The new four-part HBO documentary Allen v. Farrow chronicles the twisty and confusing history of molestation allegations made against filmmaker Woody Allen in the early 1990s. Those allegations came from Dylan Farrow, the daughter of Allen and his longtime partner Mia Farrow, who was 7 years old at the time. Between the ensuing media circus, full publicity offensive, and the extreme difficulty of proving anything — plus Farrow and Allen’s status as a well-known celebrity power couple — establishing what happened beyond reasonable doubt was largely impossible. Eventually, the culture essentially moved on.
But with renewed allegations by now-adult Dylan Farrow in 2014, along with the advent of the modern Me Too movement in 2017, the story has started to reemerge into public consciousness — and through a very different set of cultural lenses. Produced over the past several years, Allen v. Farrow explores the allegations and the timeline of events largely through Dylan Farrow and Mia Farrow’s eyes, alongside taped conversations and interviews with family friends, several of Farrow’s other children, journalists (including Vox critic Alissa Wilkinson), and expert witnesses.
(Woody Allen; his wife and Farrow’s daughter Soon-Yi Previn; and Allen and Farrow’s son Moses Farrow, who has defended his father in the past, declined to be interviewed for the series.)
It is hard to keep track of everything that’s happened related to this story, both in the 1990s and in the repercussions it’s had on Allen’s professional life since 2018. Here’s a brief guide to the biggest events in the timeline.
Woody Allen and Mia Farrow begin dating. Farrow is a well-known actress, having starred in films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Great Gatsby (1974). She has six children, some biological and some adopted, with her ex-husband, the conductor Andre Previn: Matthew, Sascha, Lark, Summer (who goes by Daisy), Fletcher, and Soon-Yi. She has recently adopted her seventh child, Moses Farrow, by herself.
Allen is among the most famous filmmakers in Hollywood, having won two Oscars in 1978 for Annie Hall and been nominated for two more in 1979 for Manhattan. In the latter film, a 40-something character (played by Allen) starts a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old high school student, played by Mariel Hemingway, who is 16 when she shoots the film.
Allen and Farrow will be in a relationship for 12 years. They will not get married or live together. They will, however, make 13 movies together.
July 11, 1985
Mia Farrow adopts an infant, Dylan Farrow. Allen does not participate in the adoption.
December 19, 1987
Satchel Farrow is born, the biological son of Woody and Mia. In adulthood he will go by his middle name, Ronan, and in 2018 he will win a Pulitzer for his coverage of the Harvey Weinstein story for the New Yorker.
December 17, 1991
Allen’s adoption of Dylan and Moses is finalized.
January 13, 1992
While at Allen’s apartment, Farrow discovers a stack of explicit nude photos of her daughter Soon-Yi Previn, taken by Allen. Previn’s age was not known at the time of her adoption, but she is about 21 years old and a college sophomore when Farrow finds the photographs. Allen is in his 50s.
August 4, 1992
Dylan Farrow tells her mother about the alleged molestation, which she says occurred at Farrow’s house in Connecticut.
August 13, 1992
Allen files suit against Farrow for custody of their three children together (Satchel, Dylan, and Moses).
August 17, 1992
Allen and Previn go public with their relationship.
On the same day, the Connecticut State Police announce an investigation into Dylan’s allegations.
August 18, 1992
Allen holds a press conference to deny sexually abusing Dylan. “This is an unconscionable and gruesomely damaging manipulation of innocent children for vindictive and self-serving motives,” he reads from a two-page written statement. He suggests that Farrow has influenced Dylan to lie in order to punish him for his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, saying that allegations of this sort are a “currently popular though heinous card played in all too many child-custody fights, and while sometimes effective, the tragedy of programming one’s child to cooperate is unspeakable.”
August 30, 1992
In a statement to Newsweek, Previn excoriates her mother and defends her relationship with Allen: “I admit that it’s offbeat, but let’s not get hysterical. I’m not a retarded underage flower who was raped, molested and spoiled by some evil stepfather — not by a long shot.”
Maureen Orth’s article “Mia’s Story” is published in Vanity Fair. It is the first extensive article devoted to Farrow’s side of the story.
