James Dean and Paul Newman.
CONAN: I have to ask you, and this, as far as I know — I’ve read this line that he’s attributed to in the taping and the process of filming that movie, you were said to have stayed awake for two days to get — be right for that part in the movie when you were supposed to have been awake for two days, the exhaustion, and he is supposed to have said, ‘Why doesn’t the dear boy just act?’ Mr. HOFFMAN: Well, it’s — you know, it’s become, God knows, more than slightly distorted. I told that story to Time magazine and then they reinterpreted it because it made a better story. I was in New York shooting. My marriage, first marriage, was falling apart. It was a good excuse to party. And, you know, the reason to stay up for two days wasn’t just because the character stayed up two days. It was because, you know, I was partying, it was Studio 54. And I rationalized it by saying, you know — so that was, I think, the deeper reason. When I got to Los Angeles and we continued filming and I was laughing, you know, talking to — I called him Lordage — talking to Lordage about this. We both laughed and he said—he says, ‘Why don’t you try acting?’ But there was irony there, which I said in the Time interview, which unfortunately was left out. And Joan Plowright agreed with me later when she said to me, ‘Larry, of all people,’ she said, ‘you know, didn’t just act. He was always looking for new absolutely extraordinary ways and things to do a part in a way that no one had done it before. It went beyond acting.’ For instance, she said in the last scene, or one of the last scenes of “Hamlet,” where, you know, Hamlet starts murdering everybody, she said, ‘Larry did a jump from 30 feet up, you know, on a scaffolding of the set. And if he didn’t land right on this actor’s shoulders, you know, they both would have broken their neck.’ And he was — you know, he did — and I always felt that there was, according — you know, the version that Time did, you know, there would have been another Olivier standing there saying to Sir Laurence, ‘Why don’t you just try acting?’ So that’s the spirit in which he said it. I think the story, in a sense, does a disservice to him because he was adventurous. You know, acting didn’t have boundaries to him.