Dustin Hoffman's new lead role is real-life drama: He's helping a terminally ill student who needs a bone marrow donor.

The actor has made a six-figure donation and a plea for Allison Atlas, who learned in August she had three to six months to live unless a marrow transplant checked her leukemia."If we find a donor, we'd literally be taking someone off death row," said Hoffman, winner of Academy Awards for best actor in last year's "Rain Man" and the 1979 "Kramer vs. Kramer."

Hoffman said something about Miss Atlas, a 20-year-old business major at New York University, and a resident of Bethesda, Md., got him involved. "It's hard to explain. It picked me," he said.

The Atlas family made a public plea in November. Since then, more than 16,000 people offered to be donors. Because of the family's efforts, 25 to 50 potential donors were found for other people in her situation.