Is Woody Allen finished? Industry watchers, former fans raise question in wake of renewed allegations

Woody Allen has long been a favourite art house director for Hollywood's A-list talent. But with an increasing number of actors distancing themselves from his films, the 82-year-old filmmaker's prolific career might be winding down.

A-list actors are disavowing filmmaker in wake of renewed allegations by daughter Dylan Farrow

Woody Allen has long been a favourite art house director for Hollywood's A-list talent. But an increasing number of actors are distancing themselves from his films, in light of renewed abuse allegations form his daughter, Dylan Farrow. (Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press)

Woody Allen may have never had to face sexual abuse allegations from his daughter Dylan Farrow in court, but in the increasingly important court of public opinion, he seems to be losing.

This week, in her first televised interview, Dylan Farrow renewed her allegations of sexual assault by Allen, her adoptive father, when she was seven. As a result, Allen's future as a filmmaker is in question. 

In her first televised interview, Farrow described in detail Allen's alleged sexual assault of her, and called actors who work in Woody Allen films 'complicit' in perpetuating a 'culture of silence.' (CBS This Morning/Twitter)

For years, Hollywood A-list actors — Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Scarlett Johansson, Penélope Cruz and Joaquin Phoenix, to name a few — have been eager to work with Allen, despite the fact many of his more recent efforts have performed poorly at the box office and earned lacklustre reviews.

Now, the list of actors distancing themselves from the 82-year-old art house director grows by the day.

Colin Firth, who starred in Magic in the Moonlight in 2013, is the latest. The same day that Farrow's interview aired, Firth told the Guardian: "I wouldn't work with him again." 

On set for his new film A Rainy Day in New York Woody Allen directs Selena Gomez and Timothée Chalamet, who recently said he will donate his salary from the movie to charities fighting sexual harassment and abuse. (Amazon Studios)

This growing discomfort stems from Farrow's accusation, coupled with the new climate brought on by the #MeToo phrase promoting the importance of believing women's stories of sexual violence and the Time's Up movement against sexual harassment.

"It's a bandwagon and things shift like this in the culture," said David Evanier, author of the 2015 book Woody: A Biography.

"They were very eager to be in any Woody movie and now they feel the winning side is to be criticizing Woody.

"To me, it's a mixture of idealism and opportunism and hypocrisy. They're mainly people who don't really know the history of the case. This is a 25-year-old custody battle."

Allen's films have been largely financed by European investors, but recently Amazon Studios has bankrolled his movies along with his first foray into television, the largely panned 2016 series Crisis in Six Scenes.

But given the growing discomfort surrounding Allen, who has remarkably released a movie every year since 1982, financing may be harder to find. 

"I think it's going to be very difficult." Kim Masters, editor-at-large for The Hollywood Reporter, told CBC News. 

"I haven't gone from studio to studio asking, but my sense is, at least for now, this is just not going to be a thing they want to do."

Why separate art from artist?

Even fans and film critics are feeling uncomfortable with Allen these days, with many writing about their conflicted feelings. 

"So many people in the film community, in the film writing community were saying 'you have to separate the art from the artist' and I thought, why?" said Canadian journalist Olivia Collette, who wrote an article titled Why I stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies for the website RogerEbert.com.

"Why do I have to suspend my judgment just because this guy is making art, and more to the point, why is this horrible person allowed to continue making art? Isn't that part of the problem?"

Allen and wife Soon-Yi Previn married in 1997. Previn is the adopted daughter of Allen's former partner, Mia Farrow. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

In January 1992 Allen's then-partner Mia Farrrow discovered nude photos of her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn in his home. Previn was 22 and Allen was 56.

Allen admitted they were having an affair, ending his relationship with Mia Farrow. Later that year, during the subsequent fight over custody of Allen and Farrow's three children (Moses, Ronan and Dylan), the Connecticut State Police investigated allegations that Allen had molested 7-year-old Dylan Farrow.

Allen was cleared by the police and the New York Department of Social Services. Mia Farrow eventually won the custody battle. Allen has consistently denied the allegations.

Allen and Previn married in 1997 and remain a couple.

'Worse than creepy'

Questions about the alleged abuse have come up several times over the past few years, notably in 2014. Allen's film Blue Jasmine received 3 Academy Award nominations that year, including one for him for Best Original Screenplay.

A few weeks later, then 28-year-old Dylan Farrow published an open letter in The New York Times repeating the allegations of sexual assault against her father.

Woody Allen responded in the same newspaper on Feb. 7, saying again that his daughter had been manipulated by her mother in the custody battle. 

From right to left, Woody Allen directs Jim Belushi and Kate Winslet in Wonder Wheel. (Amazon Studios)

Moses Farrow expressed support for his father in a series of tweets on Thursday following Dylan Farrow's interview.

"So many times I saw my mother try to convince her that she was abused — and it has worked. Some day, I hope Dylan can escape from my mother, confront the truth and begin her own healing," he posted.

Allen's films have often featured older men, often played by Allen himself, in love with much younger women. For example, in the highly acclaimed 1979 film Manhattan, Allen plays a divorced television writer who is dating a 17-year-old girl.

Allen's biographer Evanier defends the filmmaker and believes Allen will continue to make films. "The artist in his work has the right to roam wherever he wants," he said.

"To zero in on a predilection for young girls — in my experience in life this is not unusual. We need to eliminate the thought police."

But Masters predicts if Allen does get to make more movies, the audience will be smaller, as will the size of the talent pool willing to work with him.

"If he does continue, I think it will be in a much diminished way," she said. "Life is changing, I think, for Woody Allen, but he's certainly had a long career."


  • A previous version of this story identified Soon-Yi Previn in a photo caption as the adopted daughter — and now wife — of Woody Allen. In fact, she is the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and musician André Previn, and is now Woody Allen's wife.
    Jan 20, 2018 11:10 AM ET

with files from Eli Glasner