Back when you were young and head over heels for movies like Annie Hall and Manhattan, the writer Richard Morgan’s recent undertaking of poring over the 56 boxes that make up Woody Allen‘s archives kept at Princeton University for the Washington Post might have sounded like a dream job. The task, however, turned out to be quite the opposite; Morgan’s headline, “I read decades of Woody Allen’s private notes. He’s obsessed with teenage girls,” would have been upsetting at any point in time, but is particularly so in the post-Harvey Weinstein era, when men in power are finally being exposed—and even facing repercussions—for their predatory behavior (in part thanks to reporters like Allen’s son, Ronan Farrow).
Curiously, though, as more and more men like Kevin Spacey, who allegedly repeatedly came on to adolescent boys, have been banished from the public eye, Allen has been somewhat spared—an oversight that his daughter, Dylan Farrow, who has maintained that he sexually assaulted her when she was seven years old for two decades now—called attention to in November, with an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times titled “Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?”
Morgan’s deep dive makes Farrow’s question all the more relevant today, as more and more attention is finally being brought to Allen’s behavior, putting stars like Selena Gomez in uncomfortable situations when they publicly find themselves at a loss for words when asked why they’re now working with the director. Sure, Allen is far from the first industry legend to get away with such behavior—Alfred Hitchcock, for one, was famously obsessed with the actress Tippi Hedren, to the point of abuse—but the stories found in Allen’s archives bear such eerie resemblance to instances of abuse coming to light today that they deserve a closer examination—as does the fact that even non-Hollywood society has continually chose to ignore women like Farrow’s real-life, equally unsettling stories about Allen.
Take, for example, one of Allen’s many unpublished stories about a middle-aged man’s obsession with younger women: His imagined encounter with Nati Abascal, a real-life actress who was in his movie Bananas, where he details how they only signed a contract after he “told her about the sexual obligation that was a part of the job of any actress who worked with me,” is exactly the type of arrangement that Weinstein, for one, has repeatedly been accused of in real life. There’s also Allen’s unproduced screenplay starring a director named “Woody Allen” who produces porn movies, and leaves his fiancée at the altar for a “a girl” who’s schizophrenic.
These stories could have been parodies or just plain old twisted fiction, but you can’t escape the realities of the stories like Farrow’s that have come out about Allen in the past. It was just in 2015 that Mariel Hemingway—the actress in Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan who plays a precocious 17-year-old that, conveniently enough for him, ends up striking up a relationship with his character, a twice-divorced 42-year-old comedy writer—spoke up about the how the role that won her an Academy Award nomination was actually quite a disturbing experience.
Far from a girl who’d fall in love with an older man because they “have laughs together” and “great sex,” in real life, Hemingway was then a 16-year-old “virgin [who]’d never even really made out with anybody,” as she said in 2015 when promoting her 2015 memoir. She worried about her kissing scene with Allen for weeks, repeatedly saying, ‘How long was it going to be?’ I was scared. I even asked my mother, ‘How do I make out?'” When they finally shot it—Hemingway’s summary: “He attacked me like I was a linebacker”—she was still so nervous that she ran over to the film’s cinematographer, Gordon Willis, and said, “I don’t have to do that again, do I?” (At the time, she added, “everybody just laughed.”)
Hemingway goes a bit further in her memoir, detailing how after once she turned 18, Allen flew out to her parents’s home in Idaho and repeatedly asked her to go to Paris with him. Hemingway told her parents “that I didn’t know what the [sleeping] arrangement was going to be, that I wasn’t sure if I was even going to have my own room. Woody hadn’t said that. He hadn’t even hinted it. But I wanted them to put their foot down. They didn’t.” In fact, though Allen was in his mid-forties at the time, “They kept lightly encouraging me.” (Allen left Idaho via private jet the next morning after Hemingway informed him if she wasn’t getting her own room, she couldn’t go with him.)
This was decades after Farrow came forward with her story of her father’s assault. Still, since 2015 alone, Allen, prolific as ever at age 82, has gone on to direct a TV series with Miley Cyrus, a movie with Kristen Stewart, and another movie with Emma Stone, in which she becomes obsessed with her much older professor. Most unmissable on that list, though, is his upcoming film A Rainy Day in New York, which stars names as buzzy as Timothée Chalamet and Selena Gomez, and which is reportedly about “a middle-aged man who is sleeping with a much younger woman, among other actresses,” with a plot line involving sex between Jude Law and Elle Fanning, who plays a so-called “15-year-old ‘concubine.'”
Perhaps A Rainy Day in New York will find itself in a situation like Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy, which even he conceded bore a resemblance to and was in part inspired by Allen’s films like Manhattan, received. Its director was exposed as, and admitted to being, a real-life predator; its actress starlet, Chloë Grace Moretz, ended up deciding not to promote in the film; and, eventually, it was never in fact released.
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