Writer and producer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis claims she was sexually harassed and propositioned by actor Dustin Hoffman during to meetings that took place in the early 1990s, alleged encounters she said sowed seeds of self-doubt early in her career.
Riss Gatsiounis told Variety that the alleged encounters occurred during two meetings she had with Hoffman and Tootsie screenwriter Murray Schisgal, in which they discussed turning her play A Darker Purpose into a film. The first meeting with Hoffman and Schisgal, she said, was mostly professional. The second meeting, however, saw a 53-year-old Hoffman allegedly propositioning a 20-something-year-old Riss Gatsiounis for sex.
“I go in, and this time it’s, like, Dustin Hoffman’s really different,” Riss Gatsiounis said. “He says, ‘Before you start, let me ask you one question, Wendy — have you ever been intimate with a man over 40?’” Flustered, Riss Gatsiounis attempted to laugh off the comment. But Hoffman persisted.
“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 said Schisgal, who said he couldn’t recall the alleged meetings, encouraged her to go with Hoffman.
In a statement to Variety, Schisgal said: “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 recalled telling three people about the alleged encounter, including her late agent, Mary Meagher, who allegedly said she “had heard rumors” about Hoffman “for years.” Variety said the two writers and friends of Riss Gatsiounis confirmed her story.
Riss Gatsiounis said the alleged episode triggered “months and months and months” of self-doubt.
“The whole thing was just a source of torment for me,” she said. “I was just this writer and he had been my hero, and it stayed with me for a long time. It was one voice in my head saying, ‘I was such an idiot. I should have just gone.’ And the other voice in my head saying, ‘Well, clearly he just wasn’t interested [in the play]. Why don’t you just realize he just wasn’t interested?'”
Riss Gatsiounis is the second women to accuse Hoffman of sexual harassment.
Anna Graham Hunter accused Hoffman of repeatedly sexually harassing her while she was a 17-year-old high school student intern working on the 1985 Hoffman-starring drama Death of a Salesman.