Still the best acceptance speech ever for me

Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer, Best Actor, Academy Awards 1979

I’m up here with mixed feelings. I’ve been critical of the Academy, and for reason. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be able to work. I am greatly honored for being chosen by the producer, Stanley Jaffe, and the director, Bob Benton, and to have worked in a family with them, and with Meryl and with Justin, who if he loses again we’ll have to give him a lifetime achievement award. And to Jane Alexander and to Jerry Greenberg and to Nestor and to the crew on the film who was part of that family. And to the crew and to the directors like Bob Fosse and Mike Nichols and John Schlesinger that I’ve worked with before. We are laughed at when we are up here, sometimes, for thanking. But when you work on a film you discover that there are people who are giving that artistic part of themself that goes beyond a paycheck, and they are never up here. And many of them are not members of the Academy, and we never hear of them. But this Oscar is a symbol, I think, and it is given for appreciation from those people whom we never see. They are part of our life.

I refuse to believe that I beat Jack Lemmon, that I beat Al Pacino, that I beat Peter Sellers. I refuse to believe that Robert Duvall lost. We are a part of an artistic family. There are sixty thousand actors in this Academy – pardon me – in the Screen Actors Guild, and probably a hundred thousand in Equity. And most actors don’t work, and a few of us are so lucky to have a chance to work with writing and to work with directing. Because when you’re a broke actor you can’t write; you can’t paint; you have to practice accents while you’re driving a taxi cab. And to that artistic family that strives for excellence, none of you have ever lost and I am proud to share this with you. And I thank you.

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