Dustin Hoffman has been accused of sexual harassment by television producer and writer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis (“Reign,” “Genius”). The producer told Variety that Hoffman allegedly harassed and propositioned her for sex during a period of time in 1991 when she was working with the actor and “Tootsie” screenwriter Murray Schisgal on a potential film adaptation of her play, “A Darker Purpose.”
According to Riss Gatsiounis, two meetings occurred between the three parties in 1991. The young writer was hoping the film version of “A Darker Purpose” would be her big break and she had scheduled meetings with Hoffman and Schisgal to hopefully get the development process started. Both meetings reportedly took place at the offices of Hoffman’s Punch Productions at Rockefeller Center in New York City. During the first meeting, Schisgal allegedly asked Riss Gatsiounis whether she had a boyfriend or husband, to which Hoffman reportedly said, “Murray, shut up. Don’t you know you can’t talk to women that way anymore? Times are changing.”
The second meeting was where Hoffman was more predatory, says Riss Gatsiounis. The writer had revised her script so that the twenty-something protagonist could match Hoffman, who was 53 at the time, and she was set to go over the script changes with the actor and Schisgal at a second meeting. But Riss Gatsiounis says she was never able to go over the script with them.
“I go in, and this time it’s, like, Dustin Hoffman’s really different,” she told Variety. “He says, ‘Before you start, let me ask you one question, Wendy — have you ever been intimate with a man over 40?'” She tried to laugh off Hoffman’s words but the actor allegedly continued.
“I’ll never forget — he moves back, he opens his arms, and he says, ‘It would be a whole new body to explore,'” she said. “I’m trying to go back to my pitch, and I’m trying to talk about my play. Then Dustin Hoffman gets up and he says he has to do some clothing shopping at a nearby hotel, and did I want to come along? He’s like, ‘Come on, come to this nearby hotel.'”
Riss Gatsiounis refused to go to the hotel with Hoffman, to which Schisgal reportedly said, “Look, we’re not really interested in your play, because it’s too film noir-ish.” The meeting ended and Riss Gatsiounis’ plans to make the movie with Hoffman did, too.
The producer says she told three people about the encounter: Her late agent Mary Meagher, who allegedly told her that she “had heard rumors” about Hoffman “for years,” and two other writer friends. Variety spoke with both writers and confirmed that Riss Gatsiounis had told them about the second encounter with Hoffman.
“The whole thing was just a source of torment for me,” Riss Gatsiounis said. “I was just this writer and he had been my hero, and it stayed with me for a long time.”
A spokesperson for Hoffman declined to comment on the accusation. Schisgal told Variety, “Dustin Hoffman and I took many meetings with writers and playwrights over many years. I have no recollection of this meeting or of any of the behavior or actions described.”
Riss Gatsiounis is now the second woman to accuse Hoffman of sexual harassment after Anna Graham Hunter, who told The Hollywood Reporter that Hoffman harassed her in 1985 when she was a 17-year-old production assistant on the television movie “Death of a Salesman.”