• Post category:Television
  • Post last modified:December 27, 2022

Death of a Salesman



Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich. Photo: CBS

It’s been said that Arthur Miller originally envisioned Willy Loman as a smaller man in size than was usually played on stage. This TV movie, Volker Schlöndorff’s first American project, became Miller and Dustin Hoffman’s chance to give us a slightly different Loman, far from a hulking figure but still a commanding presence in his family. The film closely follows the play and much like the 1951 adaptation it moves impressively between the cinematic and the theatrical; the production design is both dark and explosively colorful at times. Hoffman and John Malkovich are brilliant, their characters trapped in a struggle over the American dream. 

1985-U.S. 136 min. Color. Produced by Robert F. Colesberry. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Teleplay, Play: Arthur Miller. Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus. Cast: Dustin Hoffman (Willy Loman), John Malkovich (Biff Loman), Kate Reid (Linda Loman), Stephen Lang, Charles Durning, David S. Chandler… Linda Kozlowski.  

Trivia: Released in theaters in many countries. Ed Harris was reportedly considered for the part of Biff.

Emmys: Outstanding Actor (Hoffman), Supporting Actor (Malkovich). Golden Globe: Best Actor (Hoffman).

Last word: “At the end of [my first meeting with Dustin Hoffman], when we left, he said, ‘And by the way, you know, I loved Mephisto.’ (chuckles) And at that moment, I understood. ‘No, no, no, you are mistaken, I’m the one who did Tin Drum.’ He said, ‘Oh!’ I asked, ‘Did you see it?’ ‘No.’ (laughs) Never mind. Anyhow at this point I was not eager yet to do the Salesman. It didn’t seem obvious to me that I, as a German, should be shooting this piece of Americana. But it turned out right. Often others know better what you should do. Half of the movies I absolutely wanted to make were a mistake. But the movies that came to me through people who said, ‘You’ve got to do this, this is for you,’ unfortunately they were right.” (Schlöndorff, Creative Armenia)


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