Hoffman (film)

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Film Poster
Directed byAlvin Rakoff
Written byErnest Gébler
Based onthe novel Shall I Eat You Now? by Ernest Gebler
Produced byBen Arbeid
StarringPeter Sellers
Sinéad Cusack
Ruth Dunning
Jeremy Bulloch
CinematographyGerry Turpin
Edited byBarrie Vince
Music byRon Grainer
Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC)
Longstone Film Productions
Distributed byAnglo-EMI (UK)
Release date
  • July 16, 1970 (1970-07-16)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom[1]

Hoffman is a 1970 British drama film directed by Alvin Rakoff and starring Peter Sellers, Sinéad Cusack, Ruth Dunning and Jeremy Bulloch.[2] It is the tale of an older man who blackmails an attractive young woman into spending a week with him in his flat in London, hoping that she will forget her crooked fiancé and fall in love with him instead.[3]

The film features one of Sellers' rare non-comedic performances.


Telling her fiancé Tom that she must spend a week with her sick grandmother, Janet instead goes to the flat of Hoffman, a recently divorced executive whom she hardly knows from the firm where she works. Her visit is not voluntary; Hoffman claims to have evidence that could send Tom to jail and has blackmailed her into spending the week with him. Although he desires Janet, Hoffman is still bitter about women and, without pressuring her physically, bullies her psychologically. Young and inexperienced, she eventually begins to fight back and even initiates some sexual provocation, insulting Hoffman when he does not respond.

Hoffman and Janet are interrupted when Tom comes looking for his missing fiancée after receiving an anonymous phone call from Hoffman, and Janet leaves with Tom. Discussing the situation, Tom and his mother ask Janet to return to Hoffman and to continue treating him well in order to keep Tom out of jail. Dismayed that Tom and his mother are more concerned for themselves than for her, Janet returns to Hoffman and negotiates the terms of his invitation to become his permanent companion.


Call Me Daddy[edit]

In 1967 a televised play titled Call Me Daddy, starring Donald Pleasence and Judy Cornwell, was broadcast as part of the Armchair Theatre series. It was written by Ernest Gébler and directed by Alvin Rakoff. The play was well-received and won an international Emmy.[4]

Shall I Eat You Now?[edit]

Gébler turned the story into a novel titled Shall I Eat You Now?, published the following year.[5] Producer Ben Arbeid optioned the screen rights to the novel and hired Gébler to write the script for a fee of £21,000.[6]


In August 1969, the film was announced by Bryan Forbes, with Sinéad Cusack and Peter Sellers, for Associated British Picture Corporation,[7] later, one of the first greenlit by Bryan Forbes while he was head of EMI Films.[8] It was the third film of the Forbes' regime to start filming, following And Now the Darkness and The Man Who Haunted Himself.[9]

Forbes arranged for Peter Sellers as the film's star, but Sellers did not wish to work with Rakoff. However, Forbes insisted that Rakoff remain, and Sellers eventually agreed to work with him. Rakoff later said: "Then we got on like a house on fire."[10]


The film was shot in the autumn of 1969, including seven weeks at Elstree Studios and a week on location at Thames Embankment and Wimbledon Common.[11]

Director Alvin Rakoff claimed that Sellers had originally wanted to play the role comically, with an Austrian accent. Rakoff persuaded him to play it straight, but says that Sellers then "went the other way -- his Hoffman is dark and slow. I kept trying to get Peter to do it faster but he wouldn't. He argued for this brooding quality."[12]

Sellers reportedly despised Hoffman because the lead character is so similar to his own personality. Arbeid said: "Benjamin Hoffman is very lonely, very insecure, very self deprecating; and these were all terms used by people to describe the real Sellers. So there was much of the character already in the actor... He had to play the internal self that wasn't there to begin with. He couldn't rely on mimicry, and he went through the torture of not knowing who Hoffman was because he didn't know who he was."[13]

Rakoff claimed that Sellers and Cusack began a short, intense love affair during filming.[10]


According to Bryan Forbes, head of EMI Films when the film was produced, Sellers entered a depressive phase after filming was completed and asked to purchase the camera negative and remake the film.[14] However, as the film had already been delivered to EMI, it was too late to accommodate Sellers' request. Producer Ben Arbeid said: "He had ample opportunity to discuss the film with me before it was delivered to them as a finished piece. Sellers just wanted to eliminate it."[12]

