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The Woody Allen Scandal Reignites

Dylan Farrow’s open letter in ”The New York Times” about her father’s alleged sexual abuse has reawakened a tragic family drama; how can we make sense of a conflict with so much pain and so few answers?

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One of the more asinine questions transfixing the entertainment media these days runs as follows: Dylan Farrow just penned a devastating essay about her alleged molestation at the hands of her father, Woody Allen, when she was 7 years old. Will the essay, you know, hurt Cate Blanchett’s Oscar chances? The question is just meaningless chatter from journalists who’ve had no new evidence to gnaw on in 21 years. But more than that, it’s a reminder that the whole conflagration is almost too painful to look at square in the eye.

In one corner, we have a daughter releasing an extraordinary howl of anguish and outrage and calling the director’s associates out by name: “What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett?… You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?” It would be inhuman not to support someone brave enough to come forward like that, partly so that victims of abuse aren’t driven deeper into silence because they’ve just seen their worst nightmare played out: getting called a liar.

Yet in the other corner, we have Woody Allen, who was investigated but never charged. The lead doctor on the investigative team said this at the time: “We had two hypotheses: one, that these 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.”

Dylan and Mia Farrow have their own hypotheses: that the investigators were cowed by Allen’s celebrity. But what are we to do with the fact that Allen was never found guilty of anything? Does it really need saying that he should be presumed innocent — even if you believe the Soon-Yi Previn stuff was all kinds of perverse?

Lacking any verifiable knowledge of what happened 21 years ago, we should all borrow a line from Sony Pictures Classics’ blandly careful statement: “This is a very complicated situation and a tragedy for everyone involved.” By the way, Blanchett will win Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, because her work merits it — and Allen will likely boycott the ceremony as usual. (It’s hard to ostracize a misanthrope.) Still, Dylan Farrow spoke loudly, and there’s no doubt that she believes every word. Allen’s team has now launched a PR push, with his lawyer appearing on the Today show and calling Dylan a “pawn” of her mother. And so the scandal spins forward with no justice for anyone and no end in sight.


The Industry Reaction

Woody Allen’s new Jazz Age comedy Magic in the Moonlight, starring Marcia Gay Harden and Emma Stone, along with Colin Firth, will be released later this year. Allen is now casting his next film — his 45th — looking, according to one source, for both a male and a female lead. Whether the controversy will hinder his ability to hire the actors he wants remains to be seen. Says one top agent, “Because he is the one director actors will work for, for nothing, without reading the script, I think the only way they won’t sign on is if their reps tell them their reputations will be tarnished.” —Nicole Sperling