‘Allen v. Farrow’ Filmmakers on Moses Farrow and the Finale’s Train Set Reveal
Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, as well as researcher Amy Herdy, discuss the finale of HBO’s “Allen v. Farrow,” from the attic train set to Moses Farrow’s story. [Spoilers]
The fourth and final episode of Allen v. Farrow, a docuseries examining the child sexual abuse allegation that a 7-year-old Dylan Farrow made against her adoptive father, the filmmaker Woody Allen, back in 1992, zeroes in on a number of disturbing threads. There is Hollywood’s complicity, as A-list actors repeatedly turned a blind eye to the accusations against Allen in favor of featuring in (and reaping awards for) his dazzling films, as well as the media, which amplified Allen’s narrative while failing to thoroughly explore Dylan’s claims.
“We were in the TV room, and he reached behind me and he touched my butt. And then he told me to come up to the attic with him,” Dylan recalls in the series. “I remember laying there on my stomach and my back was to him, so I couldn’t see what was going on. I felt trapped. He was saying things like, ‘We’re gonna go to Paris together. You’re gonna be in all my movies.’ Then he sexually assaulted me. And I remember just focusing on my brother’s train set. And then… he just stopped. He was done. And we just went downstairs.” (Woody Allen and Soon-Yi released a statement through Allen’s sister calling the series a “hatchet job” and Dylan’s abuse claim “categorically false”; they have also refused to address specific claims despite a number of attempts by The Daily Beast.)
It is revealed in Episode 4 that a subsequent Connecticut State Police investigation found Allen to be inconsistent about whether he’d been up to the attic with Dylan over several interviews, while three childcare specialists from separate agencies deemed Dylan’s testimony to be “consistent” and “honest,” and believed “the victim was telling the truth.” According to the case files, the investigators concluded that “an arrest warrant be issued for the accused” on the charges of first and fourth degree sexual assault of a minor. However, Connecticut State Attorney Frank Maco, who oversaw the investigation, put a halt to it out of concern for “the further traumatization of [Dylan]; later in Allen v. Farrow, we see a present-day Maco meet Dylan and express deep regret over his decision.
Another apparent inconsistency from Allen concerns a train set in the attic. Dylan has said she remembers staring at a toy train set going around a track while Allen assaulted her at their Connecticut country home on Aug. 4, 1992, while Allen and his defenders have continually tried to poke holes in Dylan’s story by arguing that there was no train set in the attic. (Allen’s adopted son Moses has backed this claim, writing “there was no electric train set in that attic… the idea that the space could possibly have accommodated a functioning electric train set, circling around the attic, is ridiculous.”)
As Allen v. Farrow reveals in its finale, Connecticut State Police visited the home immediately after learning of the allegation and composed a detailed diagram of the attic space. This diagram is included in the case files and shown in the docuseries, and it contains a sketch of a circular train track going around the attic space.
“They’ve said there was no train set in the attic and have repeated it ad nauseam,” says Amy Herdy, an investigative journalist and the chief researcher for Allen v. Farrow. “There’s been lots of allegations about the attic and the crawl space. This wasn’t such a tight space that no one could fit in there, because in the Connecticut State Police records it’s reflected that the detective followed Dylan into the crawl space, where Dylan showed them exactly where she says the abuse had happened. And they recorded a diagram of the scene, and what elements were present in the scene, and one of the things they noticed was a toy train track that was assembled there.”
That revelation has caused some of Allen’s most vocal defenders, including Robert B. Weide and The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman, to move the goalposts—now suggesting that the attic train set was “a chunky plastic train the children would sit on and ride” (a claim also echoed by Moses). But that isn’t true either, says Herdy.
“The kids had many different train sets, and what is documented in the Connecticut State Police report—and what Dylan has said that she remembers—is different from the train set that Weide and others allege was the only train set that the kids were playing with at the time, so that she couldn’t be correct about the type of train set in the attic,” says Herdy. “I mean, it’s just amazing the lengths that someone will go to disprove what a survivor maintains as her story, and who has been consistent with her story since she was 7 years old.”
She continues, “It was a three-car miniature set, and the cars were so small that they could fit in your hand. Dylan was very clear with her memory of a three-car set, and it was corroborated by police. We’re aware of the giant kids’ ride-on train set, and what was told to us—and corroborated—was that the kids would play with that downstairs, because it was a huge set that the kids would ride around the living room. This is all reflected in the records. We’re not dealing with allegations—we’re dealing with facts.”
There are other discrepancies, too. Allen and Moses have offered contradictory accounts about Moses’ whereabouts that day. During the child custody trial, Allen testified that Moses had marched off because the 14-year-old was angry with him and was nowhere near him. Moses, on the other hand, has alleged that he was in the very TV room where Allen, according to the neighbor’s nanny Allison Stickland, was spotted burying his head in Dylan’s naked lap.
