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NPR Arts & Life

'The Hollywood Reporter' Woody Allen Story Provokes Backlash For Avoiding Sexual Abuse Allegations

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This week, The Hollywood Reporter had an affectionate cover interview with Woody Allen. Boy, did it get a backlash. The interview stirred resentment because it didn't focus more directly on allegations from the early 1990s that Woody Allen had sexually abused his young daughter.

And it provoked an angry essay from Woody Allen's estranged son about how the media often handles celebrities who are accused of serious transgressions. NPR's media guy David Folkenflik joins us from New York. Thanks for being with us, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey. Good to join you, Scott.

SIMON: Lets remind ourselves what Woody Allen allegedly did.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, what he was accused of doing amid a custody battle with his wife, Mia Farrow, was of abusing his young daughter, Dylan, taking her into the attic and sexually molesting her. This had played out because of - there was a scandal that had happened just weeks, months before where Mia Farrow had discovered that Woody Allen had taken nude pictures of her daughter with her former husband, Andre Previn, Soon-Yi.

SIMON: To whom Mr. Allen's now married, yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: To whom Mr. Allen has now been married for many years. And that tore the family apart. And so it was this sort of twin scandal, a Greek tragedy if you will, that played out at that time and has had these repercussions ever since.

SIMON: How did The Hollywood Reporter - the features editor, Stephen Galloway, handle that part of the story?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, he walked up to the edge of dealing with the question of Dylan Farrow's allegations and then never acknowledged them. What he did was he focused on the question of the scandal of Woody Allen's involvement with Soon-Yi and really asked him a question or two about how that scandal had affected him and the way in which her involvement in his life had changed him. But The Reporter never really dealt with the question of the abuse allegations themselves.

SIMON: Yeah, and Ronan Farrow then wrote an angry - and I thought quite eloquent - opinion piece in The Hollywood Reporter. He, of course, is the son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. Outline his arguments for us, if you could.

FOLKENFLIK: He says it's incumbent on the press and on the media not to make it easy for celebrities to have these terribly serious transgressions alleged and be able to skate by on their charm, on their fame, on their accomplishments outside the arena of these allegations. He said, you know, it is precisely the inconvenient moment where you have all these stars - and Woody Allen is in South of France because of the debut of his new film.

And you have stars like Blake Lively, Jesse Eisenberg and others who are there, Steve Carell. And he says we should be hearing them asked what it's like to work with an alleged child molester - and by the way, those are his words, not mine - rather than asked, you know, what costumes were you wearing? How did you like your outfits? What was it like to work with this great director?

That's his argument. He says it's uncomfortable but these questions need to be asked, otherwise powerful people can get away with terrible things.

SIMON: How do you feel about that?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, my God, I mean, if you think about this, Woody Allen was accused of this terrible thing but it was never adjudicated in court. A prosecutor said he thought there was probable cause but never tried it. And the question is one of context. Has Woody Allen ever been asked about it? He has.

SIMON: He had a press conference years ago. I happened to have covered it.

FOLKENFLIK: Which you covered, that's right.

SIMON: I remember that, yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: In this case, you know, it was an interview about the new film but also an opportunity to talk about Woody Allen's career. And just as Kobe Bryant as he retired should've been pressed more by sports journalists and by other journalists about the allegations that he had raped a woman in Colorado, so too Woody Allen could have been asked.

Even questions like how did you react to reading Dylan Farrow's accusations against you in The New York Times a couple years back? Have you spoken to her? What do you make of that episode? Even a chance for him to explain his own perspective on that. We haven't heard that in this case, particularly from The Hollywood Reporter. My guess is if they could go back and do it again, they would. They seemingly tried to make up for it by letting Ronan Farrow make his case to the public his way.

SIMON: NPR's David Folkenflik, thanks so much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We incorrectly refer to Mia Farrow as Woody Allen’s wife. Allen and Farrow were never married.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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