The movie would be a kind of generational marker, tracking the baby-boomers from the heedlessness of young adulthood to the angst of middle adulthood.No one was yet calling people like the Kramers “yuppies,” but their defining neuroses were already in place.His protagonist was Ted Kramer, a thirtysomething workaholic New Yorker who sells ad space for men’s magazines.He has a wife, Joanna, and a little boy named Billy.
“Part of the pleasure she must have taken is showing to Dustin she didn’t need to be slapped,” the director said. As Joanna begins to falter, he goes in for the kill. So, hadn’t she failed at the most important relationship in her life? Dustin had instructed her to look at him when she heard that line. He turned the cameras around and had Meryl act the cross-examination again, and this time he recorded Dustin’s reactions. It was Ted Kramer telling Joanna Kramer, “No, you didn’t fail as a wife.The little boy under the covers was Justin Henry, a sweet-faced seven-year-old from Rye, New York.In her search for a kid who could play Dustin Hoffman’s son, the casting director, Shirley Rich, had looked at hundreds of boys.The blond, cherubic Justin Henry hadn’t seemed right to Dustin, who wanted a “funny-looking kid” who looked like him.But Justin’s tender, familial way with Dustin in screen tests changed his mind, along with the realization that Billy Kramer shouldn’t look like Dustin.