Genius Producer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis Accuses Dustin Hoffman of Sexual Harassment in 1991
A second woman has accused Dustin Hoffman of sexual harassment.
In an interview with Variety, Genius producer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis said the actor propositioned her during a work meeting in 1991. Riss Gatsiounis was in her 20s, while Hoffman was 53 at the time.
Riss Gatsiounis said she met with Hoffman and screenwriter Murray Schisgal on two separate occasions to discuss adapting her play A Darker Purpose into a feature film.
According to Variety, a spokesperson for Hoffman declined to comment. Schisgal told the publicationin a statement: “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.”
During the first meeting, Riss Gatsiounis claims Schisgal asked her if she was romantically involved with anyone.
“Dustin Hoffman was playfully like, ‘Murray, shut up. Don’t you know you can’t talk to women that way anymore? Times are changing,'” Riss Gatsiounis said.
But during their second meeting, Riss Gatsiounis claims Hoffman propositioned her.
“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?'”
Riss Gatsiounis said she attempted to laugh off the comment.
“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 was also present during the meeting, encouraged her to go with the actor.
“I’m just completely flustered,” Riss Gatsiounis said. “I don’t know what to make of this whole thing. And Murray’s like, ‘You can go! It’s okay, go! Go!'”
Riss Gatsiounis said she repeatedly declined his invitation.
“And Dustin Hoffman finally leaves, because I’m saying I don’t want to go to the hotel,” Riss Gatsiounis said. “And then Murray Schisgal says, ‘Look, we’re not really interested in your play, because it’s too film noir-ish.’ And that was it.”
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The producer said she left the meeting “close to tears” and immediately called her agent Mary Meagher to tell her about the incident.
“She said that she didn’t want me to think that it was something I had done,” Riss Gatsiounis said. “She had heard rumors about him for years.”
Though Meagher died in 2006, Variety spoke to two people close to Riss Gatsiounis who corroborated the producer’s story.
At the time, Riss Gatsiounis said she struggled with the thought of possibly ruining her career, which led her to second guess her decision to reject Hoffman.
“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?'”
“The whole thing was just a source of torment for me,” Riss Gatsiounis continued. “I was just this writer and he had been my hero, and it stayed with me for a long time”
The accusation comes just one day after actress Anna Graham Hunter accused Hoffman of sexually harassing her while she interned as a production assistant on the set of the 1985 Death of a Salesman TV film.
Hunter said the actor was “openly flirtatious” with her, asking for a foot massage, groping her bum and talking about sex to her.
Hoffman told The Hollywood Reporter in response to the story, “I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.”