Woody Allen Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan
Photo: Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan (Rex)

OPINION

Woody Allen is repulsive. We already knew this

How can anyone be shocked at new details from his private archive, asks Rachael Sigee. It’s what we’ve known all along

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By Rachael Sigee on

There are a lot of unsavoury tasks in journalism, but being the first person to read, in their entirety, the personal archives of Woody Allen is surely up there with the worst of them.

Fifty-seven years of notes, scribbles and drafts stuffed into 56 boxes in a rare-books wing of Princeton University. Richard Morgan, the poor man who trawled through the muck, summarises their contents: “From the very beginning to the very end, Allen, quite simply, drips with repetitious misogyny.”

Some choice highlights from the archives include a fake interview Allen wrote in which he says of actress Janet Margolin, who appeared in Annie Hall: “Occasionally I was forced to make love to her to get a decent performance. I did what I had to but in a businesslike way.” Or when he says of Spanish socialite Nati Abascal: “I came to appreciate her body for what it was as time went by, namely, a girl’s body … Soon she got used to my ways.”

One unmade script is about a struggling film director – called Woody Allen – who falls for a young girl, leaves his age-appropriate fiancée at the altar and has a side hustle making low-budget porn movies.

Every story that Morgan read – poor Richard Morgan, someone give him a (consensual) hug – is about older and older men obsessing over younger and younger women. Allen describes their looks, their “long, tanned, legs” and what they are wearing – "flaming red low cut evening gown with a long slit up the side" – but, most of all, he specifies their ages: none are over 18.

The really galling thing is that anyone is finding this in any way surprising. It is not “shocking”, as headlines claim. It wasn’t “unearthed”.

For starters, it wasn’t like Morgan had to dig deep. These weren’t secret files under lock and key – they were literally there for anyone to read.

But, more importantly, we already knew this. We already knew that Woody Allen was, and is, a predatory man who believes that he is entitled to the adoration, attention and bodies of very young women.

He has been making films about it for decades. He hasn’t just weathered allegations of, at best, creepiness and, at worst, abuse. He has placed them centre stage of his own artwork. Time and time again, he has chosen to portray stories designed to normalise his behaviour. He wrote into the script for Manhattan that his 17-year-old love interest would kiss him. In real life, that meant the 16-year-old actress Mariel Hemingway had her first-ever kiss with a 43-year-old man – on camera.

He is not ashamed or apologetic, because he has never believed he has anything to be ashamed or apologetic about.

We already knew that Woody Allen was, and is, a predatory old man who believes that he is entitled to the adoration, attention and bodies of very young women

He was not deterred by allegations from his own daughter that he abused her when she was seven years old. He did not find any oddity in leaving his wife, Mia Farrow, to marry her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.

He said this, in a public interview in 2015, about their relationship: “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.”

As has his career, of course.

When actors defend themselves for signing on to a Woody Allen film, they often opt for the privacy argument, citing that we cannot know what goes on behind closed doors. Kate Winslet said: “I don’t know anything about that family. As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don’t know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person.”

Alec Baldwin said on Twitter: “What the f&@% is wrong w u that u think we all need to b commenting on this family’s personal struggle?”

But maybe we don’t need to know what’s going on behind closed doors when what is happening on the big screen is bad enough.

In the most recent (and tragically final) series of Difficult People, a show made by US comedian Julie Klausner, one episode is a super-smart parody of Allen’s artistic process. It sees Julie inadvertently get cast in a new Allen project while simultaneously being celebrated by WAWA… Women Against Woody Allen. It mercilessly mocks Allen without actually addressing any of the allegations against him in real life. Instead, the target is his work.

Allen is never seen on screen, largely because he keeps disappearing to take naps, his script is handwritten and illegible, and quirks of the plot are explained away: “Woody just thinks cigarette girls still exist and black people don't.”

Gloriously, Julie auditions for a part described as “Esther, white, over 16, unfuckable”.

The real Woody Allen was treating young women with contempt, under the pretence of devotion, while the numerous fake Woody Allens, in his various short stories, unfinished scripts and wildly successful films, did the exact same thing.

And, on reading the slimy details of his archive, we can be disgusted (again), unsettled (again) and infuriated (again), but we are cannot be shocked and we cannot be surprised.

After all, they say you write what you know. And Woody Allen always has.

@littlewondering

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Photo: Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan (Rex)
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Woody Allen
Sexual abuse
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