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Donald Hoffman, Actor from the Internet

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In 1998 the internet was still in its infancy. The World Wide Web had only been available to the public for about five years. Therefore, when Donald Hoffman of Bismarck posted his resume and a photograph on a website called Actor’s World, he didn’t think much would come of it.

The website was a place to look for work to post resumes. One day Hollywood producer Gene Corman went on the Actor’s World site and saw Hoffman’s photograph. Hoffman was a dead ringer for the famed director Orson Welles, and Corman was casting a television mini-series about Welles. Corman flew Hoffman out to Hollywood to audition. On this date in 1998 it was announced that Hoffman would play Orson Welles in the mini-series. He was very likely the first lead actor ever cast thanks to the internet.

While landing a lead role for a television series online was incredible, it was just one in many amazing accomplishments for Hoffman. He was a true Renaissance man. Born in San Francisco in 1931, Hoffman got a degree in music from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree in music from Harvard. Shortly afterwards he moved to Istanbul, Turkey to teach music and English. Hoffman spent his time there learning multiple languages. In 1962, he was named a Fulbright Scholar at large, and in 1963 journeyed to England to study at Oxford, but he kept returning to his home base in Istanbul, and after spending 20 years there, he moved back to the United States to work as an educator and broadcaster in Washington, D.C. and Ohio. In 1985 he moved to Bismarck to be the music director for Prairie Public Radio.

Hoffman’s passion for the arts was more than evident during his time in Bismarck. Besides his job at Prairie Public, he directed and acted for Dakota Stage, wrote poetry and music, sang in the Civic Chorus, did work for Community Access Television, and launched a record label and publishing company! When he posted his resume to the Actor’s World website he was simply looking for voice-over work, not a Hollywood career. In addition to the Orson Welles mini-series, Hoffman was also cast in a movie called Vital Parts. He died in Bismarck in 2006 at the age of 75.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


Author Unknown, “Bismarck Actor Lands Major Role,” The Bismarck Tribune, February 5, 1999, pg. 2C.

Author Unknown, “Donald Hoffman,” The Bismarck Tribune, November 4, 2006, pg. 7A.

Herzog, “’Renaissance Man’ Was a Friend of the Arts,” The Bismarck Tribune, November 1, 2006, pg. B1.

Voskuil, Vicki, “Website Lands Role for Bismarck Actor,” The Bismarck Tribune, January 17, 1998, pg. 1, 12.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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