Dustin Hoffman was thirty years old when he signed on to play the role of innocent and nervous Benjamin Braddock. While many other actors, including Charles Grodin, Warren Beatty, and Robert Redford were all considered for the role, Dustin Hoffman won it for his comic chops and his expert depiction of a sexually inexperienced young man. Having primarily worked in stage plays, Dustin Hoffman was hesitant at first about taking the role of WASP-y Benjamin Braddock, but Mike Nichols assured him that he was right for the role, and his performance was star-making. Having grown up in Los Angeles, and always feeling alienated by it, Hoffman identified with the character of Benjamin Braddock, and received praise for his soulful, heartfelt, and comic performance.
Mrs. Robinson is, perhaps, the most iconic “older woman” in Hollywood sex comedy history. Surprisingly enough, Anne Bancroft was a mere six years older than Hoffman when she signed on to play a friend of his mother's. Bancroft had won two Tonys and an Oscar previous to being cast in The Graduate, and was a student of Method acting in New York, but she was not Nichols' first choice to play the role. While many people discouraged her from taking on such an unsympathetic character, it was her husband, the comedian Mel Brooks, who eventually persuaded her to take the role. Bancroft's performance is stunning and layered, as she creates a real human underneath the cruel bite of Mrs. Robinson. Just as much as the viewer hates her cruelty, one understands why Mrs. Robinson feels so left out to dry, and that is a credit to Anne Bancroft's skills as an actress.
Katherine Ross was a relative unknown when she signed on to play Elaine Robinson. Like Hoffman, Ross would go from unknown to superstar as a result of the film, and is praised for her bright-eyed and innocent performance in the film. She was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the film, and would go on to have great success in movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Stepford Wives.
Mr. Braddock (Benjamin’s dad)
William Daniels was a solid character actors routinely seen in guest-starring roles on various TV shows both prior to and immediately following The Graduate. Perhaps best known to movie audiences as the hilariously uptight social worker in A Thousand Clowns, his recognizable face was perfect for the part of Benjamin’s father. Fifteen years after the release of The Graduate, Daniels would finally find the part he was born to play: heart surgeon Dr. Craig on St. Elsewhere for which he won two Best Actor in a Drama Emmy Award.
Many viewers can instantly recognize the actor who plays Mr. Robinson for his guest roles on seemingly every crime drama to appear on television between the 1950s and the 1990s. Two roles on the big screen stick out on the resume of Murray Hamilton: Mr. Robinson, of course, and the role for which he is certainly most recognized: the evil Mayor Vaughn in Jaws.
Like Hamilton and Daniels, Walter Burke regularly acted on television throughout his career.
In addition to playing the room clerk at the Taft hotel, Buck Henry, along with Calder Willingham, penned the film's screenplay, which was nominated for an Oscar.
Elizabeth Wilson was an accomplished Tony-award winning actress of stage, television and film.
Brian Avery is a television and film actor.
Norman Fell was a television and film actor, best known for his other role as the landlord on the sitcom Three's Company.
The Graduate Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Graduate is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.