Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow: Inside the 25-Year Controversy That Divided a Family
Dylan Farrow's allegation that Woody Allen molested her - long denied by Allen - is getting new attention. How the controversy first exploded and what's happened since
It’s been 25 years since Woody Allen was first accused of molesting his daughter Dylan Farrow — an allegation the director has always denied. Now in the wake of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, the controversy has ignited yet again.
The allegation first emerged in 1993 during the ugly custody battle between Allen and Mia Farrow, Dylan’s adoptive parents. On Thursday, Dylan, 32, spoke out publicly on television for the first time, and Allen, 82, released a statement saying he “never molested my daughter – as all investigations concluded a quarter of a century ago.” In recent weeks, many actors who have worked with Allen have distanced themselves from the director.
Here’s a rundown of everything that led to this moment for Dylan and Allen.
Mia Farrow Makes the First Claims
In 1993 testimony against Allen as a part of their bitter custody battle, Mia Farrow claimed the Annie Hall director was obsessed with Dylan. She claimed that in 1992 Dylan had told her that Allen had touched her in a sexual manner and that he “acted inappropriately toward Dylan.” Farrow also told the court that Allen “was constantly wrapping himself around her, constantly hovering over her.”
Allen repeatedly denied the allegation at the time and has said since that Mia concocted the story and coached Dylan to tell it in an effort to win custody of Moses, Dylan and Ronan, then 14, 7 and 5, respectively. Allen and Mia’s relationship had exploded in 1992 after Allen’s affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, then about 20, was revealed. Allen and Previn have now been married for more than 20 years.
In an excerpt from her 1997 memoir What Falls Away, Farrow described in detail the behavior she claims Allen demonstrated toward Dylan.
“Woody’s behavior with Dylan was getting worse. ‘Obsessed’ was the word most frequently used by my family and friends. He whispered her awake, caressed her and entwined his body around her as she watched television, as she played on the floor, as she ate, as she slept,” Farrow wrote. “He brought her into bed when he was wearing only his underpants. Twice, I made him take his thumb out of her mouth.”
Once Dylan’s accusation against her father was made public, the already-ugly custody war went nuclear — and Connecticut prosecutors launched a criminal investigation of the director.
A New York State Child Welfare investigation meanwhile found “no credible evidence” Dylan had been “abused or maltreated.”
The Connecticut investigation took a controversial turn when state attorney Frank S. Maco announced in 1993 that despite finding “probable cause” to prosecute Allen, he was dropping the case because Dylan was too “fragile” to deal with a trial.
Allen later raised a complaint against Maco for making the statement without giving him a chance to defend himself, but the disciplinary charge was eventually dropped by the Connecticut Criminal Justice Commission.
Dylan was “traumatized to the extent that I did not have a confident witness to testify in any court setting, whether that’s a closed courtroom or an open courtroom,” Maco told PEOPLE in 2013 after Dylan opened up to Vanity Fair about the alleged molestation.
A team at the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale-New Haven Hospital who studied Dylan’s accusations as part of the investigation determined that no sexual abuse had taken place and described Dylan as having “difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality.”
But in his ruling, Justice Elliott Wilk, the judge in the custody trial, cast doubt on the credibility of the Yale-New Haven Hospital’s report. He stated that Allen’s conduct with Dylan was “grossly inappropriate and that measures must be taken to protect her” — and denied Allen custody of the children.
Dylan Speaks Out
Dylan said it took all the courage she had to finally pen the emotional open letter she sent to the New York Times in 2014 detailing her molestation claim, she told PEOPLE at the time. The letter was published shortly before Allen received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes.
“It took all of my strength and all of my emotional fortitude to do what I did this week in the hope that it would put the truth out there,” said Dylan. “That is my only ammunition. I don’t have money or publicists or limos or fancy apartments in Manhattan. All I have is the truth and that is all I put out there.”
Dylan said she thought long and hard about coming forward with her story in her own words. In her letter, she expounded on the allegations she previously made in Vanity Fair, saying, “For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like.”
Allen Says Dylan Was ‘Exploited’
Allen responded by also publishing a letter in the New York Times, adamantly denying the accusation.
“Of course, I did not molest Dylan. I loved her and hope one day she will grasp how she has been cheated out of having a loving father and exploited by a mother more interested in her own festering anger than her daughter’s well-being,” he wrote. “Being taught to hate your father and made to believe he molested you has already taken a psychological toll on this lovely young woman, and Soon-Yi and I are both hoping that one day she will understand who has really made her a victim and reconnect with us, as Moses has, in a loving, productive way. No one wants to discourage abuse victims from speaking out, but one must bear in mind that sometimes there are people who are falsely accused and that is also a terribly destructive thing.”
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Family Members Choose Sides
The Farrow-Allen family is deeply divided on the allegations.
While Dylan’s brother Ronan — Mia and Allen’s only biological child — stands fiercely by his sister and mother, their older brother Moses has repeatedly defended Allen. Moses is now estranged from Mia and many of his siblings and remains close to Allen and Soon-Yi.
“Of course Woody did not molest my sister,” Moses told PEOPLE in 2014. “She loved him and looked forward to seeing him when he would visit. She never hid from him until our mother succeeded in creating the atmosphere of fear and hate towards him. The day in question, there were six or seven of us in the house. We were all in public rooms and no one, not my father or sister, was off in any private spaces. My mother was conveniently out shopping.”
Ronan came to Dylan’s defense earlier in 2014 when Allen was being honored at the Golden Globe Awards.
“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?” he tweeted during the awards ceremony.
Ronan also wrote an explosive column for the Hollywood Reporter, which addressed the sexual abuse claims and condemned the media for not asking Allen about the allegations and stars for working with him. In response, Allen told The Guardian, “I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity.”
Dylan’s First TV Interview
“I was taken to a small attic crawl space in my mother’s country house in Connecticut by my father. He instructed me to lay down on my stomach and play with my brother’s toy train that was set up,” Dylan said. “And he sat behind me in the doorway, and as I played with the toy train, I was sexually assaulted… As a 7-year-old I would say, I would have said he touched my private parts.”
She added, “As a 32-year-old, he touched my labia and my vulva with his finger.”
Dylan said she told her mother about what allegedly happened, noting that she felt she had “done something wrong” by the actress’ upset reaction.
Although she was taken to a doctor, Dylan said the abuse didn’t end there. She claimed Allen would touch her, cuddle her and even ask her to get in bed with him when they were wearing just underwear.
RELATED: Woody Allen Responds to Dylan Farrow Interview Where She Claims ‘He’s Been Lying for So Long’
Allen Issues Another Denial
Following Dylan’s TV appearance, Allen again denied the allegations in a statement.
“When this claim was first made more than 25 years ago, it was thoroughly investigated by both the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale-New Haven Hospital and New York State Child Welfare. They both did so for many months and independently concluded that no molestation had ever taken place,” the director said. “Instead, they found it likely a vulnerable child had been coached to tell the story by her angry mother during a contentious breakup.”
“Dylan’s older brother Moses has said that he witnessed their mother doing exactly that – relentlessly coaching Dylan, trying to drum into her that her father was a dangerous sexual predator. It seems to have worked – and, sadly, I’m sure Dylan truly believes what she says,” he continued. “But even though the Farrow family is cynically using the opportunity afforded by the Time’s Up movement to repeat this discredited allegation, that doesn’t make it any more true today than it was in the past. I never molested my daughter – as all investigations concluded a quarter of a century ago.”