March 18, 1993
Allen announces that a team of medical experts examined Dylan over the past seven months and found no signs of sexual molestation, and that their report clears him of the charges. The findings are not made public, though Farrow’s lawyer says they are inaccurate. Allen’s publicist says that the two sides had “agreed that the report would not be made public because a child’s privacy was at stake.”
March 26, 1993
Farrow testifies before the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, where Allen is suing for sole custody. Farrow says that Dylan had indeed told her the previous summer that Allen had molested her. She says that Dylan wouldn’t tell a doctor about the abuse. She agrees with Allen that the medical experts who examined Dylan concluded there was no sign of abuse.
Farrow had videotaped Dylan’s confession, but the tape contains starts and stops, and Allen disputes its validity. The New York Times reports that Allen “called the allegations the products of either Ms. Farrow’s imagination or the child’s behavior.”
May 4, 1993
Dr. John Leventhal testifies in a sworn statement during the custody battle that Dylan’s story had a “rehearsed quality.” Leventhal was part of the hospital team that the Connecticut State Police asked to investigate Dylan’s claims. Leventhal said:
We had two hypotheses: one, that these were statements that were made by an emotionally disturbed child and then became fixed in her mind. And the other hypothesis was that she was coached or influenced by her mother. We did not come to a firm conclusion. We think that it was probably a combination.
June 8, 1993
The court awards custody of Moses, Dylan, and Satchel to Farrow. Allen is denied visiting rights to Dylan. Acting Justice Elliott Wilk hands down the judgment in what the New York Times calls a “scathing 33-page decision,” describing Allen as a “self-absorbed, untrustworthy and insensitive” father and condemning him for his affair with Previn, for pitting family members against one another, and for lacking basic knowledge of his children’s lives.
September 25, 1993
Frank S. Maco, the state’s attorney for Litchfield County, Connecticut, holds a press conference. He says he has “probable cause” to charge Allen with molesting Dylan. But, he says, he will not charge Allen because of the potential trauma it could cause for Dylan.
The following February, Maco will be criticized by a disciplinary panel for the statement and his handling of the case; in November, a complaint Allen filed against Maco is dismissed.
December 1, 1997
In 1997, Mia Farrow releases an autobiography, What Falls Away. The New York Times review praises some of its writing as “simple and affecting,” while saying it is melodramatic and suggesting it garners sympathy not for Farrow but for Allen.
December 22, 1997
Soon-Yi Previn and Woody Allen marry.
Woody Allen makes 16 more movies, among them Match Point (2005), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Midnight in Paris (2011), and Blue Jasmine (2013). In 2012, Allen wins a Golden Globe and an Oscar for the Midnight in Paris screenplay, and in 2014, Blue Jasmine star Cate Blanchett wins a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her performance.
Mia Farrow becomes a UNICEF goodwill ambassador in 2000, and receives several awards for her humanitarian work, particularly around children’s rights and drawing attention to genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. In 2005, she defends her friend Roman Polanski (who had directed her in his 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby) in a libel trial — a fact that confounds some, given that Polanski had been living in France since 1978 after fleeing the US following a charge of child rape. In 2008, Time names Farrow one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Dylan Farrow grows up and reaches adulthood. She lives under a different name, completely out of the public eye.
Maureen Orth writes another article for Vanity Fair about Farrow and her children, highlighting the humanitarian work that Farrow and Ronan — as Satchel is now known — had done together. In the article, Dylan, who is now 28 and living under another name, maintains her story and explains the fallout she’d experienced since then, including depression during college, when Allen attempted to contact her several times.
January 12, 2014
The Golden Globes pay tribute to Allen with the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. Allen does not attend the ceremony. Diane Keaton receives the award on his behalf.
The award sparks controversy and renewed conversation about the allegations against Allen. In the Guardian, Hadley Freeman writes that “Allen is legally innocent and therefore deserving of all celebrations people send his way,” and that “it is totally OK to celebrate Woody Allen, but that doesn’t mean you have to.” At Slate, Amanda Marcotte argues that “there’s a case to be made for trying to separate the art from the artist, but Keaton and the chummy industry around her seemed to think we should forgive a man’s sins because we like his movies. That’s too big an ask.”
