Accolades, cheers and celebrations are the usual stuff of awards season, with congratulatory calls and bottles of champagne toasting Hollywood’s A-listers in the heady months of tribute. But for 28-year-old Dylan Farrow, the adopted daughter of movie icons Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, the annual buzz about her father’s movies brings fear, pain, guilt and a lingering shame that for more than two decades she says she couldn’t shake. On Feb. 1, the now-married artist and writer wrote an open letter to The New York Times that singled out actors by name who have worked with Allen and revealed explicit details of what she says was sexual abuse by her father. “Woody Allen was never convicted of any crime,” she wrote. “That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up.”
It’s been almost 22 years since ugly allegations – part of a bitter custody battle between the acclaimed director and his onetime muse – shattered the 12-year relationship between Allen and Farrow and left the lives of their children forever changed. Allen, 78, who was investigated but never charged with molestation, has long denied any abuse, maintaining that a bitter Farrow, furious over Allen’s affair with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi, coached Dylan to make the accusation. (Farrow has always emphatically denied that.) “Mr. Allen has read the article and found it untrue and disgraceful,” says a rep for the director, whom a friend says is “stunned.” And in exclusive comments to PEOPLE, Moses Farrow, 36, now estranged from Mia, 69, and his siblings, is also coming to his father’s defense. “Of course Woody did not molest my sister,” Moses says. “She loved him. She never hid from him until our mother succeeded in creating the atmosphere of fear and hate towards him.” Those words enrage his sister. “This is such a betrayal,” Dylan tells PEOPLE. “I will not see my family dragged down like this. My brother is dead to me.”
The only thing the two sides agree on is that Dylan’s letter is shocking. She recounts in graphic detail being led into a “dim, closet-like attic” at Farrow’s home at age 7 and being sexually assaulted by Allen while he told her to play with her brother’s electric train set. “To this day,” she wrote, “I find it difficult to look at toy trains.” At the time, Farrow videotaped Dylan talking about the incident, and her pediatrician reported it to police.
Months of court battles left only murky conclusions. The custody judge termed Allen’s behavior with Dylan “grossly inappropriate” and awarded Farrow sole immediate custody of her. But in the criminal case, a panel of Yale-New Haven Hospital investigators concluded that Dylan had not been abused and confused fantasy with reality. Then the state’s attorney, Frank S. Maco, came under fire for saying that there was “probable cause” to try Allen for molestation, but that he did not move forward because Dylan was too “fragile” to testify. “I was dealing with a child who was traumatized,” he says now. Of the adult Dylan, he adds, “I hope she finds peace and solace.”
Speaking to PEOPLE, Dylan insists she is telling the truth. “My mother never coached me,” she says. “She was distraught when I told her. She was hoping against hope that I had made it up.” Her decision to speak out in such a public way is one that she has grappled with for years. Writer Maureen Orth, who interviewed Dylan for Vanity Fair last year, says that the letter was a huge step. “She has been paralyzed by fear over this her whole life,” says Orth. “For her to come forward at this point is crossing a huge threshold for her.” Dylan, who lives in Florida under another name, wrote that she had struggled with cutting and an eating disorder. “She’s not what I’d call a tough cookie,” says a friend. “She is a fragile person. But she does have strength too, and she found the strength to do this.”
Dylan has steadfast support from her husband, whom she met through a classified ad in The Onion in college. Early on, she recounted to Vanity Fair, she told him that her childhood memories had made her “scared” of sex, and he replied, “You’re not broken.” She now lives a full life. “She is very happily married,” says the friend. “She is smart and has a really clever, edgy sense of humor. She’s a brilliant writer who is working on a novel.” The Golden Globes tribute to Allen helped Dylan make up her mind to speak out after her Vanity Fair comments were overshadowed by the revelation that her brother Ronan might be the biological child of Frank Sinatra instead of Allen. Ronan, 26, who starts a gig as MSNBC host Feb. 24 and is close to Dylan, also offered pointed commentary on Twitter during the Globes: “Missed the Woody Allen tribute – did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?”
Sources close to Allen, who has been married to Soon-Yi for 16 years with two adopted daughters, Bechet, 15, and Manzie, 14, say he is innocent and devastated. “This is 22 years later, and all of a sudden this is hitting him in such a hateful way,” says a source who knows his family well. “It’s such an awful smear, and it’s completely reopened the wound. To have people talk this way about you is horrible and distressing and upsetting.” Those on Allen’s side also believe Dylan has been victimized – and manipulated.
Moses, a family therapist, is one of them. “Our mother has misled the public into believing it was a happy household. She drummed it into me to hate my father for tearing apart the family and sexually molesting my sister. And I hated him for her for years. I see now that this was a vengeful way to pay him back for falling in love with Soon-Yi,” he says. “I don’t know if my sister really believes she was molested or is trying to please her mother.” He insists that on the day Dylan says she was molested, “there were six or seven of us in the house, all in public rooms. No one was off in private spaces. My mother was conveniently out shopping.” Of Dylan now, he says, “I think she is missing a great deal in life in not reconnecting with her father, who had always adored her. I’m very happy I’ve come into my own power, separating from my mother, which has led to a positive reunion with my father.” Counters Dylan: “I will not see my family dragged down like this … I will not abandon them like Soon-Yi and Moses.”
Over the years, Allen tried to reach out to the children who stayed loyal to Farrow. “For years he sent Dylan [and the other children] birthday gifts and Christmas presents – all of them were sent back by Mia,” says the source close to Allen’s family. “He would always be open to a relationship with his children.” During Dylan’s senior year in college, he sent her a photo album of their time together through his assistant. He stays involved with Bechet and Manzie’s school, going to parent-teacher conferences and performances, and was with them at a New York Knicks game the night news broke of Dylan’s letter. “He is a completely amazing, appropriate father,” says the close family source. “And he was with Dylan too.”
How will the controversy affect Allen’s career – and the Oscar race, with Allen nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Blue Jasmine and its star, Cate Blanchett, an Oscar frontrunner for Best Actress? It’s unlikely to change a thing, says one industry insider: “Working with Woody Allen is every actor’s dream. Women still get behind Woody and always will, because he writes for them.” As for Oscar voting, “He might take a personal hit, but I don’t think anything that relates to Woody rubs off on his performers,” adds movie writer Bob Verini.
While Allen finds some solace in his new family, “It’s been a terribly sad thing,” says the close family source. Those who know Dylan say she feels unburdened by having written her letter. Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a longtime friend of Mia Farrow, said Dylan was “really heartened by the response.” Adds the family friend: “What she hoped for is true. People are saying, ‘You had the courage to come forward, and so will I now.’ To see her rise up this way is magnificent.”