By Robert Weide
In a recent Op-Ed for the L.A. Times, Dylan Farrow asks, ““Why Has the #MeToo Revolution Spared Woody Allen?” Robert Weide, who did extensive research into the allegations against Woody Allen when preparing his PBS documentary on the filmmaker, attempts to answer Ms. Farrow’s question.
Whenever Woody Allen has a new film coming out (which happens like clockwork, once a year) or receives another award (which happens almost as often), we know we’re going to hear once again from the Farrow family. And sure enough, Allen’s new movie Wonder Wheel opened on December 1, and less than a week later, a new Op-Ed comes our way from Dylan Farrow, entitled, “Why Has the #MeToo Revolution Spared Woody Allen?” Rhetorical or not, it’s a legitimate question and calls for a well-considered answer.
For those who aren’t yet burned out on this matter and still follow this annual event, one other thing is certain: Whenever the Farrows issue another editorial, soon after, you get stuck hearing from me — that obsessed Woody Allen defender. Believe me, it’s not my favorite thing to do, and I’ve got plenty else on my plate to keep me busy. I can only compare it to donating blood once a year – I don’t look forward to it exactly, but it seems important. Also, admittedly, I have almost a pathological indifference to what strangers on social media think of me. Twitter attacks on my character are taken with the same seriousness as those who insist President Obama was a Kenyan-born communist Muslim. Threats of violence get reported, and haters get muted (rarely blocked). And suffice it to say, when a reader accuses me of having a financial stake in this issue, or assumes I’m a PR hack for Allen’s publicist, it says volumes about the accuser, but reveals nothing about me.
This is my third piece on the matter. Additional context will be provided if you’ve already read the previous two, though it’s not essential. I try to pick up where the last one left off, so as not to rehash the same information, though some repetition is inevitable. For those who offer uninformed retorts like, “But he married his underage daughter!” chances are I’ve already addressed your point in an earlier piece. (That particular fiction is debunked in my Daily Beast essay.) Revelations about Dylan’s child molesting uncle, the invisible train set, Mia Farrow’s support of Roman Polanski, are all covered in my past writing.
The Farrows’ editorials will never link to my own essays, or Woody Allen’s 2014 response in the N.Y. Times. But I always link to their material, because to critically consider this matter, you should read all points of view. So…
• Here’s Dylan Farrow’s 2014 letter to the New York Times.
• Here’s Woody Allen’s response to Dylan’s piece.
• Here’s Ronan Farrow’s 2016 Op-Ed for the Hollywood Reporter.
• Here’s my response to Ronan’s essay.
• Here’s Dylan’s recent Op-Ed for the L.A. Times.
This time around, I’m going to respond to specific points raised in Dylan Farrow’s L.A. Times editorial. I’m not reprinting the whole thing, but I’ve provided the link, so hopefully you’ve read it. Instead, I will cut and paste excerpts from her essay, followed by my response.
The only other preamble I’ll provide is this: I’ve never accused Dylan Farrow of lying, and never will. If you’ve read my 2016 piece on WordPress, you’ll know my position is that one can believe in Woody Allen’s innocence, without branding Ms. Farrow a liar. That should be considered subtext to everything I have to say. Also, if my tone sounds glib or sardonic, that’s only because I am glib and sardonic. This does not diminish the seriousness of this issue. I take Dylan Farrow’s right to speak her mind as seriously as I take the ongoing persecution of a man whom I believe is innocent. Also, this is not about me. Frankly, I don’t even care about changing anyone’s mind. My self-appointed role is merely to provide information that the Farrow family and their surrogates won’t tell you, and correct misinformation that they repeatedly disseminate.
DYLAN FARROW: I have long maintained that when I was 7 years old, Woody Allen led me into an attic, away from the babysitters who had been instructed never to leave me alone with him.
ROBERT WEIDE: Yes, everyone in that household was indeed on red alert, because Allen had become involved with Mia’s 20-year-old adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. How odd that he would choose this moment to sneak a child into an attic in Mia’s house, full of children and nannies and hostile adults who were instructed never to leave him alone. I asked Dylan’s brother Moses Farrow where his mother was at this time. “Conveniently out shopping,” was his reply.
As to the location of this alleged assault, it changed over time. First it was the TV room, and then a staircase, before finally settling on the attic.
DF: I told the truth to the authorities then, and I have been telling it, unaltered, for more than 20 years.
