Hoffman (film)

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"Hoffman" (1970 film).jpg
British quad poster
Directed byAlvin Rakoff
Produced byBen Arbeid
Written byErnest Gébler
Based onnovel Shall I Eat You Now? by Ernest Gebler
StarringPeter Sellers
Sinéad Cusack
Ruth Dunning
Jeremy Bulloch
Music byRon Grainer
CinematographyGerry Turpin
Edited byBarrie Vince
Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC)
Longstone Film Productions
Distributed byAnglo-EMI (UK)
American Continental (US)
Release date
  • 1970 (1970)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom[1]

Hoffman is a 1970 British 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 (Sellers) who blackmails an attractive young woman (Cusack) into spending a week with him in his flat in London. His hope is that she will forget her crooked fiancé and fall in love with him instead.[3]

It contains one of Sellers' rare 'straight' performances.


Telling her fiancé Tom she has to spend a week with her sick grandmother, Janet instead goes to the flat of Hoffman, a recently divorced executive in the firm where she works whom she hardly knows. Her visit is not voluntary, since Hoffman claims to have evidence that could send Tom to jail and has blackmailed her into spending the week with him. While full of desire for the young woman, he is also still bitter about women and, without pressuring her physically, bullies her psychologically. Young and inexperienced, she eventually begins to fight back and even starts some sexual provocation and then insults Hoffman when he does not respond.

They are then interrupted when Tom comes looking for his missing fiancée, having been prompted by an 'anonymous' phone call actually made by Hoffman, and Janet leaves with Tom. Discussing the situation, Tom and his mother ask Janet to go back to Hoffman and continue being nice to him in order to keep Tom out of jail. Dismayed that both of them are more concerned for themselves than for her, she goes back to Hoffman and negotiates the terms to agree to his invitation to be his permanent companion.


Source Material[edit]

In 1967 a TV play Call Me Daddy was broadcast in the Armchair Theatre series, written by Ernest Gebler, directed by Alvin Rakoff and starring Donald Pleasence and Judy Cornwell. It was well received and won an international Emmy.[4]

Gebler turned the story into a novel, Shall I Eat You Now?, published the following year.[5]


Producer Ben Arbeid optioned the screen rights to the novel and hired Gebler to write the script for a fee of ₤21,000.[6]

The film was one of the first greenlit by Bryan Forbes while he was head of EMI Films.[7]

Forbes arranged for Peter Sellers to star. Sellers met up with Rakoff, and the star decided he did not want to work with the director. However, Forbes insisted that Rakoff stay on the film and Sellers agreed to work with him. "Then we got on like a house on fire," said Rakoff.[8]


Director Alvin Rakoff says Sellers originally wanted to play the role comically, with an Austrian accent. The director persuaded him to play it straight, but says 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."[9]

The film was shot in the autumn of 1969. There were seven weeks shooting at Elstree Studios with a week on location at Thames Embankment and Wimbledon Common.[10]

Reportedly, Sellers despised Hoffman because the lead character too closely reflected 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 internel 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."[11]

Rakoff says Sellers and Cusack had a short, intense affair during filming.[12]

Sellers Attempts to Suppress Film[edit]

According to Bryan Forbes, who was head of the studio that financed the film, Sellers went through a depressive phase after filming was completed and he asked to buy back the negative and remake the movie.[13] He also gave an interview where he said the film was a disaster.[14]

Arbeid said Sellers "was so good, so convincing, he tried to buy the prints and burnt 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."[15]

Lewis said the film had already been delivered to EMI so it was too late. "He had ample opportunity to discuss the film with me before it was delivered to them as a finished piece," said Arbeid. ""Sellers just wanted to eliminate it."[16]


The film was not a success at the box office.[17] Arbeid says the film received poor distribution, in part due to a conflict between Forbes and Bernard Delfont, head of EMI. The producer admits the film "was an unusual piece, not what you'd expect of a Peter Sellers performance."[18] The film was not screened in New York until 1982.[19]

In 1975 Gebler turned Call Me Daddy into a play.[20]

The BFI has said the film had one of Seller's most interesting performances.[21]


  1. ^ https://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b6ac70be0
  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.
  7. ^ "Bryan Forbes". Telegraph.co.uk. 9 May 2013.
  8. ^ Sikov p. 303
  9. ^ Lewis p. 315
  10. ^ Sikov p. 302
  11. ^ Lewis p. 314-315
  12. ^ Sikov p. 303
  13. ^ "Peter Sellers 90th anniversary: 10 essential films". British Film Institute.
  14. ^ Bryan Forbes, A Divided Life, Mandarin Paperbacks 1993 p. 106
  15. ^ Lewis p. 315
  16. ^ Lewis p. 315
  17. ^ City comment: Soon the darkness, The Guardian 8 March 1971: p. 12.
  18. ^ Lewis p 315
  19. ^ Sikov p 306
  20. ^ https://www.rte.ie/archives/2015/0421/695566-ernest-gebler-and-call-me-daddy/
  21. ^ https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/peter-sellers-10-essential-films


External links[edit]