Film & TV

Woody Allen Is Not a Child Molester

Director Woody Allen arrives for a screening of the film Wonder Wheel in New York, November 14, 2017. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
The family drama is complex, but the details don’t add up.

Woody Allen is not a child molester. The conclusion was made by two state agencies at the time of the alleged crime, and it’s obvious to anyone familiar with the details of what happened. There is no need to believe Dylan Farrow is a liar, however. She probably believes what she’s been told to believe since she was seven years old.

Nevertheless, the story that Dylan tells is almost impossible to believe. And yet Allen is being made a pariah for being a child molester. Oscar-winning actors Colin Firth, Mira Sorvino, Michael Caine (the latter two of whom won Oscars appearing in Allen’s films), and Timothée Chalamet (the star of Allen’s latest movie) have publicly distanced themselves from him or vowed never to work with him again, even though Firth and Chalamet and hundreds of other actors worked with Allen many years after the alleged child molestation, which supposedly took place in 1992 and was discussed in the press at the time. Amazon Studios, which spent $80 million for Allen to develop his six-part TV show A Crisis in Six Scenes and $25 million on Allen’s latest film, A Rainy Day in New York, has refused to announce a release date for the latter. Reports say that Amazon may hold on to the movie forever or simply dump it unannounced on its streaming service. Amazon has three movies left on its five-picture deal with Allen, but none are under way. The last year in which no Allen movie was released in theaters was 1981.

Knowing what went on in Mia Farrow’s household, though, one can find it easier to believe that a distraught and hysterical mother steered her child to make a horrific charge in order to exact revenge for being dumped by her boyfriend. “Of course Woody did not molest my sister,” Moses Farrow told People magazine. “She loved him and looked forward to seeing him when he would visit. She never hid from him until our mother succeeded in creating the atmosphere of fear and hate towards him.” Moses despised Allen for years, but today, a family therapist, he considers his earlier enmity a product of Farrow’s rages against her longtime romantic partner. “My mother drummed it into me to hate my father for tearing apart the family and sexually molesting my sister,” Moses told People. “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.”

As Allen’s wife, Soon-Yi Previn, relates in an interview with Daphne Merkin published in New York magazine, her mother’s initial response when news of her affair with Allen broke was to label Soon-Yi “retarded” and to claim that Allen had raped her. These were vicious lies. Farrow, a family spokesperson concedes, told Allen that Soon-Yi was considering suicide. “I’d get these calls in the middle of the night, saying, ‘Soon-Yi is threatening to jump out of the window,’” he recalls. “And you know, Mia is an incredibly good actress, and I’m thinking, My God!” Soon-Yi says she was not suicidal.

The timeline and the details of the alleged molestation beggar belief. A critical detail not well publicized before Soon-Yi’s New York interview was that after Mia Farrow learned about the affair in January 1992 (by finding nude Polaroids of her daughter at Allen’s apartment), she continued to try to rescue her relationship with Allen. The two made the film Husbands and Wives (1992) together after Farrow’s discovery, and Farrow was under the impression that her daughter and Allen had broken up when, in the summer of 1992, Soon-Yi went off to summer camp in Maine to work as a counselor. She was fired for taking phone calls from Allen and returned home, triggering a renewal of Mia Farrow’s wrath. On August 1, reports Merkin, Mia called a psychologist named Susan Coates, described Allen as “satanic and evil,” and asked her to “find a way to stop him.” Three days later, the molestation of Dylan supposedly took place in Mia’s Connecticut house.

Moses, who was present, finds the accusation absurd. So do I. So should you. In “A Son Speaks Out,” Moses Farrow wrote in May this year:

Along with five kids, there were three adults in the house, all of whom had been told for months what a monster Woody was. None of us would have allowed Dylan to step away with Woody, even if he tried. . . . The narrative had to be changed since the only place for anyone to commit an act of depravity in private would have been in a small crawl space off my mother’s upstairs bedroom. By default, the attic became the scene of the alleged assault.