RW: This case is actually 25 years old now, but the initial reporting of the alleged assault underwent so many alterations, I can’t possibly list them all. An investigative summary cited later in this piece lists some of these inconsistencies. I wouldn’t hold them against Dylan, who was barely seven at the time. But Mia Farrow’s accounting was hardly “unaltered.”
DF: Why is it that Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrities have been cast out by Hollywood, while Allen [continues working]?
RW: It’s called due process. It was carried out in 1992 when two separate investigations found there was no credibility to Mia’s accusations, so no charges were ever brought against Allen. He lost the custody battle, but as a legal matter, the assault accusation has been a non-issue for 25 years. The fact that there are members of the Farrow family and others who remain angry at Allen is not a basis for studios to stop funding his movies, or for his fans to stop attending them.
DF: At the time of the alleged assault…
RW: It’s interesting that Farrow repeatedly refers to the “alleged” assault. I assume she was instructed to do so by a lawyer or an editor to prevent a lawsuit. Probably a good idea.
DF: …he was in therapy for his conduct towards me.
RW: The Farrows and their followers push this notion repeatedly, and it might be fairly damning if only it were true. With a hiatus here and there, Woody Allen has famously been in therapy for most of his adult life for any number of neuroses. The idea that he was in therapy specifically for inappropriate feelings or conduct toward Dylan is a canard of the highest order, and no one has ever offered any evidence that this was the case.
DF: Allen refused to take a polygraph administered by the Connecticut state police.
RW: Allen was actually never asked to take a polygraph test by the CT State police. However, soon after Mia made her accusation, Allen voluntarily submitted to a polygraph test by an independent examiner. Some low-information commentators have implied that Allen’s legal team must have found someone who could be paid off to fudge the results. In fact, the examiner was the most respected man in the field, Paul Minor (1940- 2015). He had been Chief of the Polygraph Office for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he was the Chief Polygraph Examiner for the FBI. (He not only taught polygraphology at the FBI Academy, but had set up the entire program there.) Minor conducted polygraph tests in the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas case, the Jon Benet Ramsey case, Enron, O.J. Simpson, DeLorean, and others. Allen fully passed the test. The results were submitted to the CT State police, with Minor flying in to answer questions. The State police concurred with Minor’s findings, which is probably why they never proposed administering their own test. Mia was then asked by Woody’s lawyers to take a reciprocal polygraph test. She wouldn’t. Maybe it’s not too late.
DF: A prosecutor took the unusual step of announcing that he had probable cause to charge Allen but declined in order to spare me, a ‘child victim,’ from an exhausting trial.
RBW: Did that prosecutor, Frank Maco, ever divulge what that “probable cause” was? If so, I’d be very interested to hear it. His “probable cause” statement actually earned him a stern rebuke from a state disciplinary panel who called his statement, “inappropriate, unsolicited, and potentially prejudicial.” Two years later, the reprimand was overturned, so we might call this one a draw.
Many lawyers I’ve spoken with say that if a prosecutor legitimately feels he/she has probable cause in a case as serious as this, they will almost always prosecute. Saying you have probable cause without taking on the case is generally seen as a face-saving measure. If the concern was really about putting young Dylan Farrow through an exhausting trial, I’ve often wondered why Mia Farrow didn’t sue Woody Allen in criminal court once Dylan was old enough to withstand the trial, before the statute of limitations ran out, with all parties being under oath.
DF: It is a testament to Allen’s public relations team and his lawyers that few know these simple facts.
RW: These simple facts that “few know” are repeatedly plastered all over the internet, every time this matter is brought up – often in the “comments” section, lacking full context or explanation. Allen’s public relations team and lawyers are doing a lousy job of keeping these “facts” secret. Their total control of the internet appears to be slipping.
DF: Kate Winslet… Blake Lively… Greta Gerwig… etc.
RW: I’ve said it before, but shaming actors who work with Allen is not the best way to endear them to the Farrow camp’s cause. It’s merely a cynical attempt to put actors on notice that if you dare work with Allen, you’ll have to answer to the Farrows. All it really does is enrage the Twitter mobs and engender the occasional death threat against people Dylan Farrow claims to admire. Why not be consistent and also call out the girl selling popcorn at the concession stand where Allen’s movies are playing?
Woody Allen has averaged an output of one film per-year since 1969. In researching his career, I have yet to find one single actor or actress who claims they were mistreated by the director in any way. This is perhaps more meaningful to actors than the threat of having to face Dylan Farrow’s “for-me-or-against-me” dictum.
DF: Allen’s public relations team, led by Leslee Dart of the firm 42 West, jumps into action whenever allegations resurface.
