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Dustin Hoffman reveals the roles he turned down: 'I had a problem with success'

Dustin Hoffman has certainly had a few regrets over his long career.
/ Source: TODAY

Ever since the start of the "Kung Fu Panda" series in 2008, Dustin Hoffman's voice has been key to the movies' success: As Master Shifu, he plays a wise teacher who keeps the chaotic Po in line and focused.

Except until Hoffman spoke with TODAY Tuesday, he wasn't sure what species Master Shifu was!

"Is it a raccoon?" he asked, and Matt Lauer agreed. Shifu was a raccoon.

But, as they were told off-camera, Master Shifu is actually a red panda. "I'm a red panda?" asked Hoffman.

"I want people to know that Dustin Hoffman has made $930 million dollars off of a character, and he's not completely sure who the character is," quipped Lauer.

"I thought he was a raccoon," said Hoffman.

Image: Dustin Hoffman's character in the "Kung Fu Panda" movie franchise, Master Shifu
"Kung Fu Panda's" Master Shifu: Red panda or raccoon?TODAY

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Hoffman probably won't lose any sleep over that mistake, but as the 78-year-old noted, he has certainly had a few regrets over his long career.

"I think I had a problem with success," he said after admitting he loved the "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" script in 1977 but didn't want to take on a role in it. "I turned Woody Allen down four times. I turned 'Schindlers List' down. I turned [director Frederico] Fellini down. I turned [director Ingmar] Bergman down."

Yet he's gone on to become a beloved two-time Oscar-winning actor. "Despite myself, yes!" he said.

Image: Dustin Hoffman speaks with TODAY's Matt Lauer on upcoming role
Matt Lauer helps Dustin Hoffman figure out his "Kung Fu Panda" character a little better.

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And while he says he would go back and "live the last 40 years differently" if he could, he's achieved a kind of Zen-like calm about his life that Master Shifu — raccoon or red panda — would appreciate.

"The good news is I feel fresh now," he said. "I feel reborn now in a sense, because I finally have a sense of myself and [my] priorities. It doesn't embarrass me to do good. I wasn't afraid of being a star [before, but] I didn't deserve it."

Now, we're pretty sure he knows he does.

"Kung Fu Panda" opens in theaters on Friday, January 29.

Follow Randee Dawn on Twitter.