Actress Accuses Dustin Hoffman of Sexual Misconduct on Broadway
Just days after television host John Oliver confronted Dustin Hoffman during a tense Q&A following a screening of Wag the Dog, another woman has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. Kathryn Rossetter, who starred opposite Hoffman in the 1983 Broadway production of Death of a Salesman and later in the 1985 television adaptation, has shared her story of the alleged, repeated sexual harassment, groping and assault she endured at the hands of the actor.
Like Hoffman’s first accuser, writer Anna Graham Hunter, Rossetter has penned a heart-wrenching and disturbing essay for The Hollywood Reporter in which she details the numerous ways that Hoffman allegedly harassed and groped her during the Broadway production. Though Rossetter notes that she did not witness or experience such behavior on the set of the television adaptation of Death of a Salesman (where Hoffman allegedly harassed and groped Hunter), she heartbreakingly articulates her own trauma from 1983.
At the time, Rossetter was an aspiring, unknown actress, and Hoffman was so taken with her during the audition that he helped her land the part of his character’s mistress in the Arthur Miller play. Rossetter explains that Hoffman’s advances began innocuously (a request for a quick back rub) before evolving into something far more uncomfortable — and unwanted. Hoffman, she says, repeatedly groped and, on at least one occasion, digitally penetrated her during their performances, which ran six to eight times a week.
For one scene in the play, Rossetter had to stand in the wing on stage left and laugh into a microphone. She would be wearing a slip for their final scene together, and Hoffman’s dressing table was positioned directly behind her:
One night in Chicago, I felt his hand up under my slip on the inside of my thighs. I was completely surprised and tried to bat him away while watching the stage for my cues. After the show he was busy with the producer and director so I had no access to him to address it. It then happened almost every show. Six to eight shows a week. I couldn’t speak to him in the moment because I was on a live mic. He kept it up and got more and more aggressive. One night he actually started to stick his fingers inside me. Night after night I went home and cried. I withdrew and got depressed and did not have any good interpersonal relationships with the cast. How could the same man who fought to get me the job, who complimented my work, who essentially launched my career, who gave me the benefit of his wisdom as an actor, how could he also be this sexual power abuser? Was I doing something? Was it my fault?
Rossetter says “the groping continued” along with harassment and repeated embarrassments in front of cast and crew members. At parties, when posing together for a photo, Hoffman would allegedly grope her breast quickly just before the camera flashed. At the top of the article, Rossetter provided a photo in which Hoffman is caught in the act.
After the shows at parties, whenever he had a picture taken with me, he would put his arm around my rib cage and then grab my breast just before they snapped the picture and then remove it. He was very skilled at dropping his hand just as the picture snapped to avoid it being recorded. But it was pre-digital. You didn’t know what was there until they were developed. Only by luck do I have one such picture — where the camera caught him in the act. A picture I had taken with hopes of sending it to my family. A millisecond in time. There I am — big smile and my arm moving toward his with the intention to push it away. But caught as it is, it seems I’m complicit with the gesture. I was not. Not ever.
Representatives for Hoffman declined to comment, but directed THR to several of the actor’s other co-stars from Death of a Salesman — all of whom “did not recall witnessing any of the conduct described by Rossetter and questioned her account.” Tom Kelly, the production stage manager, said, “It just doesn’t ring true. Given my position, it’s insulting to say this kind of activity would go on to the extent of sexual violation.”
But as evidenced by the flood of recent allegations, most sexual misconduct happens in private. If attended by others, predators typically ensure those people are complicit or trusted allies. Given the timing of Rossetter and Hunter’s allegations, most of Hoffman’s harassment was likely perceived as harmless by his peers and colleagues.
The actor essentially confirmed as much himself when confronted by Oliver earlier this week about the initial allegations. Although Hoffman previously released a statement apologizing for his behavior, he was more combative and defensive with Oliver, claiming he had no recollection of Hunter and was unsure they’d ever met (a photograph of Hoffman with his arm around Hunter appeared at the top of her essay, as well). Hoffman also said that he didn’t believe that he’d done anything wrong, and explained that any perceived verbal harassment was merely how “family” members interacted on sets.
Hoffman’s response isn’t uncommon; many men accused of harassment and misconduct often don’t think they’ve committed a wrong because they’ve long believed that these behaviors are okay — whether due to the era in which they were raised, or a society that silences women and rewards their abusers.
THR pre-empted Rossetter’s essay with an editor’s note that reads, in part: “Since THR published Hunter’s account, several other women have approached the publication with similar stories about Hoffman’s conduct at various times and places dating back to the 1970s.”