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Ahead of HBO’s final installment of Allen v. Farrow, directors Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick and lead investigative producer Amy Herdy sat down for a Zoom interview with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the chilling close to the docuseries and address criticism from Allen that their project is one-sided.
As the explosive docuseries rolled out over the past four weeks, Woody Allen and his supporters have taken aim at the filmmakers for omitting his perspective. Through a spokesperson, Allen called the series a “hatchet job” and complained that he was approached less than two months before the Feb. 21 premiere and “given only a matter of days ‘to respond.'”
Ziering fired back at that characterization. “His perspective, his first-person testimony is included throughout the series,” she tells THR. “We have his own voice reading, his own writing, his press conferences in his words, his court testimony. His side is represented. And he’s welcome to do an interview [with us]. Standing offer. We’re sure that HBO would do a fifth episode. We’re here.”
Furthermore, Herdy notes that she reached out twice in 2018 to Allen’s longtime publicist, Leslee Dart, after he proclaimed himself the “poster boy” for the #MeToo movement. “And I know that they got my request because I spoke to an assistant, who confirmed that they got my request,” says Herdy. “They never responded. And so I continued to do a deep dive.”
As for what Dick would ask Allen if the latter ever obliged, he says he doesn’t have just one burning question. “I have like 50,” he says. “He’s never really sat down with journalists and had an extensive conversation about all the facts in the case.”
The fourth and final episode of Allen v. Farrow explores the more recent history in the case of the disgraced filmmaker and allegations that he molested his 7-year-old daughter in the attic of Mia Farrow’s country home. After revisiting why the state of Connecticut never brought a criminal case against Allen over Dylan’s sexual abuse allegation in 1993 (Frank S. Maco, the state prosecutor who oversaw the investigation, explains in the doc that he did not initiate a prosecution, despite finding probable cause against Allen, in an effort to not “further traumatize” a young Dylan), several Farrow-Previn siblings describe how their family was “turned upside-down” after the custody battle between Allen and Mia, which ended in Mia’s favor, and sexual abuse probes into Allen.
“People went into survival mode,” says Fletcher Previn in the fourth and final episode of the family’s attempts to move forward as Allen continued his relationship publicly with Soon-Yi Previn, Mia’s adopted daughter. For Dylan, moving on meant isolation. “Growing up, I never spoke about it with any of my siblings. None of them asked,” she says now, as an adult, of what happened with Allen, her adopted father. “They all went through their own gauntlet of emotions over this. I didn’t even speak about it in any depth with my mom. Even with my therapist.”
In addition to the docuseries, HBO has launched an accompanying podcast from Ziering, Dick and Herdy, which is chock-full of exclusive material that isn’t included in the series. In the March 7 episode, Herdy interviewed Alison Stickland, the nanny of Mia’s friend, Casey Pascal, who was at Mia’s home on the day of the incident that sparked the Connecticut investigation. Stickland, who lives in the U.K., only reached out to the filmmaking team after the series was locked. In the podcast episode that will run this week, the Allen v. Farrow team unveils two new phone conversations between Allen and Mia as well as a new portion of the Dylan videotape that Mia recorded back in 1992. In one of the phone conversations, the couple discussed the attic incident, and in the other call, they talked about their relationship.
“They’re pretty shocking,” says Ziering of the conversations. “It’s so behind the scenes. You’re there with them as she’s struggling to make sense of things and struggling to understand what is going on, and it just brings you right back there.”
Adds Dick: “You go back into that time, that place and that incredible confusion and how traumatic everything was.”
It wasn’t until two decades later, as the 2014 Golden Globes were airing, that Dylan’s story would resurface. Ronan Farrow, who by this point was an established journalist, says in Allen v. Farrow that, growing up, there was always “a lot of incentive to be drawn into Woody Allen’s efforts to discredit my sister.” For example, he says his college education was contingent on publicly supporting his father. In the years following the ’93 case, Allen v. Farrow shows how much public support Allen continued to receive from Hollywood figures like Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin as he continued to make his movies.
Seven years later, Allen has become persona non grata in Hollywood. Still, HBO continues to stream several of his movies on its platform including Broadway Danny Rose and Radio Days, both of which star Mia, in a move that has drawn criticism. Ziering says she doesn’t object and feels it should be up to individual viewers.
“It’s personal for everybody,” she says. “Obviously there’s going to be art made by people who do reprehensible things. And through art, we can get sustenance and be inspired by and learn from. One of the most formative thinkers for me is Martin Heidegger. I wouldn’t be who I am, make the films that I make without having read Heidegger. But Heidegger was a fucking Nazi. My dad was in a concentration camp. Did I have a problem reading him? Absolutely. Did I not read him? No, I read him.”
In Allen v. Farrow, Ronan describes having “knock-down, drag-out fights” with Dylan as adults whenever she mentioned resurfacing her story and once again turning the public eye onto their family. But when she finally shared in detail what happened to her, Ronan says he cried for his sister. Then, as a journalist and an attorney, he began to investigate. His reaction after researching was, “Well, holy shit. I have been turning away from a real miscarriage of justice here.”
He says of his sister, “She was incredibly brave about saying, ‘No. This is the truth. I have never changed my story, there is evidence on my side. If you actually read the court documents you will see that.'”
So while Allen was receiving a career tribute during the 2014 Globes — feted by the likes of Diane Keaton and Emma Stone — Ronan publicly changed his tune and tweeted the following: “Missed the Woody Allen tribute — did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?”
In Allen v. Farrow, Dylan describes her brother’s tweet as a “watershed moment.” She called him, crying, saying it meant so much that “someone had finally acknowledged her,” he shares. Then Dylan felt that if Ronan was talking about it, perhaps she could, too, and she wrote an essay that she sent to The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times opinion sections.
