Hollywood says it’s done with Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Kevin Spacey and other figures ousted for misconduct through the #MeToo movement. But what about Woody Allen?
His film distributor, Amazon, the presenters of his musical “Bullets Over Broadway,” and colleagues are now grappling with renewed scrutiny of allegations that Mr. Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow in 1992 when she was a child. Mr. Allen has steadfastly denied the claims and was not charged. But at a moment when women’s voices and stories have been amplified as never before, Ms. Farrow’s account carries more force — as even defenders of Mr. Allen are starting to acknowledge.
“I do feel that it’s an escalation,” Letty Aronson, Mr. Allen’s sister and longtime producer, said in an interview, calling #MeToo a tool that has been used for “ulterior motives.” Ms. Farrow told The Times that she was using the movement as it was intended, to shine a light on “the truth” about sexual abuse.
In conversations with Hollywood executives and insiders, allegiances were split between Mr. Allen, the Oscar-winning icon of 20th-century cinema, and Ms. Farrow, a sympathetic figure who has recently made her case powerfully on social media and in her first appearance on television.
Her allegations are not new, but the response from stars who once worked with Mr. Allen is now different. Mira Sorvino, who won an Oscar for her breakout role in Mr. Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite,” publicly apologized to Ms. Farrow, while others, like Colin Firth, have distanced themselves from the director. The shift raises questions about whether Mr. Allen can maintain the clout to attract A-listers to his future films — he is at work on another screenplay — and how much any of his projects can outrun the controversy. Ms. Aronson and others believe that it helped sink Kate Winslet’s Oscar chances for Mr. Allen’s 2017 film, “Wonder Wheel.”
Onscreen, another casualty could be “A Rainy Day in New York,” Mr. Allen’s soon-to-be-completed next movie, which was financed and due to be distributed by Amazon. The company has not made any decisions about the film’s future, but Amazon is having serious conversations about ending its relationship with Mr. Allen, which could leave the movie without distribution, according to two people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Amazon has contractual obligations to Mr. Allen and the film, one of these people noted.
Making the situation more thorny for Amazon: Roy Price, who was ousted as the head of Amazon Studios in October amid sexual harassment allegations, was the one who brought Mr. Allen to the streaming service, spending lavishly to do so. He bankrolled “Wonder Wheel” for an astounding $25 million, a huge step up from Mr. Allen’s pre-Amazon films. (Released in December, it took in just $1.4 million at the North American box office.)
After Ms. Farrow called out actors for supporting #MeToo while also working with Mr. Allen, several stars of “Rainy Day,” including Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Hall, publicly donated their salaries from it to charities and Time’s Up, the Hollywood campaign against harassment and assault. Ms. Hall, a star of Mr. Allen’s 2008 film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” worked one day on “Rainy Day,” but said in an Instagram post, “I regret this decision and wouldn’t make the same one today.”
Cherry Jones, the Tony- and Emmy-winning actress who also appears in “Rainy Day,” had a different response when asked how she felt about Mr. Allen and whether she would work with him again. “There are those who are comfortable in their certainty. I am not. I don’t know the truth,” she told The Times. “When we condemn by instinct our democracy is on a slippery slope.”
An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on “Rainy Day” beyond a terse statement: “We have not announced a release date for this film.” Ms. Aronson said Mr. Allen was still editing the movie and did not expect it to be released before next winter.
At any point, the film’s marketing may suffer if stars like Mr. Chalamet and Ms. Hall don’t promote it — typically a vital part of the publicity for Mr. Allen’s actor-driven films. For Amazon, part of the calculation is likely about the bottom line: whether the company would be harmed financially, or reputationally, by continuing to be associated with Mr. Allen.
Ms. Aronson argued that Ms. Farrow and her supporters had “capitalized” on the #MeToo movement to intensify attention on what the Allen camp views as discredited accusations against him. In a statement, Mr. Allen said that Ms. Farrow was “cynically” aligning herself with Time’s Up.
Ms. Farrow, in an email to The Times, replied: “If Woody Allen and his surrogates’ response to this is that I’m capitalizing on a moment in which it is in vogue to carefully look at the facts, rather than rely on thin defenses from powerful men without question — a moment in which the truth is in fashion — I’d say they’re right.”
