Woody Allen: Why Hollywood Is Shrugging Off the Latest Sex Abuse Claims
This story first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Like an unlucky bystander, Hollywood has been dragged into the 22-year war over whether Woody Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan when she was 7. On Feb. 1, Dylan -- now 28 and living under another name in Florida -- posted a letter on the blog of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a close friend of her mother, Mia Farrow. The letter offered new and disturbing details about the abuse that Dylan -- backed by her mother and her brother, MSNBC host Ronan -- says took place. The charges erupted in 1992 after Mia discovered her then-boyfriend Allen had begun an affair with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn (then 19 or 21) and while Allen and Farrow were engaged in a custody battle over Moses, Dylan and Ronan. Authorities investigated, and no charges were brought against Allen.
Via spokeswoman Leslee Dart, Allen called Dylan's new letter "untrue and disgraceful," and his lawyer Elkin Abramowitz appeared on NBC's Today on Feb. 4, saying the molestation idea was "implanted" in her head by her mother. On Wednesday, People published an interview with Dylan's brother Moses Farrow in which he echoed those comments and defended his father. "My mother drummed it into me to hate my father for tearing apart the family and sexually molesting my sister," he said. "And I hated him for her for years. I see now that this was a vengeful way to pay him back for falling in love with Soon-Yi."
Allen, 78, now finds himself on trial in the court of public opinion, with a vigorous debate raging online and with industry figures as varied as Lena Dunham and Roseanne Barr leaping to Dylan's defense. But despite the uproar, many Hollywood insiders believe the impact on the veteran filmmaker, who operates outside the studio system by raising financing abroad to make one film a year like clockwork, will be minimal. Blue Jasmine, his current movie, cost less than $18 million and has grossed nearly $95 million worldwide. And he has completed his next film, Magic in the Moonlight, a romantic comedy set in the south of France starring Emma Stone and Colin Firth, which Sony Pictures Classics will release this year. In a carefully worded statement, the distributor said Allen "deserves our presumption of innocence." Will the new claims impact his ability to lure top actors? Probably not, say those polled by THR. Unlike Roman Polanski, who pled guilty to a sex crime, Allen's situation remains in dispute. Says one agent for A-list talent, "I wouldn't hesitate to put any actor I work with in his movies."
The more immediate question is whether the Farrow charges, dropped into the Oscar race as voting begins Feb. 14, could tarnish Jasmine, which has three noms for Allen's screenplay, supporting actress Sally Hawkins and best actress Cate Blanchett. Allen and Hawkins are considered long shots, but Blanchett, who has picked up Globe and SAG awards, is considered the favorite. A survey of Academy members finds near agreement that Dylan's attempt in her letter to tie Blanchett to Allen ("What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett?" she asked) will prove fruitless. "I don't think it's going to affect her at all," says a PR branch member. "She has too much momentum." Adds a member of the writers branch, "[Dylan] wants him punished, and she wants other people not to work with him, and that's understandable. But it's very judgmental to single out these actors who weren't there and need good parts and shouldn't have to turn them down unless and until he is proven guilty."
If anything, the fact that Blanchett is caught in the crossfire might even earn her sympathy. In 1995, three years after the Farrow charges exploded, the Academy bestowed seven noms on Allen's Bullets Over Broadway and handed the supporting actress Oscar to Dianne Wiest.
Still, Dylan has put Hollywood in an uncomfortable position since she also targeted the film industry -- and fans of Allen's movies -- accusing them of turning a blind eye. Allen earned his most recent Oscar two years ago for the Midnight in Paris screenplay and in January was given the Globes' Cecil B. DeMille Award. (He skipped the event, as he always does.) Honors send the wrong message to victims, Dylan wrote: "Louis C.K.? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?"
If Mia, Dylan or Ronan, via his new MSNBC show, continue to turn up the heat on Allen, the actors he works with could find themselves answering questions about the case for years. Blanchett, at the Santa Barbara Film Festival when the story broke, said only, "It's obviously been a long and painful situation for the family, and I hope they find some resolution and peace." Baldwin, who appears in Jasmine, put it more bluntly on Twitter: "What the f--k is wrong w u that u think we all need to b commenting on this family's personal struggle?"