It’s not a boxing movie, but Kramer vs Kramer (1979) does bring together two heavyweights of Hollywood in the forms of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep.
We say “bring together”, but there were tensions during filming between the leads, with Streep and Hoffman not exactly see eye to eye.
In fact they literally came to blows, with Hoffman hitting Streep off camera. Yes, really… More on that later.
Here’s 7 of the the most interesting things you (probably) didn’t know about Kramer vs Kramer (1979)…
The now famous ice-cream “battle” scene, where Billy challenges his father by refusing his evening meal and belligerently fetching desert from the freezer was entirely improvised between both Dustin Hoffman and Justin Henry. Director Robert Benton decided to keep it in the film as it played so naturally.
The strength of both actors performances can be put down in least in part to their own experiences leading up to and whilst making the film.
Meryl Streep had no idea that Hoffman was going to throw his wine glass against the wall in the restaurant scene (video clip above). Hoffman planned the whole thing, only telling the cameraman so he could capture the moment. Streep’s reaction is genuine, but she stayed in character long enough for the scene to remain intact. As soon as the director yelled “cut!” Streep turned on Hoffman for scaring her.
Justin Henry was Oscar nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award at the age of 8.
He became the youngest person ever to be nominated for this award as well as the youngest ever Oscar nominee in any category, a record which still stands today (2017).
There was some definite tension between the two leads. Hoffman had to deal with hearing lots of advance publicity about newcomer Streep (yes, she was once a new kid on the block!) and how she was mastering the role. Dustin felt he was being upstaged. When Streep wanted to change around the dialogue in the restaurant meeting scene, Hoffman admits “I hated her guts. Yes, I hated her guts. But I respected her.” He conceded that Meryl wasn’t arguing for what was best for her character but what was best for the movie.
Meryl Streep said that after Dustin Hoffman hit her to get her into character and even taunted her about her dead lover as he wanted her to implode, she understandably decided she never wanted to work with him again.
Director Robert Benton thought ‘we’re dead’ when Hoffman struck Streep and assumed she would file a complaint with the Screen Actors Guild – but instead she acted the scene and, ultimately, they were both nominated for Oscars.
Meryl Streep was heavily pregnant in the final scene of the film, which is why Joanna is wearing a raincoat.
She wrote her own courtroom speech upon writer-director Robert Benton‘s suggestion, after she informed him that she wasn’t satisfied with the way it was originally written.
She also requested changes to her character, as she felt that the story was relying on the audience to understand why Joanna left without letting Joanna express it for herself. It was Streep’s belief that the character as it was originally written was too overtly villainous for Ted and Billy to react to and change their lives accordingly.