Hoffman ponders inner peace amid chaos of Cannes

May 13, 2011 - 7:59 AM
France Cannes Dustin Hoffman

Actor Dustin Hoffman poses for a portrait during the 64th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

CANNES, France (AP) — Dustin Hoffman's "Kung Fu Panda" martial-arts mentor has found inner peace, a quality the actor thinks may come to many of us as we age.

Reprising his voice role as Master Shifu for the animated sequel "Kung Fu Panda 2," Hoffman said at the Cannes Film Festival that inner peace may be as simple as rediscovering a child's sense of wonder over life itself.

"The cliche is true. You get to an age where you start to smell the roses," Hoffman, 73, said in an interview at Cannes, where DreamWorks Animation screened the movie ahead of its May 26 theatrical debut. "If you've had kids, and now I've had grandkids, and you see them investigating what a leaf is, what a flower is, at the age of 2, and just taking it apart and looking at it."

"Things come full circle. We wouldn't think twice if we saw little kids doing that, but we do look twice if we see grownups doing that," Hoffman added. "I do think inner peace for me has to do with the awareness of the miracle."

Crowds at Cannes jostled for a glimpse of stars such as Hoffman, who came with co-stars Jack Black, returning as the voice of unlikely martial-arts leader Po the panda, and Angelina Jolie, Po's fierce and able ally Tigress.

The opening of "Kung Fu Panda 2" has Hoffman's Shifu demonstrating his remarkable new skills to student Po — abilities attained through decades of striving for inner peace.

For Hoffman, a two-time Academy Award winner for 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer" and 1988's "Rain Man," the closest he has felt to achieving that level of tranquility has been through his work.

"I don't know what it's called, outer peace, inner peace or sideways peace," Hoffman said. "The moments where I think I've found it, I can feel that I've found it, is whatever it is I'm trying to do when I'm working. When I've been hovering around the edges and suddenly, you do a take or whatever, and it's a feeling, and you think, that's it."

Hoffman calls inner peace "filling up the vacuum of fear so that you're no longer fearful" or brooding about one's eventual mortality. He says it can come at work, at home, with people or alone, but it gives a momentary grace period from reality.

"There is that envelope, sometimes, of time for us where we're never going to die. There's no such a thing. We're just in a timeless element at that moment," he said.