Ms. Farrow’s claim was investigated in 1992 and 1993 by authorities in Connecticut, where the alleged assault took place, and in New York. The investigations concluded there was no abuse. A state’s attorney in Connecticut said he had probable cause to prosecute Mr. Allen but would not, to spare Ms. Farrow the pain of a court appearance at a young age.
The recent fallout tilted against Mr. Allen has extended past Hollywood. On Thursday a Connecticut theater canceled a production of Mr. Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway,” based on his 1994 movie, citing “the current dialogue on sexual harassment and misconduct.”
The majority of Mr. Allen’s stars have not weighed in. But a handful of performers, without directly addressing guilt or innocence, have expressed regret over working with Mr. Allen, or vowed not to again. Ms. Farrow’s statements, in which she detailed her alleged abuse as a 7-year-old, and how she felt let down by the film community, “made me realize that I increased another woman’s pain, and I was heartbroken by that realization,” said Greta Gerwig, who appeared in Mr. Allen’s “To Rome With Love” in 2012.
A top Hollywood strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her professional relationships said that she would advise her clients not to work with Mr. Allen. She said a role in an Allen film would be too hard to justify — a career choice over a possible moral stand.
Others pointed to the trajectory of artists like Roman Polanski as an example of the entertainment industry’s longstanding moral leniency. In the decades since Mr. Polanski fled the United States to avoid sentencing after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, he has enjoyed a flourishing career in Europe, where audiences have been conditioned to separate the art from the artist. He continued casting top Hollywood stars and won an Oscar in 2003 for directing “The Pianist.” (Mr. Allen has long had devoted fans, and more box office fortune, in Europe. “Wonder Wheel,” which has taken in $9 million overseas thus far, is due to open in France this week.)
Alec Baldwin, a repeat star of Mr. Allen’s films, has come to his defense, writing on Twitter that “the renunciation of him and his work, no doubt, has some purpose. But it’s unfair and sad to me.” He called working with Mr. Allen “one of the privileges of my career.”
Ms. Aronson and other partisans of Mr. Allen’s contend that the efforts of the Farrow family to discredit Mr. Allen are burnished by Ronan Farrow’s role, through his investigative reports in The New Yorker, in exposing Harvey Weinstein’s years of alleged abuse. Mr. Farrow, Dylan’s brother, has also publicly supported her. “Ronan is in a good position now,” Ms. Aronson said. “He’s traveling around with a halo. Unfortunately, he’s wrong” about Mr. Allen. (Mr. Farrow declined to comment.)
Mr. Allen is continuing on the creative path he has followed for decades: always writing — in addition to a screenplay, Ms. Aronson said he may be working on short stories or possibly a book — and playing clarinet at his regular Monday-night gig at the Carlyle on the Upper East Side. “His life hasn’t changed,” she said.
But his artistic vision may be out of step with the times. His last four films have flopped at the North American box office, taking in a cumulative $26.9 million — roughly half of which goes to theater owners — while carrying a collective $85 million in estimated production costs, not including marketing.
Poor reviews have played a role. But box office analysts say that women, in particular younger women, have grown increasingly determined to boycott his films since 2013, when Dylan Farrow first spoke in detail about her claims of abuse in an interview with Vanity Fair.
Before Amazon’s largess, Mr. Allen, like most indie filmmakers, financed his movies by preselling distribution rights. Even as his box office results faltered, he was able to attract continued interest from distributors by casting major stars. And he was able to cast major stars (and often persuade them to work for reduced salaries) because of his reputation as a film legend and because awards sometimes followed. But pull out one element — the stars — and the model could collapse.
Despite signs of wavering support in Hollywood, Ms. Aronson was still defiantly confident that Mr. Allen could make any movie he wants. Financing is already in place for the script he’s working on now, she said, outside the Amazon deal. And as for casting, actors are a renewable resource. “I have no doubt,” she said, “that he’ll be able to find new talent.”
Though prolific, at 82, Mr. Allen may be nearing his closing chapter as a filmmaker. Some industry observers suggested that if he continued working quietly, the controversy would blow over, as it has before — because, until #MeToo, Hollywood always had a short memory.
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