When the award is presented during the Globes broadcast, Mia Farrow tweets that she’s changing the channel to switch over to Girls. Ronan Farrow objects more pointedly, in a now-deleted tweet:
Missed the Woody Allen tribute - did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) January 13, 2014
January 27, 2014
The producer and director of the two-part PBS special Woody Allen: A Documentary, Robert B. Weide, writes a lengthy piece for the Daily Beast disputing the charges against Allen, and in particular Orth’s most recent Vanity Fair article, questioning Vanity Fair’s “overall reliability or objectivity” and citing the 2005 libel case Roman Polanski had won against the magazine with Mia Farrow’s support.
Slate writer Jessica Winter takes issue with Weide’s “sleazy” Daily Beast piece, particularly its attacks on Farrow, and counters some of his assertions. In Vanity Fair, Orth enumerates “undeniable” facts that she encountered during her reporting both in 1992 and 2013.
February 1, 2014
In a blistering letter published on New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s blog, Dylan Farrow not only reiterates her allegations from 1992 but calls out those who have continued to work with her father in the years since:
What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?
Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
February 7, 2014
The New York Times gives Allen space to respond in its Opinion section. He continues to blame Farrow for Dylan’s accusations and what he calls the “self-serving transparency of her malevolence.” He says that even as an adult, Dylan is still a victim of her mother’s plot against him. “Now it’s 21 years later and Dylan has come forward with the accusations that the Yale experts investigated and found false,” he writes. “Plus a few little added creative flourishes that seem to have magically appeared during our 21-year estrangement.”
Of course, I did not molest Dylan. I loved her and hope one day she will grasp how she has been cheated out of having a loving father and exploited by a mother more interested in her own festering anger than her daughter’s well-being. ... No one wants to discourage abuse victims from speaking out, but one must bear in mind that sometimes there are people who are falsely accused and that is also a terribly destructive thing.
In a parenthetical, he adds that he will not respond to any more comments on this matter, because “enough people have been hurt.”
April 7, 2015
Mariel Hemingway’s memoir Out Came the Sun is published. In it, she writes that Allen’s behavior on the set of Manhattan made her nervous, and that after she turned 18, Allen tried to convince her parents to let her go to Paris with him. Hemingway was 16 when she played Allen’s 17-year-old love interest in the film.
May 11, 2016
Allen’s Cafe Society is set to open the Cannes Film Festival. On the eve of the opening, the Hollywood Reporter publishes a long piece by Ronan Farrow about his father and the unasked questions about Allen’s past. Ronan calls out the Hollywood Reporter for putting Allen on its cover. (The next year, he will criticize NBC for its handling of his in-depth reporting on Harvey Weinstein, which he eventually published in the New Yorker.)
Following the publication of Ronan’s essay, Allen’s longtime publicist Leslee Dart bars the Hollywood Reporter from a luncheon celebrating Cafe Society. At the opening night event, the comedian Laurent Lafitte makes a startling joke drawing an equivalence between Roman Polanski and Allen, saying, “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 joke reportedly “prompt[s] an awkward silence and a few gasps.”
Allen claims not to be offended by the joke, and says he hadn’t read his son’s Hollywood Reporter piece. “I have moved so far past that,” he tells a Vulture reporter. Meanwhile, Weide (author of the 2014 Daily Beast article defending Allen) self-publishes an open letter to Ronan Farrow about the Hollywood Reporter piece, once again defending Allen and accusing Ronan and Dylan of making up accusations.
October 15, 2017
Days after the Harvey Weinstein story breaks in investigative stories by Ronan Farrow as well as the New York Times’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, Allen is asked about his opinions on Weinstein. He draws ire when he tells the BBC that Weinstein was a “sad, sick man,” but also that it is important to avoid a “witch hunt atmosphere” where “every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.”
Allen’s latest film, Wonder Wheel, is the closing night selection at the New York Film Festival. In the film, a man having an affair with a woman starts seeing her stepdaughter as well.
