Woody Allen has had something that most filmmakers seldom experience; complete control of the creative process. The price for such an indulgence is that his films are made with small budgets and limited distribution. However he has written, directed, and until recently, starred in his own projects starting with 1966’s What’s Up Tiger Lily? which was his second screen role (actually he was only in the ending credits).
Before the Soon-Yi Previn scandal, Allen was the golden boy of independent cinema. What he lacked in Star Wars like revenue he made up with Time magazine covers (back when that mattered) good reviews, and awards that he never picked up in person because…the best explanation I’ve read is that he has a belief in the subjectivity of judging art blah, blah, blah (a popular excuse used in the 70s before everyone became aware of the importance of branding in the Internet age). Of course it is now part of the Allen mystique to not show up at award shows. The only time he attended the Oscars was after 9/11 to back support for production companies to continue making movies in New York City. Post Soon-Yi and the Dylan Farrow sexual abuse allegations Allen continued to make films, averaging about one or two a year. He lost a chunk of fans, but has seemed to regain ground in the last twenty-some years. Actually the only difference appears to be that he shied away from conducting mainstream publicity – that is until the Golden Globe honor.
Compare his career with Mia Farrow’s in the last two decades.
Yes, let’s do. Mia Farrow is a pleasant enough actress. At the age of 69 she seems to have missed thus far the Renaissance of acting roles for women over the age of forty. I believe she considers herself retired but just the same a cursory look at her IMDB page shows that she has played a lot or roles literally labeled “Granny” or “Grandmary Edwards” in the last decade in films nobody has heard of. This perhaps would be a good time to remind readers that for over a decade not only was she Woody Allen’s significant other (the date he would have taken to the Oscars if deigned to attend such ceremonies) but also his muse. She starred in thirteen Allen projects. Granted when she and Allen hooked up she was past her ‘It Girl’ career stage, but she was still considered a star with her own power wattage. There also seemed to be a drop off of work, or should I say quality work, when her Allen era ended.
One can speculate several reasons why Farrow’s acting career petered out but one definite reason is sexism in Hollywood. I’m not simply yaking about the age thing, even though that is worth talking about, but pointing out how Woody Allen continued to make his movies with barely a blip of concern that at best he ran off with his paramour’s young daughter and at worst he compounded the Soon-Yi scandal by molesting his own child. I mean really, all he had to do was flash that Valentine Farrow gave him, the one with the knife and pins that was displayed on 60 Minutes, and suddenly it was as if the powers that be in Hollywood secretly whimpered about poor Woody having to deal with such a harpy. Hey, break a woman’s heart then paint her as crazy and suddenly your back in the good old boys club doing secret handshakes with the likes of Jeffrey Esptein. On the other hand, who wants to work with Farrow? She is cray-cray, sends creepy crafted Valentines, and has the audacity to continue to embarrass an American institution like Woody Allen.
To be fair, I am sure that some actors and behind the scenes people balked at first about working with Allen but the years rolled on with new scandals taking the place of old while Allen’s films continued to rake in prestigious nominations during the now called “Award Season.” Personally I gave my support in not seeing Woody Allen movies, but the truth is that for me giving up Woody Allen films was like giving up a mild desire to be a world class white water rafter – it’s something I tried, don’t like, and won’t miss doing.
What I remember about Allen’s films is that he can vary the setting, the era, and the characters, but the narrative voice of his plots remain consistent which may help explain why he has such a devoted following. As noted earlier, his films have small budgets and big names that allegedly wave their usual compensation. Overall for the last twenty years if you enjoyed Allen’s work it was readily available for a few weeks at the local mega cinemaplex (in one of those smaller theaters located by the bathrooms near the concession area that has never been used which begs the question why it was even built). Basically he has been in a different orbit from the mainstream while still having immediate access to it – much like his films prior to 1992.
I imagine that respected names in Hollywood do not dismiss their usual paychecks for just anyone, the appeal of working in a Woody Allen film is that as a filmmaker he has a decent track record for providing roles which get actors nominated for awards. This also means there is a lengthy list of talent who has stepped in front of his lens so thus if you are a popular actor having trouble being offered meatier roles a Woody Allen film gives you some street cred. If you are one of those Twilight thespians looking for a new career chapter why wouldn’t you want to work with a screen legend in a movie that has a good chance of being nominated for an Oscar? Theoretically it also works out well for Allen because each new familiar face that appears in his films metaphorically means one more person of note declaring that Allen is a decent man…a man who would not molest a child…a man who didn’t commit “technical incest” with a vulnerable teen because Andre Previn was her adopted father and besides he ended up marrying her… a man who wouldn’t molest his seven year old daughter.
One of the explanations bantered about for the timing of Dylan Farrow’s open letter is that she wants to curtail the chances of Woody Allen’s latest film from winning any Academy Awards. Blue Jasmine is nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Sally Hawkins) Best Actress (Cate Blanchett) and Allen for Best Original Screenplay. If this was the case I contend that Farrow is two years too late in planning her stink since Allen was nominated for Best Director for Midnight in Paris and won Best Original Screenplay for his script.
I believe the situation has been brewing since the Ronan Farrow's 2012 Father’s Day Tweet about the complications that holiday has for his family, was stirred up with the most recent Vanity Fair article on Mia Farrow, then finally came to a head with the presentation of the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes. As ironic as this might sound, in some way I think Allen was asking for a revisitation of these events. A showdown of sorts between Allen who has the backing of the old guard of Hollywood elites against the Farrow family who have twitter accounts and a woman nearing thirty finally giving her version of events.