German film director Volker Schlöndorff has defended Dustin Hoffman against a sexual harassment accusation by a former intern on a television production, saying the actor is just “a kidder.”
Schlöndorff directed the 1985 TV adaptation of “Death of a Salesman,” starring Hoffman. Writer Anna Graham Hunter has accused Hoffman, now 80, of harassing and groping her when she was a 17-year-old production assistant intern on the set.
A second woman, writer and producer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis, has since told Variety that the then 53-year-old actor asked her during a 1991 script meeting if she had “ever been intimate with a man over 40,” adding: “It would be a whole new body to explore.” Riss Gatsiounis was in her 20s at the time.
In Hunter’s case, Hoffman asked her for a foot massage her first day on the job, talked to her about sex and “grabbed my ass,” she wrote in a detailed piece in The Hollywood Reporter, recalling her five weeks working with the actor. One day when she took his breakfast order, she said, he responded, “I’ll have a hard-boiled egg … and a soft-boiled clitoris.”
Hunter wrote her sister: “Today, when I was walking Dustin to his limo, he felt my ass four times. I hit him each time, hard, and told him he was a dirty old man.”
But Schlöndorff insisted in a statement released to a number of media websites that Hoffman was just “a kidder,” not a “predator.”
As for “slapping her butt on the way to the car ... [it] may have happened, but again in a funny way, nothing lecherous about it. He was a clown,” added the “Tin Drum” director.
She “may have got it wrong, confiding it to her diary then, but as a grown-up 30 years later she should know that his was no ‘sexual harassment,’ and not call him a ‘predator.’ In her innermost, she must know that this teasing was not to put her down, but to make her relax.”
Schlöndorff said: “I welcome the #MeToo campaign and do not want to sound dismissive of what I consider a serious cause. However, one should not smear, tar and feather indistinctively every male around. Calling Dustin Hoffman a predator is simply going too far. I hope this fades away. It’s plain silly.”
Here’s Schlöndorff’s entire statement
I welcome the #MeToo campaign and do not want to sound dismissive of what I consider a serious cause. However, one should not smear, tar and feather indistinctively every male around. Calling Dustin Hoffman a predator is simply going too far. I hope this fades away.
It’s plain silly. Just watch Christian Blackwood’s wonderful documentary “Private Conversations” on the making of DOAS [“Death of a Salesman”] to check what a kidder Dustin was on the set, at all times, with everybody. Standard Monday morning question was indeed: “Did you have good sex over the weekend?” A joke, a running gag, everybody laughed at [it].
Foot massage? Yes indeed, he was 16 hours standing on the set (as he never sat down), so he was tired, and, besides, there is a line in the play about it: “These arch supports are killing me.” Dustin Hoffman, ever method acting, made it his own. Everybody gave him a foot massage now and then, on the set, amidst the chaos, nothing ambiguous about it.
As to the joke who was going to get Warren Beatty, only a teenager in her unlimited fantasy could take it seriously. Slapping her butt on the way to the car, with driver, stage manager and PAs [production assistants] around, may have happened, but again in a funny way, nothing lecherous about it. He was a clown, it was part of the way we portrayed Willy Loman as well — but he never played the power play. He was teasing the young, nervous interns, mostly to make them feel included on the set, treating them as equals to all the senior technicians. She may have got it wrong, confiding it to her diary then, but as a grown-up 30 years later she should know that his was no “sexual harassment,” and not call him a “predator.”
In her innermost, she must know that this teasing was not to put her down, but to make her relax with all these celebrities around. She had a self-assured playful way herself. If he knew that she would be upset when he was teasing her, he wouldn’t have done it. Not the sensitive man he was, and still is. I wish Arthur Miller was around, he would find the right words, but then he might get accused of sexually molesting Marilyn Monroe.
Following Hunter’s complaints, Hoffman issued a statement apologizing. “I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.”
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.