RW: I have to score this one for the Farrows. It is well known that Woody Allen is the only celebrity who has a publicist who responds to allegations.
DF: In retaliation for Ronan’s story, Dart barred [The Hollywood Reporter] from a lunch event related to Allen’s feature at the Cannes Film Festival.
RW: The Hollywood Reporter timed Ronan’s hatchet job on Allen to appear on the same day as the Cannes Press junket for Café Society. Why wouldn’t they be banned from the lunch event after such an ambush?
Incidentally, then-editor of the Hollywood Reporter, Janice Min, admitted to me that her publication was “100% supposed to loop in” Leslee Dart on the article days in advance (which would be normal journalistic protocol), but they “totally, completely dropped the ball.” She admitted she was “mortified.” Anyway, I’m sure the publication survived not being invited to the free lunch. It’s like me being blocked on Twitter by Ronan and Mia Farrow. It’s a terrible tragedy, but somehow, we manage to go on.
DF: Allen’s savvy affiliates know that it’s unseemly to direct attacks at me, an alleged victim, and so the invective is directed at my mother again and again.
RW: I don’t know if I can speak for the other savvy affiliates, but why is it out of bounds to point out Mia Farrow’s relentlessly hypocritical behavior, as explained in my two earlier pieces? (Her defense of Roman Polanski in his probation report is only the tip of the iceberg.) Since it was Mia Farrow who charged Woody Allen with this crime, and continues to repeat it 25 years later, it’s kind of hard to leave her out of the conversation. There are many, many people who believe this whole case boils down to Mia Farrow’s (understandable) rage at Woody Allen for falling in love with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn (his wife now for more than 20 years). But it’s a little hard to un-ring the bell once you know of Mia’s middle-of-the-night phone call to Allen promising, “You took my daughter, and I’m going to take yours.” In another call she warned him, “I’ve got something planned for you.” When Allen asked, “What are you going to do, shoot me?” she replied, “No this is worse.” I give her credit for being good to her word.
Assuming she even knows about it, I wonder what Dylan makes of the fact that within days of Mia’s accusation, her attorneys called a meeting with Allen’s lawyers, and offered to drop the abuse charges for a price tag of $7 million. (I’ve spoken to four different lawyers in the room that day. Their stories all match up.) So, no, Mia Farrow does not get a free pass.
DF: Especially painful is that Allen even managed to enlist my brother Moses against me.
RW: Allen hardly “enlisted” Moses to speak out about his life under the Farrow roof. Moses, who is now a licensed family therapist, reached out to his estranged father after finally “escaping the clan” (his words). Years after his reconciliation with Allen, it was I who first asked Moses to go on the record for my Daily Beast piece. This was followed by a lengthier quote for People magazine, and the revelation of more details in Eric Lax’s recent book, “Woody Allen: Start to Finish.” Make no bones about it — in the Lax book, Moses refers to the brainwashing tactics used in the household, and is very concise about severe beatings he suffered at Mia’s hands when he would not go along with her pre-scripted narratives, or bend to her will. “Pleasing my mother was very powerful motivation,” says Moses, “because to be on her wrong side was horrible.”
DF: Moses’ comments are devastating, but like so many of the attacks on my story, irrelevant: Moses was not there for the alleged assault.
RW: How interesting that Dylan Farrow would claim that the recollections of an abused child are “irrelevant.” At least it’s a step up from Dylan’s reply at the time Moses first came forward: “My brother is dead to me.” Granted it would be hard for Moses to be present at an event that “allegedly” took place, but he was home that day along with several other children and adults, and claims that Dylan and Allen were never off alone together. What Moses did witness was Mia “drumming [the story]” of the assault into Dylan’s head, any number of times.
In my first interview with Moses, he told me, “My mother’s worst nightmare was that one of the kids would one day break from the clan and start speaking out.” Moses has only gone public with a fraction of what he witnessed, and after hearing his recollections, I can understand why Mia would have nightmares. This stuff gets real dark, real fast.
DF: [Some publications] repeat that my allegations were made during a custody dispute. In fact, Allen sued for custody of me and Ronan only after the investigation into child abuse began.
RW: That’s correct. Allen sued for custody only after Mia Farrow lodged her accusation. Allen says that once he saw the direction Mia was taking, he wanted to get their shared kids out of that house before they were all victimized by the escalating ugliness of her claims. However, before the custody suit was filed, Allen and Mia were already in negotiations regarding visitation and support payments for the three shared children.
