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Why it's no longer enough for actors like Kate Winslet to play dumb on the Woody Allen issue

“We can’t encourage women to speak up and then block our ears when listening to them proves inconvenient.”

IN FEBRUARY 2014, Dylan Farrow wrote a wrenching essay for The New York Times in which she detailed the sexual abuse and grooming she alleges to have suffered at the hands of her adoptive father Woody Allen.

It was the first time Farrow had spoken out about the alleged abuse, which triggered a firestorm and custody battle between Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. Allen has long maintained his innocence and never found guilty of a crime. He has suggested that Mia Farrow was responsible for planting the allegations in his daughter’s head.

Not that I doubt Dylan hasn’t come to believe she’s been molested, but if from the age of 7 a vulnerable child is taught by a strong mother to hate her father because he is a monster who abused her, is it so inconceivable that after many years of this indoctrination the image of me Mia wanted to establish had taken root?

While Farrow’s essay caused a stir upon publication, it did little to derail Woody Allen’s illustrious career. Since its publication, he has made four films: Magic in the Moonlight, Café Society, An Irrational Man and Wonder Wheel. A fifth, A Rainy Day in New York, is currently in production.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, however, people have begun to revisit the allegations made against Allen. While the industry has long been content to dismiss the allegations as a private family matter, more and more stars are being questioned about their willingness to work with Woody Allen.

This week, Kate Winslet came under fire for an interview in which she stated that Allen was in touch with his feminine side.

I think on some level Woody is a woman. I just think he’s very in touch with that side of himself. He understands the female characters he creates exceptionally well. His female characters are always so rich and large and honest in terms of how they’re feeling and he just knows how to write dialogue for them to communicate all that.

Winslet, who stars in Wonder Wheel, has also previously distanced herself from the allegations made against Woody Allen and adopted a “see no evil, hear no evil” stance.

I didn’t know Woody and I don’t know anything about that family. As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don’t know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person. Woody Allen is an incredible director.

Many have labeled Winslet a hypocrite, particularly as she praised the women who came forward with allegations about producer Harvey Weinstein. But she is far from the only one to happily ignore the unsavoury allegations made against Woody Allen.

Here’s what other actors have had to say about working with him, even after the publication of Dylan Farrow’s essay.

Emma Stone, Magic in the Moonlight, July 2014

On being a fan of Woody Allen:

I think the only reason you do a Woody Allen movie is because you’re a fan of Woody Allen movies, and you’re an actor who wants to play great roles. There’s no other reason to do a movie with anybody. I grew up with his movies, and he writes a lot of great characters specifically for females.
Colin Firth, Magic in the Moonlight, July 2014

On what it was like to be asked to star as the lead in a Woody Allen film:

And it was a little overwhelming, actually, because it was the first time I’d been approached by Woody Allen, and then to see that I was going to be carrying an awful lot of what he’d written was flattering and daunting.

On not thinking twice about working with him:

I don’t have to think too hard about working with Woody Allen.

Jacki Weaver, Magic in the Moonlight, August 2014

On working with Woody Allen in spite of the Dylan Farrow allegations:

I don’t think it’s my place to think about that. It’s none of my business.

#anirrationalman #elevatorscene

A post shared by Jess (@jesevegre) on

Joaquin Phoenix, An Irrational Man, September 2015

On deciding to work with Woody Allen:

I always liked Woody as an actor, actually. I remember seeing him in “Manhattan”, and he has a scene at the end where he’s talking to his ex, and he wants her back. He’s been such a shit throughout the film, but he never asks for the audience’s sympathy. It’s something I always want to do, but I think I always fail. I wanted to be around him and to understand how you can do that.

Emma Stone, An Irrational Man, July 2015

On working with Woody Allen on two films:

I can certainly tick it off on my bucket list and the experience of working with him couldn’t have gone better.

Kristen Stewart, Café Society, May 2016

On consulting Jesse Eisenberg about working with Woody Allen. (Eisenberg has said he has no recollection of this conversation.)

I was like, What do you think? We don’t know any of these people involved. I can personalise situations which would be very wrong’. At the end of the day, Jesse and I talked about this. If we were persecuted for the amount of sh*t that’s been said about us that’s not true, out lives would be over. The experience of making the movie was so outside of that, it was fruitful for the two of us to go on with it.

Blake Lively, Café Society, May 2016

On Ronan Farrow’s op-ed in which he criticised stars like Blake Lively for working wtih Woody Allen:

I don’t want to speak on something I haven’t read. I think that’s dangerous. It’s definitely something that, being at the festival, the media these days, you come to a film festival about film and people talk about all different types of things. You know? That can be definitely tricky to navigate, I’m sure.

Jesse Eisenberg, Café Society, July 2016

On admiring Woody Allen:

He’s my favorite writer.

