HBO aired the first episode of its four-part docuseries “Allen v. Farrow” on Sunday, setting up for a deep dive into the contentious 1992 custody battle between director Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow. He was accused of molesting their 7-year-old daughter, Dylan Farrow, and had begun a relationship with Mia’s college-age daughter from another relationship, Soon-Yi Previn.
Dylan’s allegations against Allen have been revisited over the years but were widely discussed after she wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times three years ago asking why he had been “spared” as the #MeToo movement gained momentum in Hollywood (in part thanks to the reporting conducted by her younger brother, Ronan). “Allen v. Farrow” filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (“The Hunting Ground“) drew from the work of co-creator and producer Amy Herdy, who pored over documents and tapes for more than three years and examined how the case played out in public.
Mia Farrow, 76, appears in the series alongside Dylan, 35, who details her memories of the abuse she says she endured in the years leading up to the proceedings. Allen, 85, has consistently denied the allegations. Below are a few takeaways from the docuseries’ first episode.
Allen expressed disinterest in parenting
Mia Farrow had seven children when she first met Allen, who she says told her early in their relationship that he wasn’t interested in helping parent her children. The couple began dating in 1980 and lived separately, though Allen would sometimes accompany Farrow and her children to their house in Connecticut when she wanted to get away from New York.
Allen bonded with one of Farrow’s sons, Moses. She eventually asked Allen whether he’d be willing to father a child, and she says he mentioned he might be interested in parenting a “little blonde girl.” Farrow adopted Dylan and says she was “over-the-moon happy” that Allen loved Dylan.
The director does not appear in “Allen v. Farrow,” but the filmmakers include relevant snippets from the audiobook for his controversial 2020 memoir, “Apropros of Nothing.” In one such bit, he says he was “totally indifferent to the whole enterprise” of becoming a father at first, but “found myself more and more holding [Dylan], playing with her and completely falling in love with her.”
Dylan remembers receiving preferential treatment from Allen, who began to isolate her
Farrow and Allen had another child together – Satchel, who now goes by Ronan – but in the series, Dylan recalls their father playing favorites. After Ronan was born, she says, Allen tended to separate her from Mia when he was over at the Farrow residence and began “very slowly instilling the idea in my head that [Mia] was more Satchel’s parent, he was more my parent. I was daddy’s girl.”
“I worshiped him,” Dylan says. “He was so funny and he made me feel so special.”
She goes on to state that “things get really, really complicated” at that point, because “throughout all of those good times, there was a lot more going on.” Dylan likens his behavior to a magnet, detailing how Allen would head straight for her when he showed up at their apartment.
“There was nobody but the two of them,” Mia adds. “He began an incredible amount of focus on her. He didn’t want to see the other kids, he wanted to see her. It was just so one-track.”
Family members and friends sensed Dylan becoming more reserved
Looking back, Mia Farrow says the “great regret” of her life is that she “wasn’t receptive enough” to how Dylan’s behavior began to change over time: “It’s my fault,” Mia continues. “I brought this guy into our family, you know? There’s nothing I can do to take that away.”
Priscilla Gilman, a family friend interviewed for the series, says Dylan would run away from the door when Allen appeared, asking to be hidden. “At first I thought it was a game,” Gilman says, “but then I realized she actually sensed this smothering energy from him.” Ronan says Dylan went from being “outgoing and effervescent and talkative to her having this sadness and this withdrawn quality.”
Dylan adds that she had no understanding of whether her relationship with her father was abnormal or abusive, given her young age. The series notes that when she began therapy in March 1991 at age 5, she told the therapist she had a secret, which the therapist never mentioned to Mia.
“It’s taken me a long time to sort of reconcile that you can love somebody and be afraid of them,” Dylan says.
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