Dustin Hoffman Slapped Meryl Streep and Taunted Her About Her Dead Boyfriend During Intense Filming of Kramer vs. Kramer, Says New Biography
Long before she became the most nominated actress in Academy Awards history, Meryl Streep was just a rising star, pushing boundaries in what would become one of her most memorable roles.
In an adaptation from Michael Schulman’s upcoming biography Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep published by Vanity Fair, the behind-the-scenes struggle between Streep and Kramer vs. Kramer costar Dustin Hoffman is revealed.
Only 29 during the 1978 filming of the divorce drama, Streep hadn’t even been considered for the part of Joanna – a mother who decides to leave her husband and son behind in search for more – but managed to woo the movie’s producers with her unique grasp on the role.
Playing opposite each other as husband and wife wasn’t necessarily easy for Streep and Hoffman, according to Schulman’s book, as the actor employed intense method acting tactics to get his castmate into character.
“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,” Schulman writes in the book. “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.”
While Streep continued on in the scene, Schulman says Hoffman’s efforts were far from over. Producer Richard Fischoff said that the actor would make comments about Streep’s late boyfriend John Cazale, who had died earlier that year from cancer – even whispering remarks into her ear. “He was goading her and provoking her,” Fischoff told Schulman, “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.”
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The pair’s relationship grew so strained, according to director Robert Benton, that he expected that he had a giant flop on his hands. Of course, it was quite the opposite: Kramer vs Kramer went on to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for Hoffman and Streep, respectively, at the 52nd Oscars.
Hoffman, 78, and Streep, now 66, have never starred opposite each other in a film again, and, in 2012, Hoffman said of working on the movie, “I was getting divorced, I’d been partying with drugs and it depleted me in every way,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
While much of the biography excerpt focuses on Kramer vs Kramer‘s journey from book to screen, tidbits about Streep’s personal life at the time are also divulged, including how she met her husband of nearly 38 years, Don Gummer.
“A few weeks after [boyfriend Cazale] died, Meryl’s brother helped her pack up her belongings. He brought along a friend she had met once or twice – a sculptor named Don Gummer, who lived a few blocks away, in SoHo,” Schulman writes. “Only weeks after losing the love of her life, she had found the second love of her life, the man who would become her husband.”
Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep will be available on April 26 from HarperCollins Publishers.