On Dec. 1, his 82nd birthday, Woody Allen’s 47th feature film, Wonder Wheel, will be released. His 48th feature, A Rainy Day In New York, just wrapped a two-month shoot in New York City last month. Superficially, at least, it appears as though Allen’s career is proceeding as it has for almost 50 years. And yet, outside of the unchanging bubble that Allen has built around himself, filled with Dixieland jazz music and insufferably bourgeois white people, there are signs that his troubling past might finally pose a problem for his film career.
While Allen worked on A Rainy Day In New York, his former collaborator Harvey Weinstein was swiftly swept out of Hollywood after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein’s demise was hastened in part by the reporting of Ronan Farrow, Allen’s estranged son, who even as a young boy seemed to loathe his father. (Allen reportedly reciprocated those feelings, referring to Ronan — then known as Satchel, his given first name — as “the little bastard” when he was just a baby, according to Vanity Fair. Later, when young Ronan kicked Allen, his father twisted the child’s leg until Ronan screamed, and threatened, “Do that again and I’ll break your legs.”) A month later, one of Allen’s highest-profile admirers, Louis C.K., suffered his own professional implosion in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations from five women. Now, C.K.’s new movie, I Love You, Daddy, an obvious homage to Allen’s Manhattan, is in jeopardy.
If this were a Woody Allen film — a philosophical, morally ambiguous thriller descended from Crimes And Misdemeanors and Match Point — this would be the part of the story when the protagonist would start to worry about whether his own life was about to turned upside-down by a transgression that he has, for now, successfully covered up. Except with the real-life Woody Allen, you suspect that this sort of rueful, middle-of-the-night introspection might be considered unnecessary.
The fact is, Woody Allen has been hiding in plain sight as a credibly accused molester of his own adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, for 25 years. And yet, in that time, Allen has made 26 films and one (terrible) Amazon TV series. He’s also been nominated for nine Oscars, winning one, for writing 2011’s (kinda bad) Midnight In Paris. And he’s collected numerous lifetime achievement awards, from the Directors Guild of America, the Cannes Film Festival, and the Golden Globes. Woody Allen, clearly, has had little to worry about for decades.
Could that change in 2017? If ever there was a time for Allen to face the music — if not legally, then at least via an eviction from the mainstream film industry — you would think it would be now, as the dominos around him continue to fall. But then again, maybe not. The problem with the Woody Allen story is that it remains essentially unchanged: he was accused in 1992 of digitally penetrating Dylan in the attic of Mia Farrow’s summer home, when the girl was just 7. This allegedly occurred after years of inappropriate behavior by Allen toward his daughter. According to a 1992 Vanity Fair article, Allen had already been seeing a therapist before the incident in the attic for his obsessive fixation on Dylan. After interviewing more than a dozen people, most of whom were closely associated with the Allen-Farrow family, journalist Maureen Orth reported scores of disturbing incidents in her story — Woody would have Dylan suck his thumb; Woody would climb into bed with Dylan and wrap his mostly naked body (save for underwear) around hers; Woody was once discovered by a babysitter in the TV room with his face in Dylan’s lap; Woody once applied suntan lotion to Dylan’s naked body and lingered on the crack between her buttocks, until he was admonished by Mia’s mother, the actress Maureen O’Sullivan.
You could argue that the crime that Allen is accused of — violating his own child — is even worse than the numerous improprieties committed by Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. But in Allen’s case, there’s only one accuser — which should be enough, but it’s the sheer of volume of accusations against other famous Hollywood abusers that has kept these stories in the news for the past few months. Sadly, that Allen is “only” accused by one person of the worst crime there is apparently has not been good enough before now.
When I started researching the history of Dylan Farrow’s accusations against Woody Allen, it was my intention to write about how my own love of Woody Allen’s films suffered as it became impossible to compartmentalize Dylan’s story. Like countless other men born in the ’70s and ’80s, the period when Allen was at his artistic and cultural peak, I willed myself into becoming a Woody Allen fan. For years I closely studying masterworks like Love & Death, Annie Hall, and Hannah And Her Sisters because I knew that being conversant with Woody Allen’s oeuvre was an essential part of being viewed as a “serious” cinephile, which I’m embarrassed to say was extremely important to me as a young man.