October 16, 2017
Actor Griffin Newman becomes the first of many to voice regret for working with Allen and pledges to donate his salary from Allen’s upcoming film A Rainy Day in New York to RAINN, which works against sexual violence and assault. Among those who express regret for working with Allen are Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Hall, and Michael Caine. Others, like Alec Baldwin and Diane Keaton, will instead continue to defend Allen in the days ahead.
December 1, 2017
Allen’s Wonder Wheel opens in theaters. During its press tour, the film’s star, Kate Winslet, finds herself answering a lot of questions, often clumsily, about why she worked with Allen.
Wonder Wheel is Amazon’s first self-distributed film. Allen and Amazon agree that the company will produce and distribute his next four films, the first of which will be A Rainy Day in New York.
December 7, 2017
The day after Time names the “Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year, Dylan Farrow writes an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times titled “Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?” In it, she pointedly blames a “deliberately created fog” around Allen’s story, crafted by Allen’s publicity team, for why “A-list actors agree to appear in Allen’s films and journalists tend to avoid the subject.” She also calls out Winslet as well as Blake Lively and Greta Gerwig, all of whom had starred in recent Allen films.
January 4, 2018
Writer Richard Morgan publishes a searing piece in the Washington Post that details a pattern of obsession with teenage girls in Allen’s self-curated personal archives, stored at Princeton University. “From the very beginning to the very end, Allen drips with repetitious misogyny,” Morgan writes. “Allen, who has been nominated for 24 Oscars, never needed ideas besides the lecherous man and his beautiful conquest — a concept around which he has made films about Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Manhattan, journalism, time travel, communist revolution, murder, writing novels, Thanksgiving dinner, Hollywood and many other things — because that one idea bore so much fruit for his career.”
January 7, 2018
Ahead of the 2018 Golden Globes, Dylan Farrow tweets about #TimesUp, Me Too, and believing there’s “a brighter future ahead.” She writes, “I will be watching [the Golden Globes] tonight with a very different feeling than I had at this time four years ago [when Allen received the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award]. I will watch with optimism, with hope, and with the firm belief that there is a brighter future ahead. And I will watch to see if now, finally, time is up for my predator too.”
At the Golden Globes, Lady Bird writer and director Gerwig is questioned by a reporter about whether, given the night’s emphasis on honoring victims of sexual assault and calling for change in Hollywood, she regretted working with Woody Allen. (Gerwig co-starred in Allen’s 2012 film To Rome With Love.)
Gerwig responds that it’s “something that I’ve thought deeply about and I care deeply about, and I haven’t even had an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion where I come down on one side or the other.”
January 10, 2018
Speaking with the New York Times’s Frank Bruni, Gerwig voices regret about her response. “It is something that I take very seriously and have been thinking deeply about, and it has taken me time to gather my thoughts and say what I mean to say. I can only speak for myself and what I’ve come to is this: If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film,” she said.
“I have not worked for him again, and I will not work for him again,” she continued. “Dylan Farrow’s two different pieces made me realize that I increased another woman’s pain, and I was heartbroken by that realization. I grew up on his movies, and they have informed me as an artist, and I cannot change that fact now, but I can make different decisions moving forward.”
January 18, 2018
Dylan Farrow appears on CBS This Morning to give her first televised interview about her life and her accusations against Allen. When CBS’s Gayle King plays a clip of Allen denying the accusation on 60 Minutes, Farrow begins to cry. “I’m sorry, I really thought I could handle it,” she says. “He’s lying, and he’s been lying for so long. It is difficult for me to see him and to hear his voice.”
Farrow strongly rejects the idea that her mother brainwashed her into believing in abuse that never happened. “How is this crazy story of me being brainwashed and coached more believable than me being sexually assaulted by my father?” she demands. “Outside of a court of law,” she concludes, “we do know what happened in the attic that day. I just told you.”
May 23, 2018
Moses Farrow publishes a blog post titled “A Son Speaks Out,” in which he echoes his father’s allegations that Mia Farrow coerced and brainwashed her children. He concludes by addressing his mother directly: “One thing you always said you appreciated about me was my ability to listen,” he writes. “I listened to you for years and held your truth above all others. You once said to me, ‘It’s not healthy to hold onto anger.’ Yet here we are, 26 years later. I’m guessing your next step will be to launch a campaign to discredit me for speaking out. I know it comes with the territory. And it’s a burden I am willing to bear.”
