The Graduate star has spoken out in the aftermath of the devastating shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on 14 December (12), when 20 young children and six adults were gunned down.
The atrocity prompted calls for U.S. politicians to tighten the country’s firearms laws to prevent another rampage, and also sparked debate over whether gun violence on the big screen is linked to the high number of shootings in America.
Hoffman insists he has always hated handling weapons onscreen and has only carried guns in a few of his movie roles, including Straw Dogs, Hook and Little Big Man, as he feels moviemakers shouldn’t use violence to thrill viewers.
The actor reveals his hatred of firearms began in the 1960s when a theatre colleague threatened to shoot him in a dispute over work.
He tells America’s NPR radio, “I have always felt passionate about the fact that the audience is identifying (with movie violence) in a very fraudulent way… I don’t find anything interesting about a gun. A gun is there to threaten or kill…
“I don’t think people understand what it’s like to have a gun pointed at you. When it happened to me (it was) after Kennedy (U.S. President John F. Kennedy) had just been assassinated. I was in Boston. I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to take a hit’ and every second you are feeling the bullet go straight through you… You’re in immediate shock. I’ve never forgotten that feeling… It was a guy who was part of a theatre company on the producing end… He came out and pointed this gun…”
Hoffman is convinced many moviemakers use shooting scenes to bolster the plot because “the script is lacking”, and don’t convey the true horror of real life violence because “a gun is rarely used in film in a way that it feels like in life. It’s simplified into being a cartoon experience.”
He also fears actors are pushed into violent roles because their career will suffer if they refuse to handle weapons onscreen, adding, “If you are not holding a gun, and that is something I have always refused to do, then suddenly this person who was always offered leading roles, suddenly gets offered supporting parts then you… start getting offered cameos…”
Fellow actor Denzel Washington recently admitted he will be choosing his movie roles more carefully in the aftermath of the Connecticut shooting, but both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Samuel L. Jackson have spoken out to insist movie violence has no correlation with real life issues.