// May 10th, 2016 // On Writing

Here’s a Tootsie Plot Break Down: A quick breakdown based on both the Movie and the script.  In my opinion, Tootsie is one of the most efficient, in terms of every scene has something to do to support all aspects of the story, and best structured screenplay and movie ever.  You can put it through anyone’s structure breakdown ‘formula’ so-to-speak, and it will past the test with flying colors.

This is why it was nominated for best film in 1983.

If you are new to screenwriting, or if you haven’t watched Tootsie in a while – I suggest and highly recommend you should.


Tootsie – Plot Break Down



What do you get when you cross a hopelessly straight, starving actor with a dynamite red sequined dress?


Script: http://www.screenwrite.in/Screenplays/Tootsie.pdf
145 pages

What is Michael Dorsey’s “Want” (Page 10)

He wants to be Michael Dorsey the ‘great actor’.

Theme is stated: (page 11B)

“Wrong! You know what Strasburg said: You create your own opportunities.” & “Whoever it was! The point is, Sandy and I are trying to do a play that my roommate wrote, in Syracuse. All we need is $8,000. You could do the same!”

Theme: Creating your own opportunities.

1. Inciting Incident (start page 13)

Michael walks his friend, Sandy, home from the party.  He helps her prepare for her audition for a soap opera and agrees to accompany her for moral support.

Why is this an Inciting Incident?

If Michael doesn’t help Sandy, he never hears about the audition, and never goes to the audition for moral support, and never becomes “Tootsie”.

2. A Loss of Destiny (Plot Point I) (Page 26)

Michael Dorsey is told by his agent, George (Sydney Pollack), that nobody will hire him. So Michael decides to change and becomes someone totally different in order to find a job as an actor! He becomes a woman – Dorothy Michaels: Tootsie.

Why is this A Loss of Destiny?

Michael is told NOBODY will hire him so Michael doesn’t become Michael Dorsey the great actor – he becomes Dorothy Michaels – a female actor!

This supports both the ‘want’: Michael THINKS he is going to be Michael Dorsey the Great Actor. And the theme: Michael has created his own opportunity!

3. Point of No Return – Supreme ordeal (Midpoint) (page 76)

Michael interviewed on TV. Michael in a photo shoot. Micheal is swarmed by fans. Dorothy has become a celebrity!

Why is this the Point of No Return?

Michael is NOT Michael anymore – he is Dorothy Michaels and has fallen in love with Julie!

His getting further from his ‘want’ and there’s no turning back!

4. Another Crisis and furthest from goal – No Hope (Plot Point II)  (page 122)

Michael’s contract for the show is extended.  Michael tries to kiss Julie. Julie ‘breaks up’ with him.  Then Julie’s father Les is falling for him and proposes.

And to top it all off, John Van Horn wants to make love to him!

Why is this A Loss of Destiny? Because Michael, who has now earned enough money to invest in his friend’s play but is stuck in a job (contract) as someone else.  He has received a wedding proposal from a man who thinks he’s a woman, and is literally, furthest from his goal:  He is NOT Michael Dorsey the great actor like he wanted – he is Dorothy Michaels the soap opera star!

The only way out is to reveal who he really is to the world but he’ll lose everything. Again, supporting the theme by creating an opportunity, and becoming Michael Dorsey again instead of Michael Dorsey the Great Actor.

His want changed as his character grew.

5. Obligatory Scene – Confront Nemesis and wrap up of loose ends – (Dénouement)

Michael confronts his Nemesis – himself as Dorsey – and ‘comes out’ to the world on LIVE TV! (page 139)

Wrapping up:
Michael does Jeff’s play (page 140)
Michael confronts Les to give back the ring (page 140)

Dénouement Michael has realized he doesn’t need to be Michael Dorsey the Great Actor – but to be Michael Dorsey. He also has, again, created his own opportunity by confronting Julie.

Michael meets Julie and they walk away together – buddies. (page 144)


Directed by Sydney Pollack
Produced by Charles Evans
Sydney Pollack
Dick Richards
Ronald L. Schwary
Screenplay by Murray Schisgal
Barry Levinson
Elaine May
Robert Garland
Story by Larry Gelbart
Starring Dustin Hoffman
Jessica Lange
Teri Garr
Charles Durning
Bill Murray
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Editing by Fredric Steinkamp
William Steinkamp
Studio Mirage Enterprises
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • December 17, 1982
Running time 116 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $21 million[1]
Box office $177,200,000[1]

Comments are welcome!





2 Responses to “Tootsie – Plot Break Down”

  1. Dean M. says:
    Nice analysis, Glenn. In addition, I heard Larry Gelbert (original writer) pitched the movie in one sentance: “Man puts on a dress and becomes a better man for it.”
  2. admin says:
    Thanks Dean!!! That’s a great pitch – albeit, from Gelbert of course – because if it was anyone else: who gives a crap? LOL

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