Woody Allen memoir released; here’s some of what controversial filmmaker writes
“Folks, you are reading the autobiography of a misanthropic gangster-loving illiterate; an uncultivated loner who sat in front of a three-way mirror practicing with a deck of cards so he could palm off an ace of spades, render it invisible from any angle, and hustle some pots,” Allen writes.
Woody Allen’s 400-page memoir, “Apropos of Nothing,” dropped by its original publisher after widespread criticism, was released Monday by Arcade Publishing.
“The book is a candid and comprehensive personal account by Woody Allen of his life,” Arcade announced Monday, “ranging from his childhood in Brooklyn through his acclaimed career in film, theater, television, print and standup comedy, as well as exploring his relationships with family and friends.”
With little advance notice, the 84-year-old filmmaker’s book arrives at a time when much of the world is otherwise preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic. Arcade is an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing and a Skyhorse spokeswoman said no decisions had been made on whether he would give any interviews.
“Apropos of Nothing” begins in the wry tone of such literary heroes as J.D. Salinger and George S. Kaufman, describing his New York City upbringing and love affairs with Diane Keaton and others with a sense of nostalgia and angst that also mirrors Allen movies ranging from “Radio Days” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo” to “Annie Hall” and “Hannah and Her Sisters.” But it darkens and becomes defensive, not surprisingly, as he recalls his relationship with Mia Farrow and the allegations he abused daughter Dylan Farrow that for many have come to define his public image in recent years.
He was with Mia Farrow for more than a decade, and recalls happy times with the “very, very beautiful” actress that would cool over the years, especially after the 1987 birth of their one biological child, Ronan (named Satchel at birth). As he has alleged before, he and Farrow were essentially apart by the time he began dating her daughter Soon-Yi Previn, more than 30 years younger than him, in the early 1990s. “At the very early stages of our new relationship, when lust reigns supreme ... we couldn’t keep our hands off each other,” he writes of Previn, whom he married in 1997 and to whom he dedicates the book.
Recalling the day Farrow learned of the affair, after discovering erotic photographs of her twenty-something daughter at Allen’s apartment, Allen writes: “Of course I understand her shock, her dismay, her rage, everything. It was the correct reaction.” But he also expresses no regret over he and Previn becoming lovers.
“Sometimes, when the going got rough and I was maligned everywhere, I was asked if I had known the outcome, do I ever wish I never took up with Soon-Yi?” he writes. “I always answered I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
Allen has long denied sexually abusing Dylan, and, as he has alleged before, he speculates that the accusations arose from what he calls Farrow’s “Ahab-like quest” for revenge. “I never laid a finger on Dylan, never did anything to her that could be even misconstrued as abusing her; it was a total fabrication from start to finish,” he writes.
Allen was never charged after two separate investigations in the 1990s. Dylan has maintained in recent years that she was abused and her allegations have been increasingly embraced in the #MeToo era. Ellen Page and Greta Gerwig are among the actors who have said that they won’t work with him again and his most recent movie, “A Rainy Day in New York,” never came out in the United States.
“I can’t deny that it plays into my poetic fantasies to be an artist whose work isn’t seen in his own country and is forced, because of injustice, to have his public abroad,” Allen writes. “Henry Miller comes to mind. D.H. Lawrence. James Joyce. I see myself standing amongst them defiantly. It’s about at that point my wife wakes me up and says, ‘You’re snoring.’”
While Allen writes at length about his breakup with Farrow, he remembers warmly their films together, among them “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Broadway Danny Rose,” and calls her an actress of versatility and depth.
Here are some excerpts from the book:
THE BOOK’S DEDICATION: “For Soon-Yi, the best. I had her eating out of my hand and then I noticed my arm was missing.”
ON BEING CONSIDERED AN INTELLECTUAL: Folks, you are reading the autobiography of a misanthropic gangster-loving illiterate; an uncultivated loner who sat in front of a three-way mirror practicing with a deck of cards so he could palm off an ace of spades, render it invisible from any angle, and hustle some pots. Yes, I eventually got blown away by Cezanne’s heavy apples and Pissarro’s rainy Parisian boulevards, but as I said, only because I would cut school and needed succor on those snowy winter mornings.”
ON FIRST DATING MIA FARROW: “She turned out to be bright, beautiful, she could act, could draw, had an ear for music, and she had seven children. Tilt. I found it amusing in a sitcom sort of way that I was slipping into a relationship with a woman with seven children, but at that point it was nothing more than another fact about her.”
ON REPORTS THAT HE HAD BEEN DISCOVERED WITH HIS HEAD ON DYLAN FARROW’S LAP: “While Mia had gone shopping, after explaining to everyone that I had to be watched carefully, all the kids and the babysitters were in the den watching TV, a room full of people. There were no seats for me, so I sat on the floor and might have leaned my head back on the sofa on Dylan’s lap for a moment. I certainly didn’t do anything improper to her.”
ON HIS FEELINGS ABOUT DYLAN NOW: “One of the saddest things of my life was that I was deprived of the years of raising Dylan and could only dream about showing her Manhattan and the joys of Paris and Rome. To this day, Soon-Yi and I would welcome Dylan with open arms if she’d ever want to reach out to us as Moses (Farrow) did, but so far that’s still only a dream.”
ON THE EROTIC PICTURES OF PREVIN THAT MIA FARROW DISCOVERED, LEADING TO THEIR PUBLIC BREAKUP: “At the very early stages of our new relationship, when lust reigns supreme and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other, the idea arose that we do some erotic photographs if I could figure out how to work the god- - - - - - camera. Turned out she could work it, and erotic photos they were, shots well calculated to boost one’s blood up to two twelve Fahrenheit. Anyhow, you probably read the rest in the tabloids.”
ON HARVEY WEINSTEIN: “Despite what was printed in the newspapers, Harvey never produced any movies of mine. Never backed me. He only distributed a few already completed films and distributed them well. In addition to Harvey’s skill at distributing, he had an eye for offbeat, artsy movies and presented a number of them. Still, I would never have allowed Harvey to back or produce a film of mine because he was a hands-on producer who changed and recut a director’s movie. We never could have worked together.”
ON WRITING ROLES FOR WOMEN: “I’ve written many parts for women including some reasonably juicy ones. Actually, for a guy who’s taken his share of heat from #MeToo zealots, my record with the opposite sex is not bad at all.”
ON ACTORS WHO REFUSE TO WORK WITH HIM: “Off the record, I had envisioned a little more peer support, nothing overwhelming, perhaps a few organized protests, maybe some irate colleagues marching arms linked, a little rioting, perhaps a few burned cars. After all, I had been a member in good standing of the creative community and was certain my predicament would infuriate my union brethren and fellow artists.”