Mia Farrow says that Moses’s claims are “completely made up.” Dylan Farrow responds on Twitter, saying her brother is a “troubled person.” In a now-deleted tweet, Ronan Farrow reaffirms his support for his sister.
Soon-Yi Previn, now 47, gives several interviews to New York magazine journalist Daphne Merkin, who profiles her in the September 17 issue of the magazine. Previn has largely stayed out of the public eye during her relationship with and then marriage to Allen, a time that now spans more than 25 years. Merkin discloses in the resulting profile of Previn that she’s been a friend of Allen’s for 40 years. Merkin also notes that she conducted her interviews with Previn in Allen and Previn’s home, often with Allen present.
Little new information appears in the profile. Merkin portrays Allen and Previn as an affectionate, happy couple with a private home life. Previn is “articulate and self-aware,” she writes. She describes Allen as always having had a “lack of a discernible ego” and an “unwillingness, or perhaps inability, to contest his ongoing vilification.” (“I am a pariah,” he tells Merkin.)
February 7, 2019
Allen files a breach of contract suit in New York, seeking $68 million in damages from Amazon for allegedly trying to back out of its agreement to release four of his films and “reneg[ing] on its promises” to him.
“Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well-known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen—and in any event, it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract,” the suit reads.
According to Allen’s suit, in December 2017, two executives at Amazon Studios, Jason Ropell and Matt Newman, met with Allen and representatives from his production company to discuss “the negative publicity and reputational harm that Amazon Studios had received because of allegations made against its former President, [Roy] Price, and its association with Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company.”
Executives at Amazon then allegedly proposed a meeting in Seattle to discuss marketing for A Rainy Day in New York; the meeting did not occur, the suit says, but the company requested that the film’s release date be pushed into 2019.
Then, according to the suit, in June 2018, Amazon attempted to back out of its contract with Allen altogether, saying that its agreement was “impracticable” and citing “supervening events, including renewed allegations against Mr. Allen, his own controversial comments, and the increasing refusal of top talent to work with or be associated with him in any way, all of which have frustrated the purpose of the Agreement.”
April 3, 2019
Amazon files a motion to dismiss four of Allen’s eight claims against the company.
May 2, 2019
The New York Times reports that Allen is shopping around a memoir to publishers but having a difficult time finding a buyer.
July 26, 2019
A Rainy Day in New York opens in Poland, followed by other European, South American, and Asian countries. It does not yet open in the US.
November 9, 2019
Allen settles his suit with Amazon. The terms of the settlement are not disclosed.
March 5, 2020
Hachette Book Group acquires Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing. Employees stage a walkout in protest.
March 6, 2020
Hachette Book Group announces that it is dropping Allen’s memoir.
March 23, 2020
Allen’s memoir is published, unannounced, by Arcade Publishing. In it, Allen maintains his innocence while also admitting that he dated a teenager and confirming Hemingway’s story about trying to get her to go to Paris with him.
September 18, 2020
Allen’s film Rifkin’s Festival premieres at the San Sebastián International Film Festival; it will be released in a number of European countries beginning in October. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s a moderate success.
October 9, 2020
After many delays owing in part to Allen’s severed relationship with Amazon, which was set to distribute the film, A Rainy Day in New York comes out in US theaters.
December 11, 2020
Moses Farrow gives his first newspaper interview to the Guardian, repeating his statements from the 2018 blog post. He says, “It’s really important that anyone who chooses to adopt resolves whatever trauma that they have. I’ve heard too many other stories from other adoptees who are also estranged from their adoptive parents.”
February 21, 2021
The first installment of the four-part Allen v. Farrow documentary premieres on HBO.
February 22, 2021
Allen and Previn issue a statement to the Hollywood Reporter regarding Allen v. Farrow, calling it a “hatchet job riddled with falsehoods.” Skyhorse Publishing threatens to sue HBO for using snippets of the audiobook version of Apropos of Nothing, read by Allen, without permission. The filmmakers respond that their use of the audio is protected under the fair use doctrine.
The three remaining episodes of Allen v. Farrow will air each Sunday on HBO through March 12, 2021.