Woody Allen’s Creepy Obsession with Adult-Teen Romances

The 81-year-old ‘Manhattan’ filmmaker’s latest movie reportedly features a middle-aged man accused of statutory raping a 15-year-old girl. It is sadly nothing new for Allen.

Woody Allen’s Creepy Obsession with Adult-Teen Romances

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

At this point, Woody Allen is like a demented serial killer taunting the police with clues of the crimes he’s committed.

According to Page Six, Allen’s third film from Amazon Studios, A Rainy Day in New York, contains not only scenes where Jude Law, 44, has sex with younger starlets, but he will also be accused by his on-screen wife, portrayed by Rebecca Hall, of having sex with a 15-year-old “concubine” played by Elle Fanning (Fanning’s character protests, claiming she’s 21). The film, which also stars Selena Gomez and Timothée Chalamet, appears strikingly similar in plot to Manhattan, which featured Woody Allen, then 44, dating a 17-year-old character played by Mariel Hemingway.

Amidst the increasing allegations of sexual assault and rape against Harvey Weinstein and other men in Hollywood, plus Allen’s own history of alleged sexual abuse, it feels almost as if Allen is flaunting his history in front of his critics and daring them to come for him—knowing full well their anger will fall on deaf ears. But a careful look at Allen’s films makes it clear that it’s just business as usual for the prolific filmmaker.

The aforementioned Manhattan, released in 1979, was the first of Allen’s films with an extreme May-December romance in it. In 1992’s Husbands and Wives, a 28-year-old Juliette Lewis attempts to seduce 55-year-old Allen. In 1995’s Mighty Aphrodite, Allen, then 58, romances two women in their twenties: a 27-year-old Mira Sorvino and a 29-year-old Helena Bonham Carter. In 1996’s Everyone Says I Love You, Allen at 59 romances Julia Roberts, 29, in Venice. Hollywood Ending, released in 2002, sees Allen—then 67—get his rocks off again, dating a 33-year-old Debra Messing.

But wait, there’s more: In what is perhaps the most egregious example, 2009’s Whatever Works features Larry David, 62, marrying a 21-year-old Evan Rachel Wood. The 41-year age difference is only slightly worse than 2010’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, wherein Anthony Hopkins, then 72, marries a 33-year-old sex worker played by Lucy Punch. Most recently, 2014’s Magic in the Moonlight had 53-year-old Colin Firth and 38-year-old Hamish Linklater competing for 25-year-old Emma Stone.

If we’re being honest, massive age differences abound in Hollywood films. A younger actress will usually be paired with an older actor, like 55-year-old Tom Cruise married to 34-year-old Sarah Wright in this summer’s American Made. But Allen frequently casts his romantic leads at the edge of 17. And while Allen’s most notorious allegation in his personal life is an accusation coming from his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow—that he molested her as a child—he was also accused by aforementioned Manhattan actress Hemingway of attempting to seduce her as a teenager.

In her 2015 memoir Out in the Sun, Hemingway wrote that after she turned 18, Allen tried to lure her to Paris: “Our relationship was platonic, but I started to see that he had a kind of crush on me, though I dismissed it as the kind of thing that seemed to happen any time middle-aged men got around young women.”

Hemingway also wrote that her parents continued encouraging her to travel to Paris with a then-45-year-old Allen, even though she was unaware if she’d have her own room on the trip: “I didn’t know what the arrangement was going to be, that I wasn’t sure if I was even going to have my own room. Woody hadn’t said that. He hadn’t even hinted it. But I wanted them to put their foot down. They didn’t. They kept lightly encouraging me.”

After Allen traveled to her family home in Idaho to whisk her to Paris, Hemingway asked him: “I’m not going to get my own room, am I? I can’t go to Paris with you.” He departed Iowa on his private jet the next morning.

Then there’s the matter of his relationship with his former partner’s daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.

Soon-Yi was adopted by Allen’s ex-partner Mia Farrow and her then-husband André Previn. Farrow divorced André in 1979 and subsequently began seeing Allen. During the early ’90s, when Soon-Yi was in her late teens, she and Allen began a sexual relationship. According to court documents, on Jan. 13, 1992, Farrow discovered six nude Polaroid photographs of Soon-Yi in Allen’s apartment, including one of her “reclining on a couch with her legs spread apart.” Farrow confronted Soon-Yi about the photos, who came clean about her sexual relationship with Allen. The two were later married in Venice on Dec. 22, 1997.

Allen opened up about his strange “paternal” relationship with Soon-Yi in a 2015 interview with NPR: I was paternal. She responded to someone paternal. I liked her youth and energy. She deferred to me, and I was happy to give her an enormous amount of decision-making just as a gift and let her take charge of so many things. She flourished. It was just a good-luck thing.”

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From his own personal fascination with younger women, including his relationship with Soon-Yi to his alleged seduction attempt of Hemingway, it’s pretty clear that art often imitates life when it comes to Allen’s films. But what’s eerie is how it’s become an utter afterthought in the industry. In light of multiple women sharing their Hollywood harassment and abuse stories, it’s odd that few people want to re-examine Dylan’s alleged molestation.

It’s important to remember, however, that it’s men like the recently fired Roy Price of Amazon Studios—or accused serial rapist Harvey Weinstein, who produced or distributed six Allen films in the ’90s and aughts—who continue to keep Allen in power. We don’t have to blame actresses for taking work with a man who could secure them a Golden Globe or Oscar nomination; we can blame the Academy that continues to reward him. We can blame Price for giving Allen a reported $80 million for a TV series flop at Amazon, all the while allegedly telling a woman he worked with that she’d “love [his] dick”, along with a three-picture deal, two of which were the soporific Café Society and Wonder Wheel.

When it comes to Allen, only Hollywood could look at his history, shrug their shoulders, and continue to reward him time and again.