Allen and Moses have also contended that Mia wrote a “glowing” letter to the judge in favor of Allen adopting Dylan and Moses just prior to the discovery that he was having an affair with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi. Paul Weltz, who handled the adoptions, told Vanity Fair, “There was no glowing letter. It was an affirmative affidavit consenting to the adoption, but at all times reserving her rights as a custodial parent.” (Moses Farrow could not be reached for comment.)
Around the time the Dylan Farrow allegations resurfaced in the media, Moses emerged as Allen’s chief ally, disputing Dylan’s allegations and saying that Mia was the abusive one, writing, “Once, when I was given a new pair of jeans, I thought they would look cool if I cut off a couple of the belt loops. When Mia saw what I had done, she spanked me repeatedly and had me remove all my clothing, saying, ‘You’re not deserving of any clothes’ and making me stand naked in the corner of her room, in front of my older siblings who had just returned from dinner with their father André.” Moses has also, like Allen, accused Mia of “brainwashing” Dylan.
While Farrow does admit on-camera to slapping Soon-Yi after learning of her affair with Allen, Allen v. Farrow filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering—as well as their researcher Amy Herdy—say they investigated Moses’ claims of abuse at the hands of Mia and could not find evidence to support them.
“There was no record of any of this [abuse by Mia], and there would have been ample opportunity for any of the children to tell this to pediatricians, to babysitters,” says Ziering. “We tried to find corroboration for that, and we could not. And we worked very hard on that and were very curious. We couldn’t find any eyewitnesses, any police reports, any complaints to child welfare agencies, any history of this ever being mentioned, and that was a very public family with lots of people coming in and out—friends, babysitters, nannies, tutors, teachers. On the contrary, when we interrogated these people and asked what they thought of their experiences, it was the polar opposite.”
Allison Stickland, a nanny of family friend Casey Pascal’s, recently came forward to say that Mia Farrow’s was “a lovely household.”
“I thought it was a lovely household. Lovely children, they all got along well together. There never seemed to be any sibling rivalry. The older children I would say had fun with the younger ones. It was just very happy,” said Stickland. “I wouldn’t say it was troubled at all… I thought [Mia] was lovely. She was a very soft-spoken, gentle lady. Very attentive. You could tell it was so obvious that she adored all her children.”
Moses, Ziering attests, had “a very different narrative for decades.” At the child custody trial, to Connecticut State Police, and in news interviews around that time, a teenage Moses supported Mia and lambasted Allen, and he remained a close member of the Farrow family for years after—until Allen re-entered his life a little less than a decade ago.
“Dylan was a bridesmaid at Moses and his wife’s wedding, there were Thanksgiving photos, Mother’s Day cards he handwrote to Mia, there’s public testimony of Moses saying she’s a great mother,” explains Ziering. “There was a lot of corroborating evidence throughout the decades from what we saw in photos, cards, and interviews with the siblings, and there were no mentions of any problems. He was very supportive of Dylan and Mia, and still very much part of that side of the family when Woody broke off, and then, very late in the game, there was a dramatic shift.”
“I did look into the Moses situation,” adds Herdy. “As you can see in the film, we have the Mother’s Day card that Moses wrote to Mia when Moses was 29. There’s a photo of Mia and them all together at the birth of Moses’ son. I talked to Moses’ ex-wife, who said he’d never indicated anything about having been abused and appeared to love his mother very much. So Moses’ abrupt change in story was, I think, shocking and devastating for the entire family.”
One thing that goes unmentioned in Allen v. Farrow is how, in addition to Dylan’s allegation of child sexual abuse against Allen, and the docuseries’ contention that Allen may have begun his sexual relationship with Soon-Yi while she was in high school (a maid testified that after a high school-aged Soon-Yi would visit Allen’s Manhattan apartment, she found semen stains on the sheets and condoms in the trash can), another of Farrow’s adopted children, Daisy Previn, testified that Allen was creepy to her on different occasions.
“In her court testimony, Daisy recounted how Woody Allen asked her if she had a boyfriend, and if so, what she was doing with her boyfriend, and that she could tell him things that she couldn’t tell her mother,” says Herdy. “That could be viewed as a conversation that’s leading toward grooming.”
While we will never know with absolute certainty what happened in the attic that day, “The thing that people have to understand in this case is that it is not Mia versus Woody; it’s just a plain simple fact that a seven-year-old child has told her mother something and that her mother has to choose to believe her,” a member of the household told Vanity Fair. “If her mother doesn’t believe her, who is going to believe her?”