Last updated
Tootsie imp.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Produced by Charles Evans
Sydney Pollack
Dick Richards
Ronald L. Schwary
Screenplay by Larry Gelbart
Murray Schisgal
Barry Levinson (uncredited)
Elaine May (uncredited)
Story by Don McGuire
Larry Gelbart
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Edited by Fredric Steinkamp
William Steinkamp
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • December 17, 1982 (1982-12-17)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$21 million [1]
Box office$177.2 million [1]

Tootsie is a 1982 American romantic comedy film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Dustin Hoffman. Its supporting cast includes Pollack, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Bill Murray, Charles Durning, George Gaynes, Geena Davis, and Doris Belack. The film tells the story of a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman to land a job. The film was adapted by Larry Gelbart, Barry Levinson, Elaine May and Murray Schisgal from a story by Gelbart and Don McGuire.


Tootsie was a major critical and financial success, the second most profitable film of 1982, and was nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture. Lange was the only winner, for Best Supporting Actress. In 1998, the Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. [2] Its theme song, "It Might Be You", performed by Stephen Bishop, was a Top 40 hit in the United States.


Michael Dorsey is a respected actor, but nobody in New York City wants to hire him because he is a perfectionist and difficult to work with. He makes ends meet by working as a server in a restaurant and teaching acting classes. After many months without an acting job, Michael hears of an opening on the popular daytime soap opera Southwest General from his friend and acting student Sandy Lester, who tries out for the role of hospital administrator Emily Kimberly. In desperation, he impersonates a woman, auditioning as "Dorothy Michaels", and gets the part. Michael takes the job as a way to raise $8,000 to produce a play by his roommate Jeff Slater, which will star himself and Sandy. Michael plays Emily as a feisty feminist, which surprises the other actors and the crew, who expected her to be (as written) another swooning female. His character quickly becomes a national sensation.

When Sandy catches Michael in her bedroom half undressed because he wants to try on her clothes for ideas for Dorothy's wardrobe, he covers up by claiming he wants to have sex with her. Exacerbating matters further, he is attracted to one of his co-stars, Julie Nichols, a single mother in an unhealthy relationship with the show's amoral, sexist director, Ron Carlisle. At a party, when Michael (as himself) approaches Julie with a pick-up line to which she had previously told Dorothy she would be receptive, she throws a drink in his face. Later, as Dorothy, when he makes tentative advances, Julie—having just ended her relationship with Ron per Dorothy's advice—makes it known that she is not a lesbian.

Meanwhile, Dorothy has her own admirers to contend with: older cast member John Van Horn and Julie's widowed father, Les. Les proposes marriage, insisting that Dorothy think about it before answering. When Michael returns home, he finds John, who almost forces himself on Dorothy until Jeff walks in on them. A few minutes later, Sandy arrives, asking why he hasn't answered her calls. Michael admits he's in love with another woman, and Sandy screams and breaks up with him.

The tipping point comes when, due to Dorothy's popularity, the show's producers want to extend her contract for another year. Michael extricates himself when a technical problem forces the cast to perform live by improvising a revelation about Emily: that she is actually Edward, Emily's twin brother who took her place to avenge her. This allows everybody a way out, but Julie is so outraged at Michael's deception that she punches him in the groin once the cameras have stopped rolling and storms off.

Some weeks later, Michael is moving forward with producing Jeff's play. He returns Les's engagement ring, and Les says, "The only reason you're still living is because I never kissed you." Despite his anger, Les admits that Michael was good company as Dorothy, and Michael buys him a beer.

Michael later waits for Julie outside the studio. She is reluctant to talk to him, but he tells her that he and her father played pool and had a good time. She finally admits she misses Dorothy. Michael tells her, "I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man." Julie forgives him and they walk down the street together, engaged in conversation.



In the 1970s, fashion company executive Charles Evans decided to get into filmmaking. It was an industry his brother, Robert Evans, was successful in as an actor, producer, and studio executive. Evans told the Los Angeles Times in 1995 that he got into producing "because I enjoy movies very much. I have the time to do it. And I believe if done wisely, it can be a profitable business." [3] His first foray into film production was a massive success. In the early 1970s Don McGuire had written a play, Would I Lie to You?, about an unemployed male actor who cross-dresses to get jobs. It was shopped around Hollywood for several years until it came to the attention of comedian and actor Buddy Hackett in 1978. Interested in playing the talent agent, Hackett showed Evans the script. Evans purchased an option on the play. Delays in the film's production forced Evans to renew the option once or twice, [4] but in 1979, he co-wrote a screenplay based on the play with director Dick Richards and screenwriter Bob Kaufman. [5] A few months into the process, Richards showed it to Dustin Hoffman, his partner in a company that bought and developed properties for development into films. Hoffman wanted complete creative control, and Evans agreed to remove himself from screenwriting tasks, instead becoming a producer of the film, which was renamed Tootsie. [4] Before Hoffman officially got involved, his role was offered to Peter Sellers and Michael Caine. [6]

The film remained in development for another year as producers waited for a revised script. [7] As pre-production began, the film ran into additional delays when Richards quit as director due to "creative differences". [8] He became a producer instead, and Hal Ashby took over as director. Columbia Pictures then forced Ashby to quit because of the threat of legal action if his post-production commitments on Lookin' to Get Out were not fulfilled. [9] In November 1981, Sydney Pollack signed on to the film as director and producer at Columbia's suggestion. [10]

It was Hoffman's idea that Pollack play Michael's agent, George Fields, a role written for Dabney Coleman. Pollack resisted the idea, but Hoffman eventually convinced him; it was Pollack's first acting work in years. [11] Pollack still wanted to keep Coleman on board and cast him as the sexist, arrogant soap opera director Ron Carlisle. [12]

