Kramer vs. Kramer earned five Oscars, cementing it in movie history. However, it wasn’t such a great experience behind the scenes, as Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep had some serious difficulties working together. In particular, Hoffman crossed the line with the way he treated Streep, which no movie set environment would condone in the modern landscape.
Dustin Hoffman took things too far with Meryl Streep in unscripted moments on the set of ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’
Erin Carlson’s Queen Meryl dips into the Kramer vs. Kramer can of worms to explore what Streep had to deal with. They filmed the scene where Joanna (Streep) leaves her husband (Hoffman), explaining that she doesn’t love him. However, he took his role far too seriously, as he physically assaulted his co-star to get the performance that he wanted out of her.
It was only the second day of shooting when Streep said that Hoffman “slammed me in the face.” As a result, she had “enormous red finger marks on my cheek,” which also shocked director Robert Benton. Streep carried on with the scene, but she was understandably very angry. She didn’t need his help to deliver a tremendous performance.
Dustin Hoffman yelled at Meryl Streep and told her to ‘stop carrying the flag for feminism’
Queen Meryl explains how the slap wasn’t the only time that Hoffman crossed a line with Streep. Another unscripted moment happened during the Kramer vs. Kramer restaurant scene where Joanna says that she intends to take custody of their son, Billy (Justin Henry).
The screenplay called for Joanna to immediately tell the news to her husband and then say, “All my life, I’ve felt like somebody’s wife or somebody’s mother or somebody’s daughter — even all the time we were together, I never knew who I was.”
However, Streep wanted to change the order of the scene. She thought it would further humanize Joanna if she says this line before stating that she plans to assume custody of Billy. Benton agreed with her suggestion, but Hoffman was “fuming.”
“I finally yelled at her,” Hoffman said. “‘Meryl, why don’t you stop carrying the flag for feminism and just act the scene!’ She got furious. That’s the scene where I throw the glass of wine against the wall and it shatters. That wasn’t in the script, I just threw it at her. Then she got furious again. ‘I’ve got pieces of glass in my hair!’ and so on.”
‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ still gets negative criticism for how it perceives Joanna Kramer
The Kramer vs. Kramer issues go far beyond the fights between Streep and Hoffman. It took home the Best Picture win at the Oscars, but many critics and audiences continue to feel that the film is deeply anti-feminist. Benton’s film takes place from the perspective of Ted and demonizes Joanna.
However, it’s clear that Streep did all that she could to humanize the character further from what was originally on the page. She gives a marvelous performance and contributed some wonderful ideas that further elevated the material.