If there was one Hollywood celebrity who perhaps should have stayed on the sidelines of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it was Woody Allen.
The Oscar-winning director’s personal and professional lives intersect directly with the disgraced media mogul in messy ways. The two worked together on several films, including “Bullets Over Broadway” and “Vicki Christina Barcelona.” Allen has also faced his own allegations of sexual misconduct, and his estranged son, Ronan Farrow, was the journalist who wrote the New Yorker’s blockbuster investigation into Weinstein’s behavior.
So while every big name in the media world was megaphoning an opinion about the power broker, Allen had every conceivable reason to stay mum.
But he didn’t or couldn’t.
And he didn’t just step into the cauldron that has upended Weinstein’s career and sparked a wide-ranging discussion on harassment and assault in Hollywood and beyond.
Allen dumped fresh gasoline on it.
Over the weekend, the 81-year-old director told the BBC Weinstein’s downfall was “sad for everybody involved.”
But Allen also warned about a “witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself,” Allen told the BBC. “That’s not right either.”
The director’s comment came after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to expel Weinstein on Saturday. Not only did the interview open up Allen to a fresh battery of criticism, it once again hauled Allen’s own history back into the conversation.
“Tragic for the poor women that were involved, sad for Harvey that [his] life is so messed up,” Allen said. “There’s no winners in that, it’s just very, very sad and tragic for those poor women that had to go through that.”
Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” the allegations of “non-consensual sex,” according to a statement from spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister.
Allegations of sexual abuse were leveled against Allen in 1993 during his custody battle with actress Mia Farrow after she discovered he was having a relationship with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Allen then was accused of abusing his then-7-year-old daughter, Dylan. Although criminal charges were never filed against the director and Allen strongly denied the allegations, he was shunned by the Hollywood establishment — until Harvey Weinstein came along.
The producer’s company, Miramax, released Allen’s comeback film, “Bullets Over Broadway.”
“Shunned by Hollywood means nothing to Miramax. We’re talking about a comic genius,” Weinstein told the Los Angeles Times at the time. “Chaplin was shunned by Hollywood; so were a great many other international filmmakers, including Fellini — and those are the people who belong with Miramax.”
Weinstein and Allen went on to make a number of other films together.
The director’s career remains tarnished by allegations. In 2014, Dylan Farrow published a letter in the New York Times reiterating her accusations. Ronan Farrow wrote his own letter to the Hollywood Reporter in 2016 supporting her account. “I believe my sister,” he wrote.
On Sunday, Allen told the BBC he had not been aware of any specific allegations about the powerful producer.
“No one ever came to me or told me horror stories with any real seriousness,” Allen said. “And they wouldn’t, because you are not interested in it. You are interested in making your movie.”
The swift backlash online accused the director of soft-pedaling his criticism of a serial abuser and extending too much sympathy to Weinstein.
While sad for everyone involved, Woody is worried that “every guy who winks at a woman at the office will have to get a lawyer.” Hmmmm https://t.co/aH3wKaqa4x
— Amy Dickinson (@AskingAmy) October 16, 2017
— Maureen O'Donnell (@suntimesobits) October 15, 2017
WOMEN: there’s a real problem with sexual power dynamics in the Hollywood system
REPORTER: hold on, let’s hear what Woody Allen has to say
— Karen Kilgariff (@KarenKilgariff) October 15, 2017
Allen clarified his comments on Sunday in a statement to Variety.
“When I said I felt sad for Harvey Weinstein I thought it was clear the meaning was because he is a sad, sick man,” the statement read. “I was surprised it was treated differently. Lest there be any ambiguity, this statement clarifies my intention and feelings.”
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