Dustin Hoffman Allegedly Went Full-Asshole On Meryl Streep During The Filming Of “Kramer Vs. Kramer”
Vanity Fair recently published a piece about the making of Kramer vs. Kramer adapted from Michael Schulman’s upcoming biography about acting legend and 4,973-time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep titled Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep. Even though Kramer vs. Kramer won Meryl her first Academy Award and introduced her to mainstream Hollywood success, filming it was apparently a fucking headache, figuratively and literally. According to Michael Schulman, Dustin Hoffman took the art of method acting to a dark place by slapping Meryl Streep on the second day of shooting.
Michael says that Dustin was super serious about his character in Kramer vs. Kramer. For example, when he first saw their pretend apartment, he decided that his character wouldn’t live there and had it redesigned. He also had very specific ideas about how to get a good performance out of his co-stars. Now, before you start thinking about calling up CPS and leaving an anonymous 37-year-old tip about Dustin, none of his method acting violence was aimed at Justin Henry, the actor who played their son. It was all saved for Meryl.
On the second day, they continued shooting the opening scene, when Ted follows the hysterical Joanna into the hallway. They shot the bulk of it in the morning and, after lunch, set up for some reaction shots. Dustin and Meryl took their positions on the other side of the apartment door. Then something happened that shocked not just Meryl but everyone on set. Right before their entrance, Dustin slapped her hard across the cheek, leaving a red mark.
How frightfully rude; nobody raises a hand to Meryl Streep unless they’re presenting her with an award! Rather than cuss him out or slap back and knock his 5-foot-4 ass to the ground, Meryl used the slap and continued on with the scene. Although Michael claims Meryl was pissed that Dustin wasn’t confident she could bring raw ~emotion~ to the scene without clocking her first.
Dustin’s on-set asshole acting workshops weren’t limited to just slaps. He also apparently tried to bring the drama to a scene by making fun of Meryl’s boyfriend John Cazale who died right before shooting started.
Outside the elevator, he started taunting Meryl about John Cazale, jabbing her with remarks about his cancer and his death. “He was goading her and provoking her, using stuff that he knew about her personal life and about John to get the response that he thought she should be giving in the performance.”
Meryl went “absolutely white.” She had done her work and thought through the part. And if Dustin wanted to use Method techniques like emotional recall, he should use them on himself. Not her.
According to Michael, Dustin also tried to get Justin to cry by telling him that the crew, who Justin had made friends with, were just temporary friends and that he’d probably never see them again. He also allegedly tried to get Justin emotional by telling him to imagine losing his dog. Today I learned: Dustin Hoffman is kind of a dick?
You can read the whole thing here, and yes, there are more stories about him torturing Meryl (like getting shards of glass in her hair after improvising a scene where he smashed a wineglass off a table).
I don’t know if the AMPAS has ever taken back an Academy Award, but now I’m scared they might read all of this and take back Meryl’s for Kramer vs. Kramer. I mean, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t actually acting when her character wanted to quit Dustin Hoffman.
Pic: Columbia Pictures