh on that. "I said, 'You can’t play it. You can never play a loser,'" Nichols recalled. "And Redford said, 'What do you mean? Of course I can play a loser.' And I said, 'O.K., have you ever struck out with a girl?' and he said, 'What do you mean?' And he wasn’t joking."
Burt Ward, who was then portraying Robin, on the Batman TV series, was offered the lead role. Because of his involvement in the hit TV series, the producer of Batman wouldn’t allow it. Ward was quoted as saying, “Because Batman was so enormous and successful ... they didn’t want to dilute anything to do with the character by having me play a different role. The studio wouldn’t let me do it."
Just Another Broke 'Graduate'
As an unknown actor at the time, Dustin Hoffman was paid only $17,000 for his role in The Graduate. After taxes and expenses, he reportedly netted only $4,000. He could have made more, but he took a stand on artistic principle -- before he even tested, he was told that the film studio would require the actor cast to sign a multi-picture deal. Hoffman was having none of it. "I said, 'They're going to tell me what movies I have to be in? I'm not testing,' Hoffman recalled for GQ. "[My agent] was stunned. 'You know how hard it is to get a test for The Graduate?' Nichols was the god of theater and film. And I said, 'No one's telling me what to do.'" After filming completed, Hoffman returned to New York City, put roughly $3,000 in the bank, and filed for unemployment "for $45 or $50 a week, while they're editing me into becoming a star."