Dustin Hoffman, already under withering fire for allegations of past sexual harassment, was accused of nightly groping an actress who co-starred with him in Death of a Salesman in 1983-84.
Kathryn Rossetter published a lengthy guest column Friday in The Hollywood Reporter describing what she called "a horrific, demoralizing and abusive experience" at the hands of her acting idol, Hoffman, 80.
Now in her 60s, Rossetter paints a disturbing portrait of the Oscar-winner, describing him as a great and generous actor who helped give her a career. But he's also a man who manipulates, abuses his power and is generally "a pig to women," she writes, adding, "They are not mutually exclusive."
"My issue isn’t what he said, it’s what he did," she wrote. "Along with the nightly sexual harassment, he eroded my confidence, my dignity. He humiliated and demeaned me. He robbed me of my joy in the experience and he left dirty fingerprints on my soul."
Hoffman's representatives did not respond to calls for comment from USA TODAY.
Rossetter was an aspiring actress in New York when she read for the part of the mistress of Willy Loman in Salesman and Hoffman enthusiastically pushed for her to get the role.
She considered Hoffman her hero — until, she says, he started assaulting her every night in the wings off stage. Wearing only a vintage slip and stockings, she was supposed to laugh at a microphone on cue as a memory scene played out on stage. Hoffman sat in a chair behind her.
"One night in Chicago, I felt his hand up under my slip on the inside of my thighs. I was completely surprised and tried to bat him away while watching the stage for my cues," Rossetter wrote. "It then happened almost every show. Six to eight shows a week. I couldn’t speak to him in the moment because I was on a live mic. He kept it up and got more and more aggressive. One night he actually started to stick his fingers inside me. Night after night I went home and cried."
At after-show parties, he would grab her breast whenever pictures were taken of the two together, she wrote. One such picture was published with her column.
"He was very skilled at dropping his hand just as the picture snapped to avoid it being recorded," she said. "Only by luck do I have one such picture — where the camera caught him in the act....There I am — big smile and my arm moving toward his with the intention to push it away. But caught as it is, it seems I’m complicit with the gesture. I was not. Not ever."
Rossetter wrote that she couldn't believe what was happening; she said it affected her emotional well-being and damaged her relationships with the rest of the cast during the run of the show. She blamed herself.
"I tried everything to get him to stop. I tried to laugh it off, smack him and say witty, pointed things. I begged him nicely with tears in my eyes to please stop it. To no avail."
One night, she writes, he pulled the bottom of her costume slip over her head, exposing her breasts and body to the crew. She missed one of her cues.
"Dustin had spread the word to the crew to come backstage at that time for a surprise. What a jokester. Mr. Fun. It was sickening." She confronted Hoffman, pushed him up against a wall and screamed at him.
" 'How would you like it if someone did that to you before you walked out on stage every night, Mr. Method Actor? Leave me alone!' He did... for three days. And then it was back to groping as usual."
She considered reporting him to the union, Actors Equity, but was advised against it; he was too powerful and she feared losing the job and probably her career.
"It was Dustin's playpen. He controlled the purse strings. I now knew I was alone and didn’t know what to do to survive. I returned to acting by day and crying by night."
In the early 2000s, she wrote a one-woman show about her life and relationship with her mother. She included a story about the time when she angrily fought back against Hoffman during a picture-taking episode by grabbing his genitals when he grabbed her breast — a picture that later appeared in Playboy.
When Hoffman heard about readings of her show in New York, his office called her agent with a request to see the script.
"Then it dawned on me. Did he want to see the script so his lawyers could issue an injunction? Sue me? Who knows what. All those years later, was he still manipulating his power?" She stopped working on her show.
Now the Harvey Weinstein scandal has opened a floodgate of allegations of past sexual harassment and assault by powerful Hollywood figures.
"But as I write this, Dustin still seems immune. It was a long time ago. This is not the red badge of courage I have worn for 32 years. I buried it deep. I am a tough dame... now."
Rossetter's description of what she says Hoffman did to her follows another guest column in November in THR by writer Anna Graham Hunter who said Hoffman groped and sexually harassed her when she was a 17-year-old production assistant on the Death of a Salesman TV movie in 1985.
In response, Hoffman apologized and said the allegations were “not reflective of who I am." Then a playwright then in her 20s in New York in 1991 told Variety that Hoffman made verbal advances and tried to convince her to leave his production company's office and go to a nearby hotel.
Since Hunter came forward, other Hoffman accusers have approached THR, including Rossetter.
In an editor's note, THR reported that it verified Rossetter told her Hoffman story to numerous people over the years. Hoffman’s representatives declined to comment but sent THR to other people who worked on Salesman and did not witness the conduct Rossetter describes, including the production stage manager Tom Kelly.
“It just doesn’t ring true,” says Kelly. “Given my position, it’s insulting to say this kind of activity would go on to the extent of sexual violation.”