Sidebar: It’s interesting that many people have written about Allen’s intimidating legal team, when Mia’s attorney during this phase of negotiations was a simple country bumpkin lawyer named Allan Dershowitz.
DF: Many point to a questionable 1993 report that concluded no abuse had taken place. The author of that report never interviewed me, and the team later destroyed all of its notes without explanation.
RW: The Farrows would surely love to dismiss this “questionable 1993 report,” but it’s not so easy. This report was actually the summary of an extensive six-month investigation by The Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale/New Haven Hospital, ordered by the Connecticut State Police, which concluded, decisively and unambiguously, that “Dylan was not abused by Mr. Allen.” As to why the team felt that Mia’s charges didn’t hold water, the summary states: “We had two hypotheses: one, that [Dylan’s] statements [were] made by an emotionally disturbed child and then became fixed in her mind. And the other hypothesis was that she was coached or influenced by her mother. We did not come to a firm conclusion. We believe that it is [likely] a combination of these two formulations.” The Farrows can’t seem to mention this study by name, nor will they tell you that the summary of their findings are available on-line for anyone to read. Despite Dylan Farrow’s insistence that she was not interviewed for this investigation, the summary lists the precise dates of the nine interviews conducted with her between 18 September, and 13 November, 1992.
The only thing “questionable” about this investigation is why Judge Elliot Wilk deemed the findings “inconclusive” when they were anything but. Could it be that the conclusion simply wasn’t what Wilk and Prosecutor Maco were hoping for? It’s surely easier to say there is “probable cause” and drop the case, rather than prosecute it and have that report rearing its ugly head throughout the trial. It should also be pointed out that despite Judge Wilk’s dismissal of the report, he never made any contradictory finding.
Judge Wilk laid it off on the fact that only the summary was sworn in as evidence, and as Dylan Farrow points out, the original notes were destroyed. The Farrow family seems to cling to this point as the magic bullet that allows them to discard the study’s conclusions. So here’s a brief summary of my own research: The State commissioned Yale/New Haven investigation followed the same basic protocol as an FBI investigation. Once a summary has been prepared, it is not uncommon for the investigative body to destroy their notes. This is done, in part, to protect the privacy of the interview subjects. One thing I’m certain of – if the conclusion of the investigation had gone their way, no one in the Farrow camp would be questioning the methodology used by the investigative team.
If anyone wishes to dismiss the Yale/New Haven report, they’ll also need to negate the entirely separate 14-month investigation conducted by the N.Y. State Department of Social Services (child welfare), which reached the same conclusion as Yale-New Haven: “No credible evidence was found that the child named in this report has been abused or maltreated. This report has, therefore, been considered unfounded.” How could all these official investigations get it so wrong? How many people could Woody Allen pay off?
I repeat here a very important point that even many of Allen’s supporters do not fully grasp: Allen wasn’t tried and found “not guilty” of child molestation. There was no such verdict, because there was no such trial, because there was no charge, because of a lack of credible evidence (in the house that Mia built). The “trial” you hear so much about was a custody trial, not a criminal one. Woody Allen was never charged with abuse of any kind. As a legal matter, this case has been closed for 25 years. Ronan Farrow is a lawyer, and he knows this, but the Farrows still want Allen found guilty in the court of public opinion and they want to shut him down in the business. This is not called justice. It’s called vengeance.
DF: The system worked for Harvey Weinstein for decades. It works for Woody Allen still.
RW: It’s interesting that Ms. Farrow brings up Harvey Weinstein in her attempt to conflate his alleged crimes with her accusation against Allen. It’s the same tactic used by Ronan Farrow last year, trying to connect Allen with Bill Cosby. By naming these other alleged offenders in the same breath with Allen, it answers the very question asked by Dylan’s headline: “Why Has the #MeToo Revolution Spared Woody Allen?” Clearly, one thing shared in common by Cosby, Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Donald Trump, and several others, are the multiple accusations made against all these men, and for each of them, respectively, the claims are all strikingly similar. Woody Allen faces a single accusation of a single alleged incident made by one understandably furious ex-lover in the middle of custody negotiations, after warning him of her intentions.
Trying to denigrate Woody Allen’s career in the name of a movement, no matter how essential or virtuous, doesn’t exactly score one for the “good guys.” Once the dust settles, history tends to be unkind to causes that ignore due process or display indifference towards collateral damage. Everyone should be very careful where they tread here. That goes for #MeToo.
Robert B. Weide is an Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker whose documentaries have covered the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, and Kurt Vonnegut. He was also the Executive Producer and director of the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. He tweets @BobWeide.