Forbes wrote "Unfortunately Peter entered into one of his manic depressive periods during the making of the film and immediately it was completed demanded to buy back the negative and remake it. This being hardly feasible, he then gave an interview prior to the film’s release in which he stated that the film was a disaster, thus doing every- body, including himself, a disservice. Not surprisingly, the film did not prosper. There was never any rational explanation why Peter acted in the way he did. His performance and that of his co- star, Sinead Cusack, were fine and Alvin’s direction polished. It was an outcome I could not have mie ectoecs but for which I had to take the blame."[15]

Arbeid said that Sellers "was so good, so convincing, he tried to buy the prints and burn them. Not because he was ashamed of the film, but because he'd recognised aspects of the inner man he thought he'd hidden forever."[12]


The film experienced trouble with censors but was ultimately assigned an AA rating.[16]


The film was not a success at the box office.[17] Producer Ben Arbeid said that the film received poor distribution, in part because of a conflict between Bryan Forbes and Bernard Delfont, head of EMI. Arbeid commented that the film "was an unusual piece, not what you'd expect of a Peter Sellers performance."[12]

In 1975, the film's writer Ernest Gébler turned Call Me Daddy into a play.[18]

The film was not screened in New York until 1982.[19]

Mike Sutton of the BFI believes that the film "contains one of Sellers’ most interesting performances."[20] Stephen Vagg of Filmink called the movie "comedy, I guess. Black comedy? Comedy drama? Hard to specify. One can’t blame Forbes for green lighting a Peter Sellers vehicle… but this was a weird one. It’s a creepy, rapey story in the vibe of something like The Collector about a middle aged man who kidnaps a younger woman… and she comes to fall for him… Sellers is excellent, so is Sinead Cusack, but it’s hard to make this sort of material anything other than unpleasant and surely even at inception, Forbes must have known this was a risk."[21]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on Blu-ray disc by Powerhouse Films in January 2022.[22]


  1. ^ "Hoffman (1970)". Archived from the original on 11 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Hoffman (1969)". BFI. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012.
  3. ^ HOFFMAN Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 37, Iss. 432, (Jan 1, 1970) p. 156.
  4. ^ JUDY CORNWELL on television Reynolds, Stanley. The Guardian 29 Apr 1968 p. 7.
  5. ^ Obituary: Ernest Gebler: No saint in Ireland Pine, Richard. The Guardian 24 February 1998 p. 16.
  6. ^ Gebler, Carlo (2013). Father And I: A Memoir. Hachette. ISBN 9781405529341.
  7. ^ Central Press (12 August 1969). "Bryan Forbes, actress Sinéad Cusack and actor Peter Sellers at a press conference held by the Associated British Picture Corporation". Getty Images. Court Suite, Grosvenor House, London. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  8. ^ "Bryan Forbes". Telegraph.co.uk. 9 May 2013.
  9. ^ Day-Lewis, Sean (13 August 1969). "British finance backs plans for 15 new films". The Daily Telegraph. p. 17.
  10. ^ a b Sikov 2002, p. 303.
  11. ^ Sikov 2002, p. 302.
  12. ^ a b c d Lewis 1997, p. 315.
  13. ^ Lewis 1997, p. 314-315.
  14. ^ "Peter Sellers 90th anniversary: 10 essential films". British Film Institute.
  15. ^ Forbes, Bryan (1993). A Divided Life:Memoirs. p. 106.
  16. ^ Moody, Paul (2018). EMI Films and the Limits of British Cinema. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 30–31.
  17. ^ City comment: Soon the darkness, The Guardian 8 March 1971: p. 12.
  18. ^ "Ernest Gebler and 'Call Me Daddy'". RTÉ.ie.
  19. ^ Sikov 2002, p. 306.
  20. ^ "Peter Sellers: 10 essential films".
  21. ^ Vagg, Stephen (10 October 2021). "Cold Streaks: The Studio Stewardship of Bryan Forbes at EMI". Filmink.
  22. ^ "Hoffman - le".


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