Dustin Hoffman has been accused of sexual harassment, which he denies, leading to a furious war of words with HBO host John Oliver.
The conversation began at a 20th-anniversary screening of the film “Wag the Dog,” which is about a presidential campaign team creating a fake war with Albania to avoid a pesky sexual harassment claim revealed just prior to an election.
As The Washington Post points out, a “seemingly benign screening became an explosive conversation about Hollywood sexual misconduct” when the two exchanged words on Monday night.
Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight” on HBO, was moderating a screening panel that included Hoffman and fellow actor Robert De Niro, as well as “Wag the Dog” producer Jane Rosenthal and director Barry Levinson. Only 30 minutes into to the hour-long talk, Oliver brought up an allegation that in 1985, Hoffman groped then 17-year-old Anna Graham Hunter and made inappropriate comments to her on the set of the TV movie, “Death of a Salesman.”
Hoffman apologized to Hunter when she made the allegation but says he didn’t recall meeting her and maintains that all his comments on set were similar to the way a “family” talks to one another.
“This is something we’re going to have to talk about because … it’s hanging in the air,” Oliver said to Hoffman,
“It’s hanging in the air?” Hoffman said. “From a few things you’ve read, you’ve made an incredible assumption about me.”
“You’ve made the case better than anyone else can. I’m guilty,” Hoffman added with sarcasm. “I still don’t know who this woman is. I never met her; if I met her, it was in concert with other people.”
Hoffman had indicated in his apology to Hunter that any bad behavior on set was “not reflective of” who he really is.
“It’s ‘not reflective of who I am’ — it’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off,” Oliver said. “It is reflective of who you were. If you’ve given no evidence to show it didn’t [happen] then there was a period of time for a while when you were a creeper around women. It feels like a cop-out to say, ‘It wasn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”
“Do you believe this stuff you read?” Hoffman asked.
“Yes,” Oliver replied, “because there’s no point in [an accuser] lying.”
“Well, there’s a point in her not bringing it up for 40 years,” Hoffman said.
The exchange continued, with Oliver not relenting and Hoffman complaining, according to the Post, that he’d been “blindsided because neither Oliver nor Tribeca organizers had told him that the moderator would raise the subject.”
Oliver, noting that the film they were discussing dealt with sexual misconduct by a powerful man, said he felt obligated to broach the subject.
“This isn’t fun for me. [But] there’s an elephant in the room, because, [on] this particular incident, a conversation has not been had,” he said.
The crowd became involved at one point, too, as the Post reports:
“Move on. Let it go,” one woman could be heard shouting to Oliver. She was soon drowned out by other people, one of whom said “Shame on you.” Another yelled to Oliver, “Thank you for believing women,” to loud cheers.
Rosenthal jumped into the fray, as well, saying, “It wasn’t produced by Weinstein or Miramax…Kevin Spacey wasn’t starring in it. Let’s look at real sexual criminal predators.”
“That’s a low bar,” Oliver retorted.
Oliver also brought up actress Katharine Ross, who said Hoffman groped her on the set of “The Graduate,” although the conversation did not address another claim, by writer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis, who said Hoffman had propositioned her during a work-related meeting in 1991.
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