Meryl Streep Says Dustin Hoffman Actually Slapped Her in "Kramer vs. Kramer" Scene

He would also reportedly taunt her to get a performance out of her.

When it came out in 1979, Kramer vs. Kramer was hugely critically acclaimed and a big hit with viewers. As the years have gone by, stories have come out from the making of the film that may, for some people, overshadow its dramatic impact. Kramer vs. Kramer stars Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman as a former couple navigating a their divorce and a custody battle over their young son. It required both leads to channel some intense emotions, and, in Streep's opinion, Hoffman "overstepped" when it came to trying to elicit a reaction from her. The three-time Oscar winner claimed in an interview decades later that Hoffman actually slapped her when they were filming a particularly physical scene, which she didn't think was at all necessary. Read on to find out more about that incident and their working relationship in general.

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Streep and Hoffman both received raves for their performances.

Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, and Justin Henry at a photocall for "Kramer vs. Kramer"
Tom Wargacki/WireImage via Getty Images

Kramer vs. Kramer was one of Streep's first movies, coming out the same year as Manhattan and a year after The Deer Hunter. Hoffman, who is 12 years older than Streep, was already well established in his career and had starred in films including The GraduateMidnight Cowboy, and All the President's Men.

The divorce drama that brought them together became a major success. At the 1980 Academy Awards, Kramer vs. Kramer was nominated for nine awards and won five, including Best Actor for Hoffman, Best Supporting Actress for Streep, and Best Picture.

RELATED: George Clooney Says Director Tried to Physically Fight Him on Set.

Streep confirmed that the rumor Hoffman really struck her was true.

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep at the premiere of "Kramer vs. Kramer" in 1979
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

For years, a rumor persisted in Hollywood that Hoffman had actually hit Streep during filming. In a 2018 interview, The New York Times asked Streep if it was true. "That was when we were making Kramer vs. Kramer," the now-74-year-old actor said. "This is tricky because when you're an actor, you're in a scene, you have to feel free. I'm sure that I have inadvertently hurt people in physical scenes. But there's a certain amount of forgiveness in that."

Though she indicated that she forgave her co-star, Streep added that she still doesn't think that what he did was right.

"But this was my first movie, and it was my first take in my first movie, and he just slapped me," she continued. "And you see it in the movie. It was overstepping. But I think those things are being corrected in this moment. And they're not politically corrected; they're fixed. They will be fixed, because people won't accept it anymore. So that's a good thing."

A biography of Streep includes more troubling details.

Michael Schulman's unauthorized biography of the star, Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep, was published in 2016. A section of the book was adapted into an article published by Vanity Fair and it includes an account of the Kramer vs. Kramer slap.

"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," Schulman writes. "[Director Robert] Benton heard the slap and saw Meryl charge into the hallway. We're dead, he thought. The picture's dead. She's going to bring us up with the Screen Actors Guild. Instead, Meryl went on and acted the scene … As far as she was concerned, she could conjure Joanna's distress without taking a smack to the face, but Dustin had taken extra measures. And he wasn't done."

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The book also claims that Hoffman would taunt Streep about her deceased partner.

Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman at the 1980 Oscars
Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

Schulman's biography also includes reports that Hoffman tried to stir up emotions in Streep by bringing up the name of her recently deceased partner, actor John Cazale. He wrote that the actor would whisper "the name in her ear, planting the seeds of anguish."

"He was goading her and provoking her," producer Richard 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."

Praising Streep's performance throughout multiple takes of an emotional courtroom scene, Benton said, "Part of the pleasure she must have taken is showing to Dustin she didn't need to be slapped. She could have delivered anything to anybody at any time."

As reported by People, the studio executive biography Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker by Stephen Galloway includes claims that Hoffman threw a wine glass during a scene without warning Streep first, leaving her with shards of glass in her hair.

Hoffman has also been accused of sexual harassment.

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors dinner
Ron Sachs – Pool/Getty Images

In 2017, Hoffman was accused of sexual harassing a 17-year-old intern on the set of Death of a Salesman in 1985. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hoffman, now 86, responded, "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."

In light of this claim, an interview with Streep published by Time in 1979 resurfaced. As reported by Entertainment Tonight, while talking about meeting Hoffman for the first time, she reportedly said, "He came up to me and said, 'I'm Dustin—burp—Hoffman,' and he put his hand on my breast. 'What an obnoxious pig,' I thought."

Streep's representative released a statement saying that the Time article was not an "accurate rendering of that meeting." The statement continued, "There was an offense and it is something for which Dustin apologized, and Meryl accepted that."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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