Little over three months have passed since allegations of sexual misconduct against movie industry czar Harvey Weinstein emerged, and since then the flood of reports of Hollywood abuse shows no sign of abating. Not only have more victims of Weinstein come out of the shadows – more than 80 as things currently stand – but others have also faced accusations of heinous misconduct, from Kevin Spacey to Jeffrey Tambor. Some, like Louis C.K., have confirmed the accusations, and offered to make amends; others staunchly proclaim their innocence. Barely a week goes by without new crimes coming to light – if your favourite actor is trending on Twitter, there’s a fair chance it could be because allegations have emerged.
Amid this awful deluge, however, something good has emerged: women, within both the film industry and society in general, are standing up, using hashtags like #MeToo or creating organisations like Time’s Up. ‘The Silence Breakers’ were even chosen as TIME magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’, in recognition of the profound cultural shift. One figure who has thus far seemed immune to the #MeToo movement, however, is director Woody Allen. This might be about to change.
Allen’s career has long had a sense of unease attached, dating back 25 years, to 1992, when Dylan Farrow – the adoptive daughter of his then-partner Mia Farrow – accused him of sexually assaulting her. She was seven at the time. Farrow’s allegations were investigated by leading doctors at the Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Child Sexual Abuse Clinic, who concluded that they were fabricated, but their report has been criticised by some. While the state attorney said that there was “probable cause” to pursue Allen legally, the case was eventually dropped. Since then, whenever the topic of conversation turns to Allen, it isn’t long before someone brings up the case; “and have you seen his films?” they’ll say, “it’s no surprise”.
“One figure who had thus far seemed immune to the #MeToo movement was Woody Allen”
It is true that Allen does himself no favours with his filmography. Even as someone who loves much of his work, it’s easy to see some of the problems in the films, which typically revolve around a wide age-gap between the main romantic couples in his films. Throughout his films, he continually returns to the trope of a young ingenue, taken in by an older, more experienced man. The gap has been known to push close to 40 years in some films, and in Manhattan, his best work, Allen’s character is in a relationship with a high school student, 26 years younger than him.
But while all of it add up to a pretty grim picture, many actors have been happy to continue working with Allen. At one point, it might have seemed that the #MeToo revolution was going to pass him by; indeed, in December Dylan wrote an op-ed in the LA Times, asking why actors like Kate Winslet and Blake Lively were quick to criticise Weinstein and speak out in favour of the change in mood, but also defended their work with Allen. Winslet, for example, said “as the actor…you just have to step away and say, I don’t know anything, really…Woody Allen is an incredible director.”
Things have since shifted. One by one, actors who had previously worked with Allen, or who have projects with him, are stating their regret. Ellen Page called working with Allen “the biggest regret of my career”, while Mira Sorvino, who won an Academy Award for her role in Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite, wrote an open letter apologising to Dylan for having her watch “someone you called out as having hurt you…be lauded again and again.”
“The #MeToo movement has now drawn a clear line in the sand for Hollywood”
Greta Gerwig, who worked with Allen in To Rome With Love, has said “if I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film.” The director, actor, and screenwriter went on to say that she would never work with him again. Rebecca Hall and Timothee Chalamet, meanwhile, who both appear in Allen’s latest work A Rainy Day in New York, are both donating their salaries to charities, including Time’s Up, and Hall has said she will not work with him again.
This information about Allen has been common knowledge for many years, so what has changed? As the talk around sexual misconduct in Hollywood has reached a crescendo, it is harder and harder for actors to plead ignorance about who they’re working with; this is especially true in a case like Allen’s, where his alleged victims have written, in painstaking detail, about the impact his actions have had on their lives. There is also another sea change: more and more people are waking up to the true nature of sexual misconduct, which is centred around power, and is just one product of the culture in which we live. We can’t blame the individual; we need to look at how we all contribute to the problem, and this extends to the actors.
Does this mark the end of Allen’s career? It’s difficult to say at this stage, but it is certain that the #MeToo movement has drawn a line in the sand for many in Hollywood – whether or not he goes on making films, things will never be the same.