'It’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off. 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"'
It was billed as a Tribeca Film panel to mark an anniversary screening of Wag The Dog. But things took a particularly heated turn between Dustin Hoffman and fellow panelist and talk show host John Oliver, when Oliver raised the subject of sexual misconduct allegations made against Hoffman.
To recap, Dustin Hoffman was accused earlier this year of inappropriate conduct towards Anna Graham Hunter, who worked as a production assistant when she was 18 on the set of Hoffman’s 1985 film Death Of A Salesman. ‘He was openly flirtatious, he grabbed my ass, he talked about sex to me and in front of me’ Hunter told 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.’
John Oliver, who was moderating the panel, brought up the issue of sexual misconduct with the actor by saying, ‘this is something we’re going to have to talk about because… it’s hanging in the air.’
‘It’s hanging in the air?’ Dustin Hoffman hit back sarcastically. ‘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 repeated his response to the accusations he had made in a statement, but added that the “if” had been left out. ‘I said if I did anything to embarrass her, I apologise. And the word “if” is important. Now it just says, “he apologises.”‘
‘I’m not a moral arbiter. But “it’s not reflective of who I am”, it’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off’ said Oliver. ‘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?’
‘It’s difficult to answer that question’ said Dustin Hoffman. ‘You weren’t there.’
‘I’m glad’ Oliver hit back, prompting audible gasps from the audience.
The frosty back-and-forth then dominated the panel discussion for several minutes. Hoffman told Oliver he was ‘putting [him] on display’ by bringing up the sexual misconduct allegations without any warning.
‘Do you believe this stuff you read?’ Hoffman asked Oliver.
‘Yes, because there’s no point in [an accuser] lying’ Oliver replied.
‘Well, there’s a point in her not bringing it up for 40 years’ said Hoffman.
‘Oh Dustin’ said Oliver, putting his head in his hands.
The discussion became so tense that fellow panelist Jane Rosenthal attempted to interject. ‘What difference is all this going to make? This conversation doesn’t do any good. We have a platform here. How are we moving [the issue] forward?’
Oliver insisted it was topical given Wag The Dog tackles a sex scandal involving a powerful man.
‘[But] it wasn’t produced by Weinstein or Miramax… Kevin Spacey wasn’t starring in it. Let’s look at real sexual criminal predators’ Rosenthal added.
‘That’s a low bar’ Oliver retorted.
At one point the audience started to heckle. One woman yelled that Oliver should ‘let it go’, but another shouted ‘thank you for believing women’, to a loud cheer.
‘I can’t leave certain things unaddressed,’ Oliver said. ‘The easy way is not to bring anything up. Unfortunately that leaves me at home later at night hating myself. “Why the… didn’t I say something? No one stands up to powerful men.”‘
We don’t imagine the pair hung around for a drink together in the green room afterwards.