By Trisha Thomas / Associated Press
Eds: Updates and recasts throughout with AP interview. With AP Photos.
ROME — A playwright who says Dustin Hoffman exposed himself to her and had her massage his feet in a hotel room when she was 16 said Friday that she spent years in guilty silence and took pains to not dress suggestively in professional contexts because she assumed the incident was her fault.
Playwright Cori Thomas was a classmate of Hoffman’s daughter in 1980 when she says she met the actor, who invited her to his New York hotel room to wait for her mother after dinner with the teenagers. After his daughter left, Hoffman went to take a shower, Thomas said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“I was just sitting there waiting for my parents. He came out of the bathroom and had a towel around him and that was the first, ‘Hmm, that is kind of weird,’” Thomas, now 53, said. “And then he dropped the towel, and I think I just like….I had never seen a naked man. I had never kissed a man.”
Entertainment trade outlet Variety first reported Thomas’ account in a story published Thursday that included another woman’s allegation that Hoffman pushed his hand down her pants in a recording studio while working on the 1987 movie “Ishtar.”
The publicist and attorney for the 80-year-old Oscar winner did not return email messages seeking comment Thursday.
Actress Anna Graham Hunter also has alleged that Hoffman groped her and made inappropriate comments when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of the 1985 TV movie “Death of a Salesman.”
Hoffman said in an earlier statement that the incident “is not reflective of who I am.”
During an interview with the AP in Rome, where she had attended an event for Italian and American playwrights, Thomas described her shock and confusion in the hotel room with “a pretty huge star” who she thought of at the moment “as my friend’s dad.”
She said that after dropping his towel, Hoffman put on a robe and asked her to massage his feet.
“I didn’t know what to do. I acted my age. I was 16. I thought, ‘Eewww, yuck,’” Thomas said. “I didn’t know what to do really. He made a call to someone and he said, ‘Oh I have the most beautiful girl massaging my feet. How old are you?’ and I said 16, and he said ‘She is 16.’ So he knew my age.”
The uncomfortable encounter continued after the call with Hoffman repeatedly asking if she wanted to see him naked again, Thomas said.
“I was in a state of shock, not knowing what to do,” she said. “He kept saying, ‘You know I am naked. You know I am naked. If you look, you will see I am naked.’”
“I didn’t want to be rude. I was trying to be polite. This was so weird and wrong. … There was a part of me worried about what might happen,” she continued.
After her mother finally picked her up, Thomas said she did not tell her about what had happened but was quiet enough to make her mother suspicious.
“She kept asking, ‘What happened, is everything OK?’ I kept saying ‘I am fine.’ I was afraid of making a fuss. I didn’t want to embarrass my friend. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I didn’t want to tell her,” Thomas said. “I just kept thinking it was my fault.”
Thomas said it would be years before she would talk about the experience and that she just tried to push it aside. The effect on her lingered, though, she said.
“Especially because I thought it was an isolated incident, I took more guilt and blame onto myself. I think I have always behaved in a way not to act suggestive,” Thomas said. “In the professional world, I try to be very refined and not in any way look seductive or seem as if I am trying to be.”
Thomas said she decided to come forward publicly to support Hunter and counter attacks on the actress’s credibility.
“He is 80 years old. I don’t think anything is going to change with him,” she said. “I do think that he should know that he did something wrong and it is not OK with me that he did something wrong. People also need to know that it is not OK to do these things.”
The Variety report included the account of Melissa Kester, who said Hoffman pushed his hand down her pants while he was recording music for “Ishtar” and happened behind a partition while others, including Kester’s boyfriend, were nearby.
The report came a week after Hoffman was pointedly questioned about his treatment of women at a panel hosted by late-night host John Oliver. Hoffman appeared blindsided by Oliver’s questioning. He said Hunter’s accusation was 40 years old and maintained that he did nothing wrong.