“What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me.” This is the beginning of an open letter written by Dylan Farrow published in the New York Times on Saturday.
Dylan Farrow, 28, is the adopted daughter of actress Mia Farrow who dated the famous filmmaker while Dylan was a child. As unsettling as this letter was to many, it is not the first time these allegations have been made public. About twenty years ago, Mia came out with these claims against her ex, which prompted an investigation.
The allegations were eventually dropped, with Farrow’s attorney at the time stating that the then seven-year-old Dylan was too young to testify, and would be greatly traumatized by the process. Other than continuous allegations by Mia and Dylan Farrow, as well as Dylan’s brother Ronan Farrow, Allen was never prosecuted, and has continuously denied these allegations. In light of the open letter, a statement made by Allen’s lawyer says that it is Mia Farrow who is responsible for creating and instilling this lie in Dylan at a young age.
The drama of the sexual abuse claims came around the same time that it came to light that Allen was having an affair with Farrow’s other adopted daughter, nineteen-year-old Soon-Yi Previn. Allen and Previn were married five years later, and have been together ever since.
The open letter specifically addressed known Hollywood actors including Alec Baldwin, Allen’s longtime friend and frequent costar Diane Keaton, and the star of his most recent, Oscar-nominated film “Blue Jasmine”, Cate Blanchett, whom she asked “what if it had been your child?” This comes just weeks after Allen was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement Golden Globe Award, and his twenty-forth Oscar nomination, bringing up a big question: Can you be a fan of Woody Allen the filmmaker and not Woody Allen the person?
There is no denying the imprint Allen has made on the film industry, directing, producing and often starring in most of the 49 films he has written, including “Annie Hall,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” and “Manhattan”. But does celebrating his work mean celebrating the man? Woody Allen is certainly not the first celebrity to be involved in a scandal or questionable act. Even if the sexual assault allegations were never confirmed, having an affair with your girlfriend’s nineteen-year-old adopted daughter, and then marrying her, isn’t exactly normal, right?
It is difficult to differentiate the services to the entertainment world of a celebrity, and their personal lives. Personally, I have never been a big Woody Allen fan. Whether that is because I don’t favor his directing style or the fact that I have always been aware of the oddities and rumors that came with the famous glasses-wearing Brooklyn filmmaker, I do not know.
Meanwhile I have always adored Martin Scorsese in terms of directors, not only because of the fact that he made some of my favorite films like “Goodfellas”, “Raging Bull” and “The Departed”, but because of his unique directing style and ability to use a musical cue to define a scene. But thinking about it, I know nearly nothing about Scorsese’s personal life. Would I look at his films differently if I found out similar allegations were made against him? And even though I do know that he has not married his wife’s adopted daughter, how would my views on Scorsese films change if he had?
What do you think—can you still be a fan of the filmmaker and not the individual? Do you think Woody Allen should be condemned for his behavior despite a lack of proof or charges?