On November 1, The Hollywood Reporter published a piece by guest columnist Anna Graham Hunter about her experience being sexually harassed by Dustin Hoffman on the set of Death of a Salesman in 1985. Hunter was 17 at the time and interning as a production assistant. Hoffman was 49. In the article, she gives detailed accounts of several encounters with the actor. She spent five weeks on the production and regularly corresponded with her sister, sending her reports of the incidents. She also describes the conflicted feelings she felt at the time and has felt since then.
Hunter writes that in general she enjoyed her time on set, especially spending time with actor John Malkovich and writer Arthur Miller. She even enjoyed and was flattered by the attention given her by Hoffman until a certain point. She describes how he would grope her, be sexually suggestive, ask for massages and make crude comments in front of others. There was a general understanding around the set that if you called Hoffman on his behaviour, you would be fired by producer Bob Colesberry.
Around her third week, there was an incident when Hoffman allegedly answered Hunter’s inquiry about his breakfast order with, ‘I’ll have a hard-boiled egg … and a soft-boiled clitoris.’ When Hunter was relaying this story to a coworker, Hoffman made a scene asking the intern if she thought he was a ‘sexist pig.’ Hunter told Hoffman she didn’t appreciate his advances or wandering hands. Hoffman apologized and checked his behaviour for a time afterwards, but Hunter’s female supervisor told her later, ‘for the sake of the production we have to sacrifice some of our values and just let it roll over our heads.’ The general consensus around set was to just laugh it off.
Looking back over her own record of the experience, Hunter says she ‘aches’ for the teenager who was so eager to please and wanted so badly to be included that she let so many things slide. She is also proud of the teenager who ‘had the guts’ to stand up when it was too much. She also reflects on how much worse the situation could have been if she had had Hollywood aspirations instead of just being on the job for fun.
A big takeaway from the piece is that Hunter doesn’t see her situation as black and white. Yes, Hoffman was inappropriate and Hunter was underage, but she also admired him and often thought he was funny and charming. Like a lot of victims of sexual harassment, she is conflicted about her own experience.
Hoffman apologized (sort of) in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter after they reached out to him for comment. He wrote: ‘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.’