And what was the attic like? Moses calls it an “unfinished crawl space, under a steeply-angled gabled roof, with exposed nails and floorboards, billows of fiberglass insulation, filled with mousetraps and droppings and stinking of mothballs.” This is the place and time Woody Allen chose to embark upon the one and only act of child molestation of which he has ever been accused? In a 2014 New York Times op-ed, “Woody Allen Speaks Out,” Allen described it as “a tiny, cramped, enclosed spot where one can hardly stand up,” adding, “I’m a major claustrophobe. The one or two times [Mia] asked me to come in there to look at something, I did, but quickly had to run out.” Moses noted that there was no toy-train set in the attic, as Dylan would later claim, though there was one in his brothers’ room.

A nanny, Monica, quit the family rather than support Mia’s version of events, according to Moses, who says he witnessed part of the process of Mia Farrow taping a video interview with Dylan, stopping the tape constantly over the course of “two or three days” and badgering Dylan, who “appeared not to be interested.” He writes that “when another one of Dylan’s therapists, Dr. Nancy Schultz, criticized the making of the video, and questioned the legitimacy of the content, she, too, was fired immediately by Mia.”

Mia Farrow’s anger is understandable, but her response to it was unhinged. Keep in mind that losing Allen would for her be tantamount to losing her career; going back many years, her only major film roles had been in his productions. On Valentine’s Day of 1992, she sent Allen a collage in which, Merkin writes, “she’d pasted a family photo on a flower-encrusted, gilded heart and then stuck skewers through the hearts of the images of the children and a real knife through her own heart.” Allen’s sister Letty Aronson says Mia called to say, “‘He took my daughter, I’m going to take his.’” When Aronson said, “Don’t be ridiculous. [Dylan] loves Woody. A child should have a father,” Farrow replied, “I don’t care,” according to Aronson.

Both Soon-Yi and Moses claim their mother was abusive, sometimes physically so. Two of Farrow’s children committed suicide, Moses says. (In one instance, the death of daughter Tam, the official cause of death was heart failure at age 19, but he says that Tam died of an overdose of pills.) Another child died of AIDS-related causes, and the remaining children, including Ronan Farrow, swear by Mia.

Celebrity sleuths weighing Dylan Farrow’s recollections should understand that memories, no matter how deeply etched, are not necessarily reliable. Researchers have learned that it’s surprisingly easy to implant a false memory even in adults, never mind in one’s own, adoring seven-year-old child. Moses again: “I don’t know if my sister really believes she was molested or is trying to please her mother. Pleasing my mother was very powerful motivation because to be on her wrong side was horrible.”

Aha, Allen’s detractors inevitably say, but Soon-Yi herself was a child when the affair began! No. She was 21 and a college student. Nor was Allen ever her father or her stepfather or even a resident of the same building before their relationship began. Allen’s attraction to very young women is well-documented, but they were women. One of them, Stacey Nelkin, the apparent inspiration for the movie Manhattan, dated him when she was 17, the age of consent in New York, and said on CNN that during the custody fight over Dylan, someone from Mia Farrow’s camp tried to get her to testify falsely that she had been 15 at the time of the relationship with Allen. “I said no, because I was not 15. I was 17, 18, and 19, and to me there’s a big distinction,” she said. “And I think they were looking for the fact that, you know, 15 is jail bait. Seventeen is a very different story. And I would not go along with that.”

Nelkin remained friendly with Allen and hasn’t claimed he took advantage of her. Previn turned out to be the love of his life; divorced twice previously (though not from Mia Farrow, whom he never married), Allen has remained Soon-Yi’s partner for more than a quarter of a century, the last 20-plus years as her husband, and the pair have raised two adopted daughters who are now adults. As Allen keeps pointing out, after 50 years of filmmaking, none of the hundreds of actresses with whom he has worked have accused him of inappropriate behavior. Allen stands guilty of running away with his girlfriend’s daughter, of lusting after young women, and of making Whatever Works. But he is innocent of child molesting.

 

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