Woody Allen defends himself on 60 Minutes in '92

In 1992, Woody Allen gave a no-holds-barred interview to Steve Kroft to defend himself against molestation accusations

The following is a script from "Woody Allen" which aired on Nov. 22, 1992. Steve Kroft is the correspondent. Victoria Gordon and L. Franklin Devine, producers.

It usually begins with an emotional domestic breakup, parents fighting over the kids.  And then in the heat of a bitter custody battle, one party charges the other with an unspeakable and frequently unprovable crime, sexually abusing the children.  In some case, no doubt, the allegations are true, in others a weapon of revenge.  It's a story we've done before on 60 Minutes, but this one is different because everyone knows the parents, at least from the movies.

The father is Woody Allen, writer, director, actor. The mother is Mia Farrow, his frequent co-star and the mother of his three children, two of them adopted.  He is accused right now in the newspapers, perhaps later in a court of law, of abusing their 7-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan.  Woody Allen doesn't deny having an affair with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, whom Mia adopted when she was married to conductor Andre Previn.  What he does deny is that last August at Farrow's Connecticut country home in the midst of a bitter but still private custody fight, he molested 7-year-old Dylan.

 Woody Allen: A gigantic industry has been built on a total non-event, and when I say total non-event, I mean total non-event. It wasn't--it wasn't as if, you know, I tickled my daughter or something and much has been exaggerated. I'm saying nothing at all. I mean, I went up and played with the kids, read them stories, did--did my usual things.  We played out on the lawn and, you know, had a wonderful time with them, and out of this has grown lawyers and psychologists and district attorneys and private investigators and--I mean, I'm saying it's a multimillion-dollar industry that has sprouted up over a total non-event.

It may be a non-event to Woody Allen, but not to Mia Farrow and not to authorities in Connecticut, who are required by law to investigate every reported incident of alleged child abuse.  It is that investigation and the attendant publicity that convinced the reclusive Allen to sit down with us in his Manhattan apartment and discuss the situation, no holds barred.

The allegations are that you took Dylan into an attic or crawl space...

Woody Allen: Mm-hmm.

Steve Kroft: ...that you touched her in her private part.

Woody Allen: Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

Steve Kroft: Is there any truth to that at all?

Woody Allen: Well, be logical about this.  I'm 57.  Isn't it illogical that I'm going to, at the height of a very bitter, acrimonious custody fight, drive up to Connecticut where nobody likes me in a house-- I'm in a house full of enemies. I mean, Mia was so enraged at me and she had gotten all the kids to be angry at me, that I'm going to drive up there, and suddenly, on visitation, pick this moment in my life to become a child molester.  It's just--it's just incredible.  I could have--if I wanted to be a child molester, I had many opportunities in the past.  I could have quietly made a custody settlement with Mia in some way and done it in the future.  I mean--you know, it's so insane.

Allen is cooperating with the investigation. He's made his own psychiatric files and the files of his children available to authorities. He's submitted to a polygraph and a battery of psychological tests. The reports we were shown would seem to support his contention he's not a child molester.  Why then would Allen's 7-year-old daughter tell a Connecticut doctor otherwise?

Woody Allen: Either she has been coached methodically to tell the story because...

Steve Kroft: By Mia?

Woody Allen: By Mia, yeah, because first of all, several weeks before it happened, Mia called me on the phone and said--in the course of an argumentative phone call, she said, "I have something very nasty planned for you.'"And I said, "What are you going to do, shoot me?"

Steve Kroft: When did this happen?

Woody Allen: This happened several weeks or a month before the allegations.

Steve Kroft: This was last summer.

Woody Allen: Yes.  This was a month before this happened.  And on many, many occasions, many occasions, over the phone and in person, Mia had said to me, "You took my daughter, and I'm going to take yours."

Steve Kroft: What did she mean by that?

Woody Allen: She meant by it that I had formed a relationship with her 21-year-old daughter and she was going to get my daughter, who's Dylan.  I only have one daughter.  That's what she meant.  She was going to seek her...

Steve Kroft: Take her away.

Woody Allen: ...revenge that way, yes.

Steve Kroft: Because of your affair with Soon-Yi.

Woody Allen: Yes, yes, absolutely. "You took my daughter; I'm going to take your daughter."

Allen contends that from the moment Mia Farrow discovered the nude pictures he'd taken of Soon-Yi, she considered him morally guilty of child molesting, even though Soon-Yi was legally an adult.  A month before the alleged incident with Dylan, Allen says he found this note on a door while he was at Farrow's house for Dylan's birthday.  It reads: "Child molester at birthday party! Molded, then abused one sister; now focused on youngest sister.  Family disgusted."

Steve Kroft: Mia wrote that note?

Woody Allen: Oh, yeah.

Steve Kroft: That's her handwriting?

Woody Allen: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

Allen says he's always been a devoted father, a constant presence in his children's lives, and he's threatened a lawsuit over a recent magazine article that implied he had an unhealthy obsession with Dylan.  Not so, according to Allen, who says if Mia Farrow had problems with his behavior towards Dylan, she didn't raise them when it came time for him to adopt her daughter.