What followed has been widely reported by outlets including The Hollywood Reporter: Neither of those newspapers published Dylan’s story, despite an editor at the Los Angeles Times telling Ronan personally that the editor felt her claims “check out,” he shares. Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times journalist and Farrow family friend, would go on to publish Dylan’s essay on his opinion blog. In response, The New York Times published a lengthy rebuttal from Allen, where he denied the allegations. Moses Farrow also went on the record to People defending his father and alleging abuse at the hands of adopted mother Mia. (That claim has been contradicted by nine of Mia’s other children, Allen v. Farrow notes.)
Despite the anticipated reaction, Dylan says that within days she was contacted by other survivors who had also been suffering silently. “The gift that they didn’t realize they were giving me is that I wasn’t alone, or I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was,” she says.
Still, Allen’s career worship did not take a hit. Allen v. Farrow shows a bevy of Allen’s leading men and women defending him and referring to Dylan’s claims as a “family issue.” Ronan explains the power of Allen’s publicity machine, describing a “culture of transactional access journalism” where powerful publicists trade and plant stories in exchange for access to a roster of starry clients.
Ronan has previously shared these details in his May 2016 column for THR (titled, “My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked“), which is featured in Allen v. Farrow and was written in response to a THR cover story with Allen. “Every day, colleagues at news organizations forwarded me the emails blasted out by Allen’s powerful publicist, who had years earlier orchestrated a robust publicity campaign to validate my father’s sexual relationship with another one of my siblings,” he wrote at the time of Soon-Yi, Allen’s now wife of 23 years. “The open CC list on those emails revealed reporters at every major outlet with whom that publicist shared relationships — and mutual benefit, given her firm’s starry client list, from Will Smith to Meryl Streep. Reporters on the receiving end of this kind of PR blitz have to wonder if deviating from the talking points might jeopardize their access to all the other A-list clients.” Allen v. Farrow notes that Dart, who no longer reps the director, banned THR from covering a Cannes luncheon for Allen’s film, Cafe Society, after publishing Ronan’s column. (Several THR reporters were excluded from the guest list.)
In his THR column, Ronan reminded readers of the judge’s ruling regarding Dylan’s abuse claims in the ’93 custody battle, which was explored in the third episode of Allen v. Farrow: “I’ve approached the case as an attorney and a reporter, and found her allegations to be credible. The facts are persuasive and well documented. I won’t list them again here, but most have been meticulously reported by journalist Maureen Orth in Vanity Fair. The only final legal disposition is a custody ruling that found Woody Allen’s behavior ‘grossly inappropriate’ and stressed that ‘measures must be taken to protect [Dylan].'”
But it wasn’t until the following year, when Ronan’s exposé into disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein helped spark the #MeToo movement, that Dylan’s renewed claims would get headline news treatment. After a second essay written by Dylan ran in the Los Angeles Times in late 2017 (“Why Has the #MeToo Revolution Spared Woody Allen?“), Hollywood came out in droves to publicly support Dylan, with many stars apologizing for working with Allen and refusing to do so again, and donating their salaries from Allen projects. Allen talks about being “lumped” with the men who have been accused amid the #MeToo movement in voiceover from his 2020 memoir, Apropos of Nothing, and laments being unable to get his work distributed in the United States. (Amazon shelved his 2019 film A Rainy Day in New York and cut ties with the director.)
In comparing Dylan speaking out in 2014 to the post-#MeToo era in 2018, Ronan says in Allen v. Farrow that his sister “catalyzed more women feeling empowered to speak.” He adds, “The culture changed in that window in a significant way and we are, for the first time, hearing stories like hers.”
What followed was another rebuttal from Moses (a 2018 blog post where the Allen v. Farrow filmmakers cite contradicting evidence including court records, Moses’ witness statement from ’92 and Allen’s court testimony in ’93), as well as a New York Magazine profile on Soon-Yi breaking her silence that was viewed as controversial, due to the author being a close friend of Allen’s. (Moses declined to be interviewed for Allen v. Farrow.)
Series executive producer Dan Cogan, who also worked with Ziering and Dick on On the Record and The Hunting Ground, tells THR that the pair never shy from tackling the most contentious and well-armed subjects, including Allen, Russell Simmons and Harvard Law.
“When they pick up the phone, I answer because I know that they are doing something totally extraordinary and I just want to support it,” he says. “And I think that they inspire that kind of faith in others, how hard they work, how disciplined and serious they are. When they are willing to put so much on the line and risk everything, I am always going to be there for them.”
Dick says On the Record proved to be their most contentious doc, but Allen v. Farrow was “the most structurally challenging.” He adds, “This is a sprawling, epic story with so many moving parts. How do you condense it, keep the thematic threads going, keep the audience comprehending.”
In Allen v. Farrow, Mia applauds her daughter’s bravery while admitting that she remains scared of her former partner and collaborator. “A person who has no allegiance to truth will do anything. A person who will do anything is somebody to be scared of,” she says. “So I worry that when this documentary comes out, [Allen] will be on the attack again. He’ll do whatever he has to do to try to save himself from the truth, from the mess he made.”
Dylan, who is shown in intimate moments with her daughter, husband and mother at the end of Allen v. Farrow, describes the long-term impact of Allen’s actions as a “lifelong sentence” for her. But she also speaks from a place of strength when talking about what has motivated her to renew her incest allegations. “I’m tired of not being believed. I’m tired of being told that my experiences don’t matter. I’m tired of feeling like he matters more than me. I’m tired of this whole argument of separating the art from the artist so that you can feel better,” she explains of coming forward in the #MeToo era. And every message of support she has gotten in response has “really helped me to reclaim some of my own sense of self-worth,” she says.
Allen denies ever having been sexually inappropriate or abusive with Dylan and was never criminally charged.
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