Dustin Hoffman slapped Meryl Streep while filming 'Kramer vs. Kramer'

'The Oscars': Dustin Hoffman's Moving Best Actor Speech
'The Oscars': Dustin Hoffman's Moving Best Actor Speech

It may have been the film that "launched [Meryl] Streep's legend," but the filming process for "Kramer vs. Kramer" was one of immense struggle, a struggle that eventually paid off in the form of Meryl Streep's first Academy Award in 1980.

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The cover story for Vanity Fair's April 2016 issue takes the form of an adaptation from Michael Shulman's soon-to-be-released biography of Meryl Streep titled Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep. The story focuses on the tense relationship between Streep and her costar, Dustin Hoffman -- a relationship that included physical altercation, emotional abuse and intimidation.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation to come from the story is one that addresses a stunt that Hoffman pulled before shooting a scene on the second day of filming. Before the camera started to roll, Hoffman allegedly slapped Streep across the face.

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.

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. Clutching Joanna's trench coat, she pleaded with Ted, "Don't make me go in there!" 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.​

Hoffman also reportedly used other tactics to degrade Streep, including taunting her about personal matters that had nothing to do with the film:

Improvising his lines, Dustin delivered a slap of a different sort: outside the elevator, he started taunting Meryl about John Cazale, jabbing her with remarks about his cancer and his death. "He was goading her and provoking her," Fischoff recalled, "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."

Meryl, Fischoff said, went "absolutely white." She had done her work and thought through the part. And if Dustin wanted to use Method techniques like emotional recall, he should use them on himself. Not her.

For more details on the contentious set life of "Kramer vs. Kramer," read the full cover story from the April issue of Vanity Fair.

See photos of Meryl Streep through the years:

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