When Dylan Farrow first shared her public account of sexual assault at the hands of her father Woody Allen, actors ignored her personal pleas for support. It was 2014, and celebrities brushed aside the child molestation allegations as unproven or a private family matter, often deeming it too risky to comment further.
In 2018, it appears the biggest risk is staying silent.
Allen’s legacy is for the first time facing an existential threat in the wake of an unprecedented outpouring of praise and empathy for Farrow, whose account of sexual assault could very well end her father’s career – and soon.
Farrow, who alleges that Allen assaulted her in an attic when she was seven years old, has been telling the same story for years, prompting the same vehement denials from the director. But a vast cultural reckoning surrounding sexual abuse in the entertainment industry has shifted the world around them, and observers say the prolific film-maker, who once seemed untouchable, is on track to become too toxic for Hollywood.
“This moment is just extraordinary,” said Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of Women in Hollywood, a gender equality initiative and film news site. “There’s nothing prestigious now about working with Woody Allen … I think time is up for him. It should’ve been up a long time ago.”
Farrow, 32, gave her first television interview this week, recounting the specific details of the alleged assault on 4 August 1992.
“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,” Farrow told Gayle King of CBS This Morning. “As I played with the toy train, I was sexually assaulted … As a seven-year-old, I would say, I would have said he touched my private parts.”
The emotional interview – which included Farrow breaking down after watching a 1992 clip of Allen forcefully denying the allegations – came after a wave of denunciations in recent weeks from high-profile actors who have worked with Allen over the years.
In a particularly remarkable move, Rebecca Hall and Timothée Chalamet, who star in his new film A Rainy Day in New York, now in post-production, both publicly stated that they regretted their decisions to do the film and would donate their salaries to charity. Greta Gerwig, Mira Sorvino, Ellen Page, Rachel Brosnahan, Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, Colin Firth and many others have also said they believed Farrow or would not work with Allen in the future, making it increasingly difficult for other celebrities to stand by the director.
Keeping quiet isn’t much of an option, either. Silence is interpreted as complicity, and celebrities like Selena Gomez, who also stars in his new film, have faced intense social media pressure to speak up.
Danny Deraney, a Los Angeles PR executive who does crisis communications for celebrities, said he would not advise clients to work with Allen at this time: “It’s extremely toxic, and why would you want to surround yourself and your career with potential damaging consequences?”
Fans who support the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up campaign – which grew out of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal – will reject actors who choose to be in Allen films, said Deraney, adding: “I don’t think your performance will be taken seriously. Everyone will be looking at: why did you do it?”
Farrow increased pressure on Allen and the industry in December when she wrote a scathing op-ed discussing the pain of hearing women in Hollywood dismiss her.
In this week’s interview, she denied the claims that her mother Mia Farrow had coached and brainwashed her to say she was molested. Allen’s statement on Thursday said: “I never molested my daughter – as all investigations concluded a quarter of a century ago.”
Some have speculated that A Rainy Day in New York could be Allen’s last film, and it it remains uncertain whether the film will be released at all.
Silverstein predicted it could be increasingly difficult for Allen to secure funding and talent at every step of the process: “As this movement continues to grow, because it’s not going away, it becomes more and more problematic to be in business with him.”
The film-maker Jen McGowan said she hoped that as more men are held accountable for misconduct, the shift will help lead to greater gender parity and opportunities for women in the film industry.
“We have a culture of exclusivity, which creates a culture of abuse. Then we elevate people who are abusive,” she said. “It doesn’t help anyone in the world when we are only telling stories from one perspective.”
Diehard fans, however, said they would not stop supporting Allen.
Cody Stanford, a 54-year-old Kansas man, said he had made friends with other fans through Facebook pages dedicated to Allen, and noted that many are upset about the recent criticisms from former stars.
“There’s a lot of irritation, a lot of people saying: ‘Why are you doing this now?’ People are simply jumping on the bandwagon.”
Micheline Bahini, an aspiring film-maker, said she was considering boycotting actors who have condemned Allen and that she would never stop embracing his work: “My reason is fully selfish … I want to see the next Woody Allen movie.”