With Woody Allen’s Café Society having just opened at Cannes — and receiving some warm reviews, from The Hollywood Reporter itself — Allen’s son, reporter Ronan Farrow, published a guest column in THR as a timely reminder of what his mother Mia Farrow has claimed — for a very long time — Allen did to his adopted daughter and Ronan’s sister, Dylan (Dylan herself not long ago corroborated the claim — that she was sexually assaulted by Allen when she was seven).
Farrow questions why the conversation surrounding the director so often ignores these allegations to pay homage to Allen’s (wavering) artistry, and begins by drawing comparisons to Bill Cosby. Farrow speaks of how he had interviewed the author of Cosby’s biography in 2014, before the immensity of the accusations against the comedian was realized. Farrow had compromised with his publishers on asking only one question about the book’s omissions of previous accusations, and the author had alleged that they “didn’t check out.” Farrow says that now reporters are examining “decades of omissions, of questions unasked, stories untold,” and finishes before segueing into his own family life, “I am one of those reporters — I’m ashamed of that interview.”
He then moves into describing how Allen’s PR machine seems to have exerted its power to ensure that the media give as little attention as possible when new claims — or new accounts by Ronan, Mia or Dylan Farrow herself — surface. He says that following Dylan’s open letter in the New York Times, emails were sent by Allen’s “powerful publicist”:
Those emails featured talking points ready-made to be converted into stories, complete with validators on offer — therapists, lawyers, friends, anyone willing to label a young woman confronting a powerful man as crazy, coached, vindictive. At first, they linked to blogs, then to high-profile outlets repeating the talking points — a self-perpetuating spin machine.
He continues to describe that not only did Dylan and the rest of his family meet adversity after they made their allegations public, but that it was extremely hard for Dylan to even publish her account at all:
In fact, when my sister first decided to speak out, she had gone to multiple newspapers — most wouldn’t touch her story. An editor at the Los Angeles Times sought to publish her letter with an accompanying, deeply fact-checked timeline of events, but his bosses killed it before it ran.
“I believe my sister,” he writes. “This was always true as a brother who trusted her, and, even at 5 years old, was troubled by our father’s strange behavior around her: climbing into her bed in the middle of the night, forcing her to suck his thumb — behavior that had prompted him to enter into therapy focused on his inappropriate conduct with children prior to the allegations.” But his own gut belief, he emphasizes, doesn’t matter as much as the “credible” and “well documented” specifics of the accusations story — outlined by Maureen Orth in Vanity Fair. Obviously, without any actual court rulings (because no charges were ultimately pressed), the news needs to put caveats next to accusations, but Farrow argues the importance of not simultaneously ignoring the claims of the victims. Since some people — particularly Allen — have used the fact that charges were ultimately not pursued to invalidate the claims, Farrow describes the reason behind the family’s decision:
Here is exactly what charges not being pursued looked like in my sister’s case in 1993: The prosecutor met with my mother and sister. Dylan already was deeply traumatized — by the assault and the subsequent legal battle that forced her to repeat the story over and over again. (And she did tell her story repeatedly, without inconsistency, despite the emotional toll it took on her.) The longer that battle, the more grotesque the media circus surrounding my family grew. My mother and the prosecutor decided not to subject my sister to more years of mayhem. In a rare step, the prosecutor announced publicly that he had “probable cause” to prosecute Allen, and attributed the decision not to do so to “the fragility of the child victim.”
Farrow concludes by noting how the climate surrounding press coverage of sexual assault allegations is changing — how the very fact that THR solicited this piece from him is a bit of a sign. But he urged that there’s still more work to do to ensure that people like his sister don’t feel invisible — fearing that, tonight, at a press conference for Cinema Café, no one will feel the urge to ask the “hard questions.”