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Exactly one hour before Woody Allen and most of the lead cast of his new romantic drama Café Society – Blake Lively, Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg and Corey Stoll – attended a press conference at Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter published an article written by Allen’s son, Ronan Farrow.
The piece, titled My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked takes aim at the mainstream media for failing to ask the “tough questions” about the accusations of sexual abuse against the director by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. It also lays blame at the feet of Woody’s publicists, claiming his “PR engine” essentially intimidates journalists into not asking about the allegations by threatening to cut off access to other celebrity talent. It becomes a particularly confronting read when Ronan reiterates his support of his sister:
“… even at 5 years old, [I] was troubled by our father’s strange behaviour around her: climbing into her bed in the middle of the night, forcing her to suck his thumb — behaviour that had prompted him to enter into therapy focused on his inappropriate conduct with children prior to the allegations.”
(Dylan’s first-person account of her father’s alleged abuse is even more confronting).
The timing of the piece is obviously no coincidence – Ronan, The Hollywood Reporter and any other invested parties were clearly making an effort to see that the topic was raised by reporters at the press conference. But it was not discussed. New York Times journalist Rachel Donadio put the disclaimer in her post Q&A write-up “This reporter didn’t see the article until after the news conference”. So far it’s not known whether the other media also missed the piece, or chose not to bring it up.
The elephant in the room was acknowledged during the opening night ceremony by the evening’s host, French comic Laurent Lafitte, who made a joke directed at Allen. “You’ve shot so many of your films here in Europe and yet in the US you haven’t even been convicted of rape”, The Wrap reported him as saying. He was making a reference to director Roman Polanski, who can not return to the US since being indicted by an L.A court in 1977 for the alleged sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl.
The resurrection of the allegations, which first surfaced in the 1990s during Allen’s bitter divorce from Mia Farrow, has undoubtedly cast a shadow over Café Society’s spot as the festival opener, not only for Woody but for the film’s glamorous cast. Kristen Stewart, who plays Jesse Eisenberg’s love interest in the film, defended her decision to work with Allen despite the accusations levelled against him. She said she sought the advice of Eisenberg, who she starred in Adventureland with.
“I was like, ‘What do you think? We don’t know any of these people involved.’ I can personalise situations, which would be very wrong,’” she told Variety.
“At the end of the day, Jesse and I talked about this. If we were persecuted for the amount of s*** that’s been said about us that’s not true, our lives would be over.
“The experience of making the movie was so outside of that, it was fruitful for the two of us to go on with it.”
Variety should be congratulated for raising the tough subject matter with Stewart, although it seems the person that really needs to be questioned – Allen himself – so far is yet to be.