Dustin Hoffman was furious when he realised he couldn’t improvise Shakespeare.
The 84-year-old actor played Shylock in a London production of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in 1989 and co-star Geraldine James revealed Hoffman was enraged when he discovered that he could not alter the Bard’s words.
Speaking on the ‘Who I Am This Time’ podcast, she said: “He was furious he couldn’t improvise. But Dustin worked incredibly hard and came in one day and said, ‘I’ve just realised you can’t improvise this s***.”
Geraldine played Portia in Sir Peter Hall’s production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ but admitted she wasn’t initially keen on the role.
She previously told Den of Geek: “I said ‘Oh no, she’s such a stuck-up…. I don’t think I want to play her’. Then I said ‘Who’s playing Shylock?’ and he said ‘Dustin Hoffman’ so…
“There are lots of big American actors coming over to do theatre now but Dustin was one of the first. He came to Peter Hall and said ‘I want to do Shakespeare, will you direct me as Hamlet?’ and Peter Hall said ‘Er, possibly? I’d suggest you do something else before you attempt Hamlet’ and he said to have a look at Shylock so he had a look and he did it.”
And Geraldine loved working with Dustin.
She said: “Dustin was brilliant. He was very, very popular. Slightly more popular in New York than here I suppose. No, that’s not true. People loved it and critics just… I don’t know, I’m afraid I don’t read them.
“I’d love to do more Shakespeare but Shakespeare didn’t write parts for older women. He had nobody to act them I suppose. I love playing Shakespeare. I haven’t done any for years.”