Oscar-winner also accuses the industry of discriminating against actors who don’t want to use guns in films
The Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman has dismissed the depiction of gun violence in Hollywood as “fraudulent” and claimed that studios actively discriminate against actors who refuse to carry firearms onscreen.
Interviewed on National Public Radio in the US, The Graduate star became the latest high-profile figure to wade into the debate following the killing of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. Advocates of gun control have used the opportunity to press for new laws to combat similar massacres, but Hollywood has also come under sustained pressure for what many see as its glamorisation of firearm use.
Hoffman, 75, said he had tried throughout his career to avoid films which required him to use guns on screen – though he conceded he carried a weapon in Straw Dogs, Hook and Little Big Man – for very personal reasons and because he does not believe they should be part of the entertainment industry.
“I have always felt passionate about the fact that the audience is identifying (with movie violence) in a very fraudulent way,” Hoffman revealed. “I don’t find anything interesting about a gun. A gun is there to threaten or kill.”
The actor revealed he was once targeted by a gun-toting theatre producer during the 1960s, an experience which had left him with fierce anti-firearm views. “I don’t think people understand what it’s like to have a gun pointed at you,” he said. “When it happened to me (it was) after Kennedy (US President John F Kennedy) had just been assassinated. I was in Boston. I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to take a hit’ and every second you are feeling the bullet go straight through you … You’re in immediate shock. I’ve never forgotten that feeling … It was a guy who was part of a theatre company on the producing end … He came out and pointed this gun …”
Hoffman said directors were often guilty of using violent scenes to bolster a plot because “the script is lacking”. He complained that a gun was “rarely used in film in a way that it feels like in life,” adding: “It’s simplified into being a cartoon experience.”
Perhaps even more controversially, Hoffman implied that actors had seen their careers stifled due to a refusal to carry guns on screen. “If you are not holding a gun, and that is something I have always refused to do, then suddenly this person who was always offered leading roles, suddenly gets offered supporting parts then you… start getting offered cameos…”
Hoffman’s is a rare Hollywood voice speaking out against what he sees as studios’ advocacy of gun violence. While fellow Oscar-winner Denzel Washington has gone on record promising to think more carefully about which roles he takes in the wake of the Newtown massacre, a whole host of prominent figures – from Quentin Tarantino to Samuel L Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger – have refused to accept any link between violence on screen and in real life. The debate was sparked when the powerful US National Rifle Association, under fire for failing to consider new gun control laws, attempted to point the figure of accusation at Hollywood instead in the wake of the killings on 14 December.