John Oliver and Dustin Hoffman became embroiled in a row Monday night after the HBO host grilled the film star about sexual harassment allegations against him.
What was meant to be an uneventful panel discussion surrounding the 20th anniversary of the movie “Wag the Dog” in Manhattan soon turned into a heated debate when panel host Oliver switched the conversation to give “The Graduate” star the opportunity to publicly address the accusations, having Hoffman previously only made a short written statement.
In WWD’s exclusive video footage of the event, Hoffman can be seen saying that he doesn’t recall meeting Anna Graham Hunter, who claimed last month that he groped and made inappropriate comments to the-then 17-year-old intern on the set of the 1985 TV movie “Death of a Salesman.”
“This girl, I have no idea who she is. There were a few interns on the set. She says that I offended her. It was not said to her. It was said generally to the crew — the things that we do in between takes,” he said. “I still don’t know who this woman is. Never met her. If I met her it was in concert with the other people.”
Oliver then jumped on Hoffman’s response at the time of the allegation that it wasn’t reflective of who he was as a person, saying that it “pisses me off because it is reflective of who you were.”
“If you’ve given no evidence to show it didn’t then there was a period of time for a while when you were a creeper around women,” he continued. “It feels like a cop-out to say ‘it wasn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”
As the back-and-forth continued, Hoffman asked Oliver if he believes all this stuff that he has read, with Oliver replying that he does believe what Graham Hunter wrote “because there’s no point in her lying.” At which point, Hoffman said, “Well, there is a point in her trying to bring this up after 40 years.” Oliver responded “Oh, Dustin.”
The conversation later moved to the accusation by Hoffman’s “The Graduate” co-star Katharine Ross that he had groped her on the set. Oliver said that he just watched an interview with Hoffman admitting to “groping” and “pinching her ass,” telling him that “I watched it come out of your mouth.”
Hoffman responded: “I thought it was an overreaction because of what was going on all day. She later apologized. We were very good friends on that film. But you take it this is a female assaulter. He’s admitted it. It’s so skewed.”
Oliver replied: “I don’t even hear the same thing in the story you just told that I think you do. I hear her being upset and you touching her and then somehow apologizing for being upset.”
The issue dominated the rest of the panel discussion, with Hoffman’s “Wag the Dog” costar Robert De Niro remaining silent once the conversation turned to the allegations made against Hoffman. The other two panelists were “Wag the Dog” producer Jane Rosenthal and director Barry Levinson.
It clearly divided the audience at the event organized by the Tribeca Film Institute, with one shouting, “Let it go, let it go. Move on. Shame on you.” However, another interjected “It’s not a shame. It’s a very good conversation,” while another said, “Thank you for believing women.”
At one point, Hoffman told Oliver that he found it very upsetting that he doesn’t see that from a few things he has read he has made an “incredible assumption.”
“Don’t say that you couldn’t help but bring this up. I didn’t know you were going to bring this up.”
Oliver responded that he very clearly told the Tribeca Film Institute that he would be bringing it up: “That’s on the organizers. I said very clearly that was something we were going to have to talk about because it’s impossible to talk about this movie without talking about the context that’s hanging in the air.”
Hoffman then said: “That’s hanging in the air? Well, you’ve made the case better than anyone else can. I’m guilty. Because someone has alleged something, I’m guilty. You push a button. It’s all over the world. I’m a predator. I’m this and that and it’s not true.”