British talk show host John Oliver grilled Dustin Hoffman over the allegations of sexual harassment against him during an awkward 45-minute on-stage Q&A in New York last night.
Hoffman was in attendance for a special 20th anniversary screening of the satire Wag The Dog, hosted by Oliver, which featured a scheduled Q&A session with Hoffman, producer Jane Rosenthal and director Barry Levinson, in an event held for Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Institute.
But according to reports on Deadline, much of the time allotted for the Q&A descended into an at times excruciatingly tense series of exchanges between Oliver and Hoffman.
Hoffman has been accused of sexual harassment by two women – as well as in an old interview with Meryl Streep, in which she said the actor groped her the first time they met in 1979 (Streep has since played down the historic quotes).
So when Oliver brought up the Hollywood sex scandal, Hoffman accused the host of ambushing him.
Things reportedly went downhill from there, with Oliver, who warned the audience that it was likely to be ‘the tensest part of the evening’, then grilling Hoffman over whether his brief apology to the two women, in which he said that the alleged behaviour ‘didn’t reflect who I am’, was enough.
“You’ve made one statement in print,” Oliver said. “Does that feel like enough to you?”
Hoffman then replied, ‘First of all, it didn’t happen, the way she reported’ before adding that the apology, which he said had been ‘misconstrued’, had been made at the request of his representatives and happened ‘at the click of a button’.
“It’s that part of the response to this stuff that pisses me off,” Oliver hit back.
“It is reflective of who you were. You’ve given no evidence to show that it didn’t happen. There was a period of time when you were creeping around women. It feels like a cop-out to say, ‘Well, this isn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”
Hoffman replied ‘You weren’t there’, to which Oliver shot back ‘I’m glad’, to gasps from the crowd.
Some in the audience sided with Oliver, clapping at certain remarks – one woman was said to have shouted ‘thank you for believing women!’ – while some shouted to Oliver to ‘move on!’, while others walked out of the theatre.
“You’ve put me on display here,” a reputedly ‘seething’ Hoffman then told Oliver.
“You have indicted me. That’s not innocent until proven guilty.”
“I get no pleasure from this conversation. But you and I are not the victims here,” replied Olivier.
“The so-called, alleged comments that are made are truth now,” Hoffman went on. “And if you try to defend it, you’re guilty.”
(Credit: Rex Features)
Defending himself for taking a stand, Oliver added: “I can’t leave certain things unaddressed. That leads to me at home later tonight hating myself, asking, ‘Why the f**k didn’t I say something? No one stands up to powerful men.’”
Though angry, Hoffman did not stand up and leave the Q&A, and instead ended with an anecdote from the making of Tootsie, in which he plays an unemployed male actor who cross-dresses in order to get work.
Hoffman said that he stayed in costume after filming one night, and experienced misogyny first hand.
“How could I have made that movie if I didn’t have incredible respect for women?” he asked. “It’s shocking to me that you don’t see me more clearly.”