In an interview on Sky One’s The Russell Howard Hour last week, comedian John Oliver spoke briefly about his tense interview moderating a special 20th anniversary screening of Wag the Dog at New York’s 92nd Street Y. Oliver — who had warned event organizers that if Hoffman agreed to make an appearance he would feel compelled to address the accusations of sexual harassment against the veteran actor — told Howard that he was less than pleased with the interview’s outcome.
“The questions were not particularly remarkable, but his answers were kind of not great. That was the point of it.” Oliver commented to Howard, “But it didn’t really go anywhere constructive, so the whole thing just made me feel sad.” Moderating a panel of guests that included (in addition to Hoffman) fellow Wag the Dog actors Robert de Niro, Jane Rosenthal and the film’s director Barry Levinson, Oliver warned the participants that his questions would likely be the “tensest part of the evening.”
Some 20 minutes into the 45-minute interview, Oliver said he would “go around the room” to assess panelists’ thoughts on the current climate surrounding sexual harassment in show business. What proceed from there was an uneasy 30 minutes of terse back and forth between the veteran Last Week Tonight host and Hoffman that in Oliver’s opinion, reached no real resolution.
Addressing Hoffman directly, Oliver found the Academy Award-winner to be overly dismissive: “First of all, it didn’t happen the way she reported,” a defiant Hoffman shot back in a response that seemed to immediately raise Oliver’s hackles. “It’s that part of the response to this stuff that pisses me off,” Oliver continued. “It feels like a cop-out to say, ‘Well, this isn’t me.’” Hoffman, who despite being in the hot seat, appeared to remain relatively nonplussed despite the direct line of questioning. Eventually, Hoffmann accused Oliver of “indicting” him on accusations he knew nothing about.
Despite support for Oliver’s decision to confront Hoffman, the comedian told Howard the interview was more depressing than anything. “I did try,” Oliver reflected. “I tried and I failed.”
Watch the entire clip from the 92nd Street Y interview here: