'Allen v. Farrow' Team on Doc's "Eye-Opening" Revisiting of Woody Allen, Mia Farrow Custody Case and Investigations

Allen v. Farrow
Courtesy of HBO

A young Dylan Farrow

"There are facts and details and documents and people who are corroborating what [they] have said for years, and no one listened," Amy Herdy, the investigative producer on the HBO docuersies, tells The Hollywood Reporter of Mia and Dylan Farrow being "gaslit" by Allen.

Mia Farrow took much convincing to appear in HBO's Allen v. Farrow. The four-part docuseries, which aired its third episode Sunday night, features the actress and mother of 14 speaking publicly for the first time in decades about her former partner and collaborator, disgraced filmmaker Woody Allen, and the sexual abuse allegations that have long been leveled at him by daughter Dylan Farrow, who appears along with her in the documentary.

"Mia did not want to speak," filmmaker Amy Ziering, who narrates some of the third episode, told The Hollywood Reporter. The credit goes to Amy Herdy, the lead investigative producer at co-directors Ziering and Kirby Dick's Jane Doe Films, for repeatedly asking and gaining Farrow's trust. "[Mia] obviously has been through a tremendous amount, through no wrongdoing of her own, that none of us would ever wish for anyone. It’s one thing to have horrible things befall you. But it is another to have horrible things befall you and then somehow you are blamed for those horrible things."

Ziering adds, "For people who think, 'Oh, she is out there, and wants [the attention],' absolutely not. It was like dragging someone."

As the third episode revisits the events of 1992 for the Farrows and Allen, it's easy to see why Mia would be reluctant to participate in a project that once again puts a Hollywood spotlight on her famous family.

Shortly after a 7-year-old Dylan alleged to her mother that Allen, her adopted father, had sexually assaulted her in the attic of the Farrow's Connecticut family home on Aug. 4, 1992, Mia took her daughter to a doctor who reported the incident to the police. Two investigations were swiftly opened, a child welfare probe in New York, where the Farrows also resided, and a criminal investigation in Connecticut. As an adult Dylan explains in Allen v. Farrow, "After the attic, things really started changing very rapidly. I said this thing and it started this nightmare of lawyers and the phone ringing, and everything changed."

On Aug. 18, 1992, Allen held a press conference where he announced that he was subject to an investigation into abuse. He called the claims "rumors and innuendos and cruel untruths" and said they were a "damaging manipulation of innocent children for vindictive and self-serving purposes."

Then he added the kicker: "In the end, the one thing I have been guilty of is falling in love with Ms. Farrow's adult daughter."

Soon-Yi Previn, who was 21 at the time of Allen's pronouncement, was the adopted daughter to Mia and her ex-husband André Previn. The second episode explored Allen and Soon-Yi's affair, which Mia said began when Soon-Yi was still in high school, a claim backed up by court testimony from Allen's housekeeper. In his memoir, Allen says the relationship began when she was in her first year of college. (Soon-Yi is Allen's current wife of 23 years, and the pair released a scathing statement about Allen v. Farrow after it premiered.)

With his press conference, Allen shifted the media narrative away from his allegations and onto the ensuing "trial by tabloid" that is explored by filmmakers Dick and Ziering. Soon, Allen was on magazine covers painting a picture of his ex Mia as a scorned woman seeking revenge. In a 60 Minutes appearance, Allen suggested Dylan had "been coached methodically" by Mia in her claims, an allegation that would find traction in the mainstream media for decades.

Mia, meanwhile, stayed publicly silent. "I didn't feel it was seemly to get in a public fight with him," she says in Allen v. Farrow, adding that she had hoped to maintain a sense of normalcy for her children.

"Part of the narrative was, 'This is a he said-she said.' But what we realized as we dug was that it was: He said, he said, he said, he said, he said, he said," Ziering told THR of exploring the high-powered PR machine behind Allen. The filmmakers note in a title card that multiple private investigators looked into Mia's family, as well as the Connecticut state detectives assigned to the case. "She knows that the more public things become, the more destructive it is for the family and her children. And that was the trade-off, I think, she made. It was better to protect her children than to try to get her point of view into the public."

Dick added to THR: "Only one side was speaking and totally controlling the narrative. The public felt like, ‘Oh, we’re hearing both sides.’ And they weren’t. It was a little shocking to me that Mia didn’t mount a publicity campaign. Even into the project I said, 'We’re going to find out her campaign, right, when we look into archival?' And she kept saying no."

To open the third installment, Ziering explains that, over the course of her and Dick's three-year investigation for Allen v. Farrow, their team gained access to tens of thousands of court and police documents — most of which were never made public or obtained by the press — police files, additional evidence, affidavits, sworn testimony, private audio and video recordings, and "one cache of more than 60 boxes of documentation" that had been untouched since the '90s.

Herdy told THR that their reporting process, and what they began to uncover, helped to put Dylan and Mia at ease as they went along with the interviews.

"Both of them had been gaslit for so long by Woody Allen. They had both experienced this dual existence with him of, ‘Everything is fine, everything is great and I love you and nothing is wrong,’ and, ‘If you feel like anything is wrong, it’s all in your head.’ Dylan as a child and Mia as an adult, as his partner," said Herdy of the past. "So, going back to them and saying, ‘Hey, guess what I found out on this document? It indicates that this wasn’t accurate.' And. 'I found this that indicates this wasn’t accurate. And I found this person who said: No, actually, that wasn’t accurate.' I started finding all of these facts that basically blew away all the gaslighting that had happened to them. And it told them there are facts and details and documents and people who are corroborating what you have said for years, and no one listened. I think that was very gratifying and eye-opening for them both."

Most effective in Allen v. Farrow's re-exploration into probes against Allen is the on-the-record account from Frank S. Maco, the state prosecutor who oversaw the Connecticut criminal investigation. He had commissioned an evaluation of Dylan to see if she was fit to testify, and a seven-month examination was done by the Yale-New Haven Hospital's child sex abuse clinic.

Their finding concluded that there were "inconsistencies" in Dylan's statements about the abuse, that she had "difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality" and was likely "encouraged by her mother who was enraged with Allen." The report all-but vindicated Allen in the eyes of the public because, as Maco reveals, the clinic informed Allen first of their findings. The celebrated filmmaker then held a press conference at the hospital to tout the results, unbeknownst to Maco.

Allen v. Farrow picks apart the Yale-New Haven report by interviewing a slew of child abuse experts who call the conclusion "bogus." Raising eyebrows were the fact that Dylan, then 7, was interviewed an excessive number of times and that the notes from the examination were destroyed. Maco called it a "runaway evaluation" that cleared Allen in the press without having the authority to do so.

Meanwhile, over in the New York investigation, Dick and Ziering produce the notes from that caseworker, who found Dylan to be credible and quoted the social workers from the Yale-New Haven evaluation as agreeing with his findings. According to caseworker Paul Williams, "[Yale-New Haven social worker] Jennifer Sawyer indicated that she believes Dylan." (Sawyer did not respond to comment requests for Allen v. Farrow; THR has reached out to the Yale-New Haven Hospital for comment.) Williams found sufficient information to open an investigation, but his superiors would go on to take over and he temporarily lost his job. At the time, the late David Dinkins was mayor of New York, and Allen — who shot all of his movies in the city — was considered a key figure in revitalizing the Big Apple's image and driving tourism.

"There was clearly a strong, political climate to shut this thing down. This was a massive cover-up attempt and Paul was caught in the middle," says Williams' attorney, Bruce Baron, in Allen v. Farrow. Sheryl Harden, who was in charge of the New York investigation, also goes on the record to say she quit the following year over what she witnessed. "The elite can do whatever they need to do, whatever they want to do, and there's no consequences for it," she says.

"He made his movies in New York, that brought millions to New York City," notes Mia in the doc, "and what Woody had said to me was, 'It doesn't matter what's true, it matters what's believed.' He said it in such a cold way, that I thought, could he be right?"

Shortly after, Allen sued Mia for custody of the three youngest children, Dylan, Ronan and Moses Farrow, alleging she was an unfit mother. In more never-before-heard phone calls, Mia pleads with Allen to drop the lawsuit. "If Woody were believed that I was a horrible mother, what would happen to all the other adopted children in the family? There was a lot to lose,” she explains to the camera.

In March of 1993, the famous Hollywood custody case begins. While taking the stand, Allen presented his case that Mia concocted the abuse allegations to punish him; saying in testimony that he believed Mia "brainwashed" Dylan. The videos of Dylan recounting the abuse — some of which aired publicly for the first time in the second episode of Allen v. Farrow — were entered as evidence. More of that footage airs here, as the filmmakers consult independent experts to evaluate the tapes.

More harrowing footage of a young Dylan includes the child repeating, "I don't like it. I don't like it. I also don't want to talk about it," which the experts conclude is typical in the progression of an abused child, and not consistent with a false accusation.

"What’s in that tape feels like that’s who I am when you strip away everything else," says an adult Dylan, looking back in the doc. "You look underneath all my layers down to the very center of who I am. I am that little girl in the tape. So it’s a very vulnerable part of me. And a very hurt part of me."

She continues, "That little girl is in a lot of pain. This kind of abuse warps something inside of you. Because it doesn’t happen by a stranger that snatches you off the street and throws you in a van. It happens by someone you love and someone you trust. Someone who buckles your seatbelt, takes your hand when you walk down the street, reads you bedtime stories. It’s incomprehensible to normal people because it’s not normal.”

After a seven-week trial and monthlong wait for the verdict, Allen lost. Allen v. Farrow quotes Judge Elliot Wilk's decision, which characterized Allen's behavior toward Dylan as "grossly inappropriate and that measures must be taken to protect her." His ruling declared Mia as a "caring and loving mother" and called the Yale-New Haven report to be "sanitized and, therefore, less credible."

With the custody case settled (Allen failed in his appeal attempts), the criminal case remains ongoing heading into the final installment of Allen v. Farrow, as Maco announces his conclusion that there was probable cause for an arrest warrant on the charges of 1st and 4th degree sexual assault of a minor.

Before jumping ahead, the filmmakers sit with Dylan for a moment. For her as a child, that period in time was a win; Mia had retained full custody and Allen lost his parental rights over Dylan for six months. "It was a strange feeling being told that I never had to see him again. It wasn’t framed as, 'You’re never going to see your father again.' It was framed as, 'Do you ever want to see him again?' And, I didn’t,” says Dylan to close the episode.

Allen denies ever having been sexually inappropriate or abusive with Dylan and was never criminally charged.

Allen v. Farrow will conclude Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.