In her first-ever in-depth interview, Soon-Yi Previn defended her husband of 20 years, director Woody Allen, against the allegation he molested his adopted daughter, Dylan and accused her adoptive mother — and Allen’s ex — Mia Farrow, of being abusive. Allen and Farrow’s 12-year partnership came to an end in 1992, after it was revealed that he and Soon-Yi were having a sexual relationship. In the interview with New York magazine — written by Allen’s “friend of four decades,” Daphne Merkin — Soon-Yi suggests her attraction was ignited, in part, by Allen showing her affection that she claims Farrow never did.
Soon-Yi insisted that Farrow “has taken advantage of the #MeToo movement and paraded Dylan as a victim” who she “pressured” to speak out; Dylan, meanwhile, told New York that Soon-Yi’s claim was “offensive” and “only serves to revictimize me.” Dylan’s claim that Allen — who formally became her adoptive father in December 1991 — touched her “private part” when she was seven is one she has maintained for over 25 years. That’s about as long as Soon-Yi has insisted she wasn’t Allen’s victim; in 1992, she told Newsweek in a statement, “I’m not a retarded little underage flower who was raped, molested and spoiled by some evil stepfather — not by a long shot.”
She was five years old when she was adopted by Farrow and her then-husband, Andre Previn, from an orphanage in Seoul, Korea, in 1975. Soon-Yi claims she and Farrow were “like oil and water,” and Farrow “wasn’t maternal to me from the get-go.” As she grew up, Soon-Yi claims, Farrow treated her and her adopted sisters, Lark and Daisy, like “domestics,” including grocery shopping, cleaning and ironing Farrow’s sheets. According to Soon-Yi, Farrow became easily impatient with her “hopelessly backward” learning difficulties, would slap her on occasion, and once screamed, “I should send you to an insane asylum!”
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“Mia used to write words on my arm, which was humiliating, so I’d always wear long-sleeved shirts,” Soon-Yi told New York. “She would also tip me upside down, holding me by my feet, to get the blood to drain to my head. Because she thought — or she read it, God knows where she came up with the notion — that blood going to my head would make me smarter or something.”
Farrow began dating Allen in 1980, after her divorce, when Soon-Yi was 10. By then, Farrow had also adopted another child, Moses, with whom she is also now estranged; Moses Farrow corroborated Soon-Yi’s account of their adopted mother’s abusive parenting, which, he told New York, involved a “total breakdown of your spirit, to ensure that you would do what she wanted you to do.” Farrow’s other children – including adopted daughter Dylan and her son with Allen, Ronan Farrow – have vehemently defended her against Soon-Yi and Moses’s allegations; in a joint statement, eight of Mia’s children said of their mother that “none of us ever witnessed anything other than compassionate treatment in our home.”
Farrow starred in 13 of Allen’s movies over the course of their relationship, but the two famously kept separate homes, with Farrow and her brood living on Central Park West and Allen just across the park on Fifth Avenue. Farrow adopted daughter Dylan in 1985 (Allen formally adopted Dylan and Moses in 1991) and then gave birth to her and Allen’s son Satchel (later known as Ronan) in 1987. Though Allen began spending more time at the Farrow home following Dylan and Ronan’s arrivals, Soon-Yi maintains that she and her other siblings “didn’t think of him as a father and he didn’t even have clothing at our house, not even a toothbrush.”
In the interview, Soon-Yi describes her childhood interactions with Allen as being few and far between. “I hated him because he was with my mother, and I didn’t understand why anyone could be with such a nasty, mean person,” Soon-Yi says. “I thought he must be the same way.”
That all changed when Soon-Yi was a teenager in high school, and she and Allen began attending New York Knicks games together, an activity she says Farrow encouraged. The relationship didn’t turn romantic until she was a freshman in college, but by her own account, Allen’s interest was sparked when she was still underage.
“I think Woody went after me because at that first basketball game I turned out to be more interesting and amusing than he thought I’d be,” Soon-Yi tells New York. “Mia was always pounding into him what a loser I was.”
From her point of view, Allen “valued” her in a way Farrow never did, and even if it was “a huge betrayal,” Soon-Yi said, she would have been “a moron and an idiot, retarded, if I’d stayed with Mia.”
“I wasn’t the one who went after Woody — where would I get the nerve? He pursued me,” Soon-Yi tells New York. “That’s why the relationship has worked: I felt valued. It’s quite flattering for me. He’s usually a meek person, and he took a big leap.”
In the article, Allen appears to have been utterly unbothered by what Soon-Yi called their “moral dilemma”; he called their relationship “a fling” early on. “It only became a relationship really when we were thrown together because of the molestation charge,” Soon-Yi said, referencing Dylan’s claim that Allen molested her in August 1992. That was the same month that Allen publicly declared his love – for the first time, even to her ears – for Soon-Yi at a press conference, and filed for full custody of Dylan, Satchel/Ronan and Moses.
Allen has repeatedly denied Dylan’s allegations, and the various legal inquiries into their veracity have been interpreted differently by both sides. After a month-long investigation, the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of Yale–New Haven Hospital determined Allen did not molest Dylan, but a judge denied Allen custody of the three kids, in part because the Yale–New Haven team wouldn’t testify in court except via deposition and destroyed their notes. The New York piece states that New York child welfare investigators found that “no credible evidence was found that [Dylan] has been abused or maltreated”; it does not mention that prosecutors in Connecticut believed they had probable cause to pursue criminal charges against Allen, but chose not to in order to spare Dylan from having to testify. In 2014, Dylan Farrow wrote a New York Times op-ed reasserting, in detail, that she was molested by Woody Allen in August 1992.
As critics on social media were quick to point out, the setup for New York’s interview with Soon-Yi is squicky to say the least; not only is Merkin a longtime friend, but Allen is described as being present for some of Soon-Yi’s interviews as well. There are several points where Soon-Yi’s account of her attraction to Allen and the early days of their affair should, but don’t, provoke scrutiny of his attraction to her. The piece also references, without question, Allen’s claim that “not a single one” of the “hundreds of actresses” he’s worked with has “ever, ever suggested any kind of impropriety at all,” despite evidence to the contrary. Actress Mariel Hemingway, for example, told Vanity Fair that shortly after she turned 18 and was promoting their film Manhattan, Allen, then 44, “tried to seduce her.”
However biased the reporter may be, Soon-Yi’s account overall feels brutally honest, both in how she describes her allegedly abusive childhood with Farrow and the early days of her affair with Allen, who critics say crossed boundaries that were inappropriate or predatory. And while Dylan and Ronan Farrow attest to having a loving, supportive relationship with their mother and consider the New York article a “hit job,” it’s also possible that, unbeknownst to them, Farrow was not as loving or supportive a parent to Soon-Yi or Moses.
Likewise, Soon-Yi may believe Allen never molested Dylan, but Dylan clearly believes otherwise; the truth, which can never be known for certain, almost doesn’t matter. It’s possible to believe Dylan and Soon-Yi’s accounts of their own experiences, even though they don’t believe each other, without giving either Farrow or Allen (or New York, for that matter) a pass.