In the spring of 1985, 17-year-old Anna Graham Hunter was a senior in New York City looking for a way to get out of the last semester of her classes. So she took an internship on the set of the Death of a Salesman TV film, which starred Dustin Hoffman, Kate Reid, and Dustin Hoffman, among other notable actors. Hunter, a burgeoning writer, kept assiduous notes of her time on the film, which she sent in correspondence with her sister in London. Hunter's time on Death of a Salesman was largely positive except for one thing... Dustin Hoffman, as she wrote in her diary, was a "pig."
Hoffman, who was around 48 at the time, continuously sexually harassed the 17-year-old intern, and, indeed, the other female intern on set.
Hunter wrote about her time with Hoffman in an explosive guest column in The Hollywood Reporter.
One morning I went to his dressing room to take his breakfast order; he looked at me and grinned, taking his time. Then he said, “I’ll have a hard-boiled egg … and a soft-boiled clitoris.” His entourage burst out laughing. I left, speechless. Then I went to the bathroom and cried.
Hunter says the harassment wasn't always that bad. In fact, she'd liked Hoffman at the beginning.
She’d been a fan of him ever since he acted in the film Tootsie, which saw him as a struggling actor who dons drag in order to get a role on a soap opera. But then, as the incidents piled up, her opinion of him changed – as did her opinion of the film industry.
“Today, I realized some things about this business that scare me,” she said. “First of all, Dustin’s a lech. I’m completely disillusioned. After Tootsie, I thought I wanted to marry him.”
At the end of her accounting, Hunter muses on what would have happened had her internship not been a "lark." What if she'd wanted to go into the film industry, what then?
This question is answered via the other woman who has accused Hoffman of harassment, TV writer and playwright Wendy Riss Gatsiounis. In 1991, Gatsiounis was a struggling playwright working a temp job until Hoffman and his Tootsie screenwriter Murray Schisgal met with her, ostensibly to discuss turning her play “A Darker Purpose” into a film.
The first thing Schisgal asked her was whether she had a boyfriend or husband. According to Gatsiounis, Hoffman interjected, saying, “Murray, shut up. Don’t you know you can’t talk to women that way anymore? Times are changing.”
The rest of the meeting seemed to go well, and Hoffman asked Gatsiounis to do a rewrite of the play’s treatment to fit Hoffman, who was in his 50’s at the time.
When Gatsiounis met with the pair again, however, the dynamic had changed.
Instead of discussing the rewrites, Hoffman asked Gatsiounis to go with him to a nearby hotel for “shopping,” while Schisgal encouraged the off-key outing.
As Gatsiounis describes:
I go in, and this time it’s, like, Dustin Hoffman’s really different… He says, ‘Before you start, let me ask you one question, Wendy — have you ever been intimate with a man over 40?’… I’ll never forget — he moves back, he opens his arms, and he says, ‘It would be a whole new body to explore… I’m trying to go back to my pitch, and I’m trying to talk about my play. Then Dustin Hoffman gets up and he says he has to do some clothing shopping at a nearby hotel, and did I want to come along? He’s like, ‘Come on, come to this nearby hotel.’
When Gatsiounis declined this outing, that was that. Hoffman was no longer interested, and she spent the next few months beating herself up.
“It was one voice in my head saying, ‘I was such an idiot. I should have just gone.’ And the other voice in my head saying, ‘Well, clearly he just wasn’t interested [in the play]. Why don’t you just realize he just wasn’t interested?’”
Gatsiounis’ play was eventually adapted into a movie called The Winner starring Alex Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Dustin Hoffman apologized for both allegations. In a statement The Hollywood Reporter, he said, "I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her [Hunter] in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am."
This is backdrop that awaited Hoffman when he showed up Monday night for an anniversary screening of Wag the Dog, the 1997 black comedy classic in which he plays a crooked Hollywood producer who produces a fake war in Alabania to distract from a presidential scandal.
The host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver, was the moderator of the panel, and he didn’t let the opportunity go to waste.