Actor Richard Dreyfuss has now been added to the list of powerful Hollywood men who’ve been accused in recent weeks of sexually harassing (or more) the women in their orbits. According to a new Vulture piece published today, Dreyfuss—who recently made headlines with his public support of his son, Harry, who talked to Buzzfeed about an incident in which Kevin Spacey allegedly groped him—has been accused of exposing himself to and otherwise harassing writer Jessica Teich during a working relationship formed between them in the 1980s.
Teich says she met Dreyfuss—already a rich, successful Oscar-winner—in 1984, and he hired her to work on a project he was gestating, a vaudeville tribute to the U.S. Constitution in honor of its 200th birthday. During a scheduled script meeting to discuss the project, Teich says she entered his trailer on a film set, only to find him exposing himself to her.
I remember walking up the steps into the trailer and turning towards my left. And he was at the back of the trailer, and just—his penis was out, and he sort of tried to draw me close to it. He was hard. I remember my face being brought close to his penis. I can’t remember how my face got close to his penis, but I do remember that the idea was that I was going to give him a blow job. I didn’t, and I left.
Per Vulture, that incident was just the most extreme of a long pattern of sexual harassment Dreyfuss allegedly committed against Teich, who says he “created a very hostile work environment, where I felt sexualized, objectified, and unsafe.” Other alleged actions included attempting to kiss her in professional settings, slipping her frequent and unwanted love notes, and sidling up to her and whispering “I want to fuck you” in her ear. Once, during a business trip, he allegedly told her, “He’d spent the night with his ear next to the wall, listening to my movements in my hotel room.”
Dreyfuss quickly responded to Vulture’s request for comment on Teich’s allegations, denying that he ever exposed himself to her, but admitting to (and apologizing for) a pattern of harassing behavior to the women around him, phrasing his interactions with his employee as “a consensual seduction ritual that went on and on for many years.”
I value and respect women, and I value and respect honesty. So I want to try to tell you the complicated truth. At the height of my fame in the late 1970s I became an asshole–the kind of performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be. I lived by the motto, “If you don’t flirt, you die.” And flirt I did. I flirted with all women, be they actresses, producers, or 80-year-old grandmothers. I even flirted with those who were out of bounds, like the wives of some of my best friends, which especially revolts me. I disrespected myself, and I disrespected them, and ignored my own ethics, which I regret more deeply than I can express. During those years I was swept up in a world of celebrity and drugs – which are not excuses, just truths. Since then I have had to redefine what it means to be a man, and an ethical man. I think every man on Earth has or will have to grapple with this question. But I am not an assaulter.
I emphatically deny ever “exposing” myself to Jessica Teich, whom I have considered a friend for 30 years. I did flirt with her, and I remember trying to kiss Jessica as part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual that went on and on for many years. I am horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual. I didn’t get it. It makes me reassess every relationship I have ever thought was playful and mutual.
There is a sea-change happening right now, which we can look upon as a problem or an opportunity. We all of us are awakening to the reality that how men have behaved toward women for eons is not OK. The rules are changing invisibly underneath our feet. I am playing catch up. Maybe we all are.
I hope people can join me in honestly looking at our behavior and trying to make it right. We have to relearn every rule we thought we knew about how men and women interact, because after all getting together is the most fundamental human compulsion. And if we don’t succeed in that, what do we have? I hope this is the beginning of a larger conversation we can have as a culture.
For her part, Teich—who came forward with her story after seeing Dreyfuss be praised for her response to the Kevin Spacey story—expressed regret that the actor couldn’t be fully honest about his actions toward her, and questioned the idea that she and he were “friends.” “I’m not that guy’s friend. I haven’t seen that guy or spoken to him in 25 years,” she said. (She also questioned his use of the word “flirt,” and its connotations of her complicity in his behavior toward her.) “But,” she added, “As a person, I respond to the sense of hurt that underlies his words, and something in me feels compassion for him, even though he made my life hell. And that’s part of the complexity of the whole thing, I think.”