Richard Kind Defends Woody Allen: ‘I Just Don’t Buy It’
The character actor, who filmed a role in Allen’s upcoming film “Rifkin’s Festival,” tells “The Last Laugh” podcast why he refuses to believe the director did anything wrong.
It was the late ‘90s and Richard Kind was appearing on The Rosie O’Donnell Show to promote Spin City. Toward the beginning of their conversation, the host asked him an innocuous enough question about his influences.
“Who was your Streisand when you were growing up?” Rosie O’Donnell inquired, referring to her own childhood obsession with the singer she would jokingly call her “best friend” on the daytime talk show.
“I guess it would have to be Woody Allen,” Kind replied.
He didn’t realize what he had done, but as he retells the story on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast, his answer stopped O’Donnell in her tracks. “She goes off on a 10-minute diatribe,” Kind recalls. “And she is giving it to me. ‘How dare you?!’ All of these things.”
O’Donnell is not only good friends with Allen’s ex-wife Mia Farrow, but as she recently revealed in a book about The View, she was sexually abused by her father as a young girl. “I’m very anti-Roman Polanski and anti-Woody Allen,” O'Donnell says in the book. “It’s a pretty clear line for me.”
When she was finally finished giving it to him, he was “terrified.” O’Donnell ended up starting the interview over and avoiding the topic of Allen altogether. The confrontation never aired.
“It was horrible,” Kind says. “She shouldn’t have done that. But I understand it. And I happen to love Rosie. I think her heart is in the right place. And she felt like she had to say it.”
And yet that experience—and the continued backlash against Allen that has come in recent years following his daughter Dylan Farrow’s decision to speak out about the alleged abuse she suffered at 7 years old—did not alter his perception of the man Kind still considers his comedy hero.
“The person who had the greatest influence on me was Woody Allen in the way that he wrote, in developing my sense of humor, my persona, when I first started out,” Kind tells me on the podcast. “It was my dream to be in a Woody Allen movie. And up until this year, I said, I think I have a better chance of being in a Stanley Kubrick movie.”
But then, Kind got the call to fly to San Sebastián, Spain, last summer to film a role in Rifkin’s Festival, Allen’s most recent project, which may or may not see the light of day in the United States after Amazon Studios canceled its deal to finance and produce his movies.
“Will it make the theaters? It deserves to,” Kind says. “Will I be cut out? Who knows? But I was in a Woody Allen movie. I think it’s great. I think it’s fantastic.”
Other actors who appear in the film, which is scheduled to have its world premiere at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in September, include Christoph Waltz, Gina Gershon, and Wallace Shawn. Meanwhile, actors like Colin Firth, Ellen Page, Timothée Chalamet and Greta Gerwig have all said publicly that they would not work with Allen again.
When I bring up the way Hollywood has essentially “canceled” Allen, Kind says, “You’ve now stepped in it, so here’s what I’m going to say. And I could really, really, really get in trouble because of this, because it is a little politically incorrect to take his side.”
In 1992, while Allen was engaged in an affair with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, the allegations that he had sexually abused his adopted daughter Dylan first came to light. While some investigators concluded that they could not find sufficient evidence against Allen, the Connecticut state’s attorney said there was “probable cause” to charge Allen with a crime. The attorney declined to press those charges, in order to spare the young Dylan from the potential horrors of a trial. “We will probably never know what occurred...[but] Mr. Allen’s behavior toward Dylan was grossly inappropriate and...measures must be taken to protect her,” a judge in a 1993 custody case concluded.
Six years ago, Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter in The New York Times, addressing what happened to her for the first time as an adult. “What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?” she began. “Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me.”
She recently called out the hypocrisy of celebrities like Scarlett Johansson, who simultaneously supports the Time’s Up movement and recently said she “believes” Allen and would “work with him anytime,” telling CBS This Morning’s Gayle King in 2018 that she hopes they “acknowledge their complicity and maybe hold themselves accountable to how they have perpetuated this culture of silence in their industry.”
“Usually if someone who was accused of such a crime to a young child, it is not a one-time-only thing,” Kind says, referencing Allen’s recent memoir Apropos of Nothing as one piece of evidence. “It’s usually a serial thing. There’s no indication that he did it before. There’s no indication that he did it after.”
Allen himself denies the allegations in the book, writing, “I never laid a finger on Dylan, never did anything to her that could be even misconstrued as abusing her.”
Larry David, who starred in Allen’s 2009 film Whatever Works—and cast Kind as his cousin on Curb Your Enthusiasm—had a similar reaction to the book, telling The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, “You feel like you’re in the room with him and yeah, it’s just a great book and it’s hard to walk away after reading that book thinking that this guy did anything wrong.”
“According to the book, Mia did not have the best relationship with Soon-Yi,” Kind says of Previn, who has now been married to Allen for 23 years. “It’s obvious that Soon-Yi has a mind of her own. She is a strong-willed woman, very strong-willed, rules that relationship. And he dotes on her. He loves her.” He describes having lunch with the couple in Spain while filming the movie. “I saw him stand over her with his hands on her shoulders, kiss the top of her head. She kept talking. He was there for her.”
“Who am I to judge what anybody’s relationship should be like?” he asks. “Yes we are taught that a fiftysomething or 60-year-old man shouldn’t go out with a 22-year-old, but he was taken by her. They had great conversations. They really liked each other to the point where he fell in love with her.” (Allen’s courtship of Soon-Yi began when she was a teenager.)
Kind acknowledges that Allen did make a “mistake” by leaving nude photos of Soon-Yi on the mantle in his apartment for Mia Farrow to find. “There is no fury like a woman scorned, much less an actress scorned,” he says. “I hate to say it. She took it out on him, used it as a weapon.”
He laments the fact that Allen’s critics now believe “if he did it with” Soon-Yi, “then he must have done it with a 7-year-old,” referring to Dylan Farrow. “I just don’t buy it.”
When I express that it’s harder for me and for a lot of people who grew up watching and loving Allen’s films to appreciate them in the same way now, Kind replies, “Yes, but not me. And again, I really, really, really dismiss the Dylan thing. I really dismiss that. I’ve vacillated with Soon-Yi, but I’ll tell you, the bottom line is it’s none of our fucking business. He’s happy. She’s happy and God bless them.”
“Maybe it’s our meanness as a country, which we now find out we’re capable of, that wants him to be guilty and wants to say, ‘You’re a New Yorker, you’re an intellectual,’” Kind adds. He imagines Allen’s critics saying, “Go fuck yourself, little liberal New Yorker” or “We don’t like you, Jew!”
“That’ll get me in trouble. But all of this will get me in trouble,” he says with a sigh. “I shouldn’t open my mouth.”