Volker Schlöndorff, who directed Dustin Hoffman in the 1985 TV movie Death Of A Salesman, is coming to the actor’s defense – whether Hoffman likes it or not – by dismissing claims of sexual harassment as just so much on-set
Responding to claims by writer Anna Graham Hunter that she was sexually harassed by the actor when she was a 17-year-old intern on the film, the director says Hoffman was just being “a clown” and a “kidder.”
“Slapping her butt on the way to the car, with driver, stage manager and PAs around, may have happened, but again in a funny way, nothing lecherous about it,” the director said in a statement sent to several websites including Eye For Film.
The allegations were made by Hunter in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, in which she described her experiences as a Death of a Salesman production assistant during her senior year in high school. Hoffman, she wrote, “asked me to give him a foot massage my first day on set; I did. He was openly flirtatious, he grabbed my ass, he talked about sex to me and in front of me. 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.”
Hoffman later apologized in a statement: “I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.”
Schlöndorff, though, dismisses Hunter’s allegations as “silly,” at one point writing, “only a teenager in her unlimited fantasy could take it seriously.”
Here’s the director’s entire statement:
“As director of Death Of A Salesman, I’d like to make the following statement, standing by Dustin Hoffman who is accused of sexual harassment on the set of the Salesman.
“I welcome the #me.too 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 to check what a kidder Dustin was on the set, at all time, with everybody. Standard Monday morning question was indeed, “Did you have good sex over the weekend?” A joke, a running gag, everybody laughed at. Foot massage? Yes indeed, he was 16 hours standing on the set (as me 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 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.”