To prepare for his role, Hoffman watched the film La Cage aux Folles several times. [13] He also visited the set of General Hospital for research, and conducted extensive makeup tests. In an interview for the American Film Institute, Hoffman said he was shocked that although he could be made up to appear as a credible woman, he would never be a beautiful one, and that he had an epiphany when he realized that although he found this woman interesting, he would not have spoken to her at a party because she was not beautiful and that as a result he had missed out on many conversations with interesting women. He concluded that he had never regarded Tootsie as a comedy. [14]

Scenes set in the New York City Russian Tea Room were filmed in the actual restaurant, with additional scenes shot in Central Park and in front of Bloomingdale's. Scenes were also filmed in Hurley, New York, and at the National Video Studios in New York City. [15] Additional filming took place in Fort Lee, New Jersey. [16]


Box office

Tootsie opened in 943 theatres in the United States and Canada and grossed $5,540,470 in its opening weekend. [1] After 115 days, it surpassed Close Encounters of the Third Kind as Columbia's biggest domestic hit of all time. [17] Its final gross in the United States and Canada was $177,200,000, [1] making it the second-highest-grossing movie of 1982 after E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial . Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 56.9 million tickets in the US. [18]

The film was the highest-grossing film in Germany with a gross of $19 million. [19]

Critical response

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

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...The movie also manages to make some lighthearted but well-aimed observations about sexism. It also pokes satirical fun at soap operas, New York show business agents and the Manhattan social pecking order. [20]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 90% approval rating, based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 7.69/10. The critical consensus reads, "Tootsie doesn't squander its high-concept comedy premise with fine dialogue and sympathetic treatment of the characters". [21]


Academy Awards [22] Best Picture Sydney Pollack and Dick Richards Nominated
Best Director Sydney PollackNominated
Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Teri Garr Nominated
Jessica Lange Won
Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal and Don McGuire Nominated
Best Cinematography Owen Roizman Nominated
Best Film Editing Fredric Steinkamp and William Steinkamp Nominated
Best Original Song "It Might Be You" – Dave Grusin, Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman Nominated
Best Sound Arthur Piantadosi, Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander and Les Lazarowitz Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Fredric Steinkamp and William SteinkampNominated
Bambi Awards Best Film – InternationalJessica Lange (also for The Postman Always Rings Twice )Won
Bodil Awards Best Non-European Film Sydney PollackWon
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Dustin HoffmanWon
Best Supporting Actress Jessica LangeWon
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Sydney Pollack and Dick RichardsNominated
Best Direction Sydney PollackNominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Dustin HoffmanWon [lower-alpha 1]
Best Actress in a Leading Role Jessica LangeNominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Teri GarrNominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted Larry Gelbart and Murray SchisgalNominated
Best Costume Design Ruth Morley Nominated
Best Make Up Artist Dorothy Pearl, George Masters, C. Romaina Ford and Allen WeisingerWon
Best Original Song"It Might Be You" – Dave Grusin, Alan Bergman and Marilyn BergmanNominated
César Awards Best Foreign Film Sydney PollackNominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actor Dustin HoffmanNominated
Best Foreign Actress Jessica LangeNominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Sydney PollackNominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy TootsieWon
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Dustin HoffmanWon
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Jessica LangeWon
Best Director – Motion Picture Sydney PollackNominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Larry Gelbart and Murray SchisgalNominated
Golden Screen Awards Golden ScreenTootsieWon
Grammy Awards Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special Dave GrusinNominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle AwardsBest Supporting ActressJessica LangeWon
Kinema Junpo Awards Best Foreign Language FilmSydney PollackWon
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Screenplay Larry Gelbart and Murray SchisgalWon
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films TootsieWon
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Sydney PollackNominated
Best Actor Dustin HoffmanWon
Best Actress Jessica Lange (also for Frances )Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Teri GarrNominated
Jessica LangeWon
Best Screenplay Murray Schisgal and Larry GelbartNominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film TootsieNominated
Best Director Sydney PollackWon
Best Actor Dustin HoffmanNominated
Best Supporting Actor George Gaynes Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Jessica LangeWon
Best Screenplay Murray Schisgal and Larry GelbartWon
Online Film & Television AssociationHall of Fame – Motion PictureTootsieWon
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screenplay Larry Gelbart and Murray SchisgalWon

In 2011, ABC aired a primetime special, Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time , that counted down the best movies chosen by fans based on results of a poll conducted by both ABC and People Weekly Magazine. Tootsie was selected as the No. 5 Best Comedy. [23]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

National Film Registry — Inducted in 1998. [2]

Musical adaptation

A stage musical of the movie premiered at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago from September 11 to October 14, 2018 before opening on Broadway in the spring of 2019. The musical has music and lyrics by David Yazbek; Robert Horn wrote the book; Denis Jones choreographed and Scott Ellis directed. Santino Fontana starred as Michael Dorsey. [27] He was joined by Lilli Cooper as Julie Nichols, Sarah Stiles as Sandy Lester, John Behlmann as Max Van Horn, Andy Grotelueschen as Jeff Slater, Julie Halston as Rita Mallory, Tony winner Michael McGrath as Stan Fields and Tony nominee Reg Rogers as Ron Carlisle.

Home media

The film was first released on CED Videodisc in 1983, on VHS and Betamax videocassettes by RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video in 1985, and on DVD in 2001. These releases were distributed by Columbia Tristar Home Video. The film was also released by The Criterion Collection in a LaserDisc edition in 1992. A special 25th Anniversary edition DVD, released by Sony Pictures, arrived in 2008. [28] In the high-definition era, the film was released on the visually superior Blu-ray Disc format in 2013, albeit at this point in time it was only distributed in selected international territories such as Germany and Japan. The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Criterion Collection on December 16, 2014. [29]

See also


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