Justin Timberlake, Wonder Wheel, November 2016

On getting to work with his “heroes” Woody Allen and Jonathan Demme:

Literally, it’s embarrassing. Woody, Jonathan… I’m literally working with all my heroes. It’s leading  me to drinking.

#WoodyAllen, @RachieBros, and @MileyCyrus attend the #CrisisInSixScenes premiere in New York City.

A post shared by Crisis in Six Scenes (@crisisinsix) on

Miley Cyrus, Crisis in Six Scenes, September 2016

What I love about Woody Allen is that he’s never putting anything on. He’s never fake and he’s exactly who he is through and through

Scarlett Johansson, who starred in three Woody Allen films, called Dylan Farrow “irresponsible” for naming her in her open letter.

I think it’s irresponsible to take a bunch of actors that will have a Google alert on and to suddenly throw their name into a situation none of us could possibly knowingly comment on.
It’s not like this is somebody that’s been prosecuted and found guilty of something, and you can then go, ‘I don’t support this lifestyle or whatever.’ I mean, it’s all guesswork.

Cate Blanchett, who won an Oscar for her performance in Blue Jasmine, stated her desire for the family to find closure on the situation, but said nothing of her decision to work with Woody Allen.

It’s obviously been a long and painful situation for the family, and I hope they find some resolution and peace.

Scarlett Johansson is correct in saying that Woody Allen has not been convicted of a crime. But in saying that, she is overlooking the massive resources Allen has pumped into protecting his name and ensuring the system continues to work in his favour.

Yesterday, Dylan Farrow published another open letter in the Los Angeles Times in which she drew direct comparisons between Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein’s modus operandi for dealing with such allegations.

For decades, Allen has used the same defense-through-intimidation techniques that Weinstein allegedly did. In 1997, Connecticut Magazinereported that Allen’s legal team had hired private investigators, including ones assigned to find damaging information on law enforcement officials working the sex-abuse case. As my brother Ronan Farrow documented in the Hollywood Reporter last year, Allen’s public relations team, led by Leslee Dart of the firm 42 West, jumps into action whenever allegations resurface. In retaliation for Ronan’s story, Dart barred the publication from a lunch event related to Allen’s feature at the Cannes Film Festival.

It’s clear from actors’ comments that many are willing to either take Woody Allen at his word or overlook Dylan Farrow’s allegations as a family matter. As is often the case with allegations of either child abuse or domestic abuse, people are unwilling to wade in or intervene because they think it’s not their place.

But here are some basic facts that Hollywood needs to reckon with. Many of Woody Allen’s family maintain he abused Dylan Farrow. Three witnesses corroborated Dylan Farrow’s version of events on the day of her alleged assault.

In 1993, the judge who presided over the custody case concluded there was “no credible evidence to support Mr. Allen’s contention that Ms. Farrow coached Dylan or that Ms. Farrow acted upon a desire for revenge against him for seducing Soon-Yi”.

The same judge found that the director’s “behavior toward Dylan was grossly inappropriate and that measures must be taken to protect her”. (You can read the full 1993 ruling here.)

These facts coupled with Dylan Farrow’s testimony are very troubling. For actors like Kate Winslet to maintain that they can never know what truly happened demonstrates either a severe lack of curiosity on their part or a willingness to be complicit in a campaign to silence a young woman who is adamant she was abused by her father.

And for what? A possible Oscar nomination? The chance to say you got to work with Woody Allen?

It may not be an actor’s place to play judge and jury, but if the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, it’s that there’s power in speaking out against perceived injustices even if it costs you roles.

Take Ellen Page, for instance. Last month, she wrote a Facebook post in which she called working with Woody Allen “the biggest regret of my career”.

I did a Woody Allen movie and it is the biggest regret of my career. I am ashamed I did this. I had yet to find my voice and was not who I am now and felt pressured, because ‘of course you have to say yes to this Woody Allen film.’ Ultimately, however, it is my choice what films I decide to do and I made the wrong choice. I made an awful mistake.

Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain has spoken out against Woody Allen, while Susan Sarandon has said, “I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that’s right.”

tumblr_oxkt5l_Lm_FX1qzj6eco1_1280 Source: ONTD

Perhaps the loudest gesture came from actor Griffin Newman, who stars in A Rainy Day in New York.

Following the wave of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the actor posted a thread on Twitter in which he apologised for working with Allen and announced he was donating his entire salary from the movie to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.

He stated that he had read Dylan Farrow’s op-ed and “know who I want to believe”.

I can’t keep professionally operating from a place of fear. It’s time to show a courage in my actions mirroring my words without concession.

Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake et al would do well to take a leaf from Newman’s book. After all, we can’t encourage women to speak up and then block our ears when listening to them proves inconvenient.


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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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