Woody Allen: She wrote a glowing, glowing letter, or an affidavit, saying that I was just a loving and a caring and attentive father, and that I was--that my adopting Dylan would be great benefit to her. This was her sworn affidavit, you know.

Steve Kroft: When did she write it?

Woody Allen: She wrote it in December of last year.

Steve Kroft: A month before things exploded.

Woody Allen: Yes, yes.

Steve Kroft: A month before she found out about you and Soon-Yi.

Woody Allen: Yes.

And what was Mia's reaction when she found out about Soon-Yi?

Woody Allen: What happened was crazy behavior that became incre--you know, terrible rage, death threats.  Look, if this is not irrational to you--I mean, she accused me of child molestation on August 4th, right?

Steve Kroft: Right.

Woody Allen: And that I molested my daughter.  You--you know, I molested my daughter and August 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th--you know, the week after, she's fully saying, "When do we begin our new movie?  I'm going for my costume fitting next week." And I--she made an appointment with the costume designer on the movie, and she--and I said, "What do you mean, the new movie?" And she--and I--and she said, "Well, you know, I--I'm supposed to go in and see the costume designer.  I've got to get my fitting, and I--we're going to begin shooting in another five weeks." And I said, "Are you kidding?  You're accusing me of child molestation, and you think we're going to just go on with the movie?"

Steve Kroft: What did you say to her?

Woody Allen: I said that--you know, of course, "This is insane." I mean, I said--you know, I told my--my lawyer that, you know, they should call her and terminate the contract, and I went out and hired another actress to play the role.

And as time wore on, Allen says the situation did not improve.

Woody Allen: You know, the first time--in the first days or something, I felt, "This is completely justifiable." I have turned up in an affair with another woman, and that other woman is her daughter.  I started getting phone calls all night long, and death threats, and--and calling me the devil and evil incarnate, and--and--and she ran out and adopted two kids, and suddenly ran out and you know, baptized a number of kids. She was never religious for 60 seconds in all the years I knew her, then suddenly ran out and baptized the kids and told me that she had found God, and now everything was going to be directed toward a richer life and a greater life, and she was at peace and she was forgiving. And 24 hours later, she was threatening my life, threatening to stick my eyes out.

Steve Kroft: Did she threaten your life?

Woody Allen: She's threatened my life many times. I mean, she called me and threatened my--she's threatened to have me killed and to kill me.  And to--and to stick my eyes out, to stick my eyes out, to blind me because she became obsessed with Greek tragedy and--and felt that this--that that would be a fitting, you know, vengeance.

Steve Kroft: Did you take it seriously?

Woody Allen: I took it seriously in the middle of the night.  When you get a phone call at 4 in the morning saying that you're going to be killed and that your eyes are going to be put out, you get scared because it's the middle of the night and your heart's beating, that's what--you know, when it got to be daytime, you know, I felt better, and I--moving around in New York City I always feel--you know, I always feel scared anyhow, so this was no worse.

Steve Kroft: Was there ever a time when you started to think, maybe she means some of this?

Woody Allen: Yeah.  The--the--she--she sent me a Valentine card.  She didn't send it to me; she gave it to me.  And I said, "Oh, thanks," you know.  And I went downstairs, I got into my car and I opened it up, and there...was a very, very, very chilling Valentine, meticulously worked on.  I mean, I--one hesitates to say psychotically worked on--you know, a Victorian Valentine and photo of the family, and through all the kids was thrust needles and a steak knife stuck through the heart of the thing.

Woody Allen: And I got scared because, you know, that was--that was one of the times that I thought, 'My God, this is really'--you know to--if you look at the thing, it's quite frightening.

Steve Kroft: Is it possible that Mia was just so upset by everything that had happened, that something convinced her that something had happened to Dylan?

Woody Allen: Oh, that I don't know.  But I mean, nothing, nothing...

Steve Kroft: I mean, is there room for that mis--misunderstanding?

Woody Allen: There is no possibility.  There is no possibility that anything remotely ever happened to Dylan or that I ever did anything to Dylan, and I'm saying not even in a cursory way.

Steve Kroft: Is it possible that Mia believes that?

Woody Allen: She may believe it and want to believe it.  She may believe it and have convinced herself of it; or she may not believe it.  In the most cynical version of it, you know, Soon-Yi believes that she does not believe it.  Soon-Yi thinks that it's absolutely in character, that she has made it up quite calculatingly.

And what about Soon-Yi, who Allen has said he's deeply in love with and turned his life around?  And what about the way Mia discovered their affair?

Steve Kroft: I mean, she found out about it by finding some rather embarrassing pictures.

Woody Allen: Yes.  Correct.  I mean, what is the question?

Steve Kroft: I presume that's not the way you wanted her to find out, or did you want her to find out?

Woody Allen: I never--I never really thought that--I never really thought about it.  I mean, I--you know, I don't know--I don't really know.  I think eventually as that situation got more and more serious, I would have told her about it.

Steve Kroft: One of the recurring themes in your movies over the years...

Woody Allen: Mm-hmm.

Steve Kroft: ...has been the question of guilt.

Woody Allen: Mm-hmm.

Steve Kroft: And I think one of the things that seems to bother people a lot about this...

Woody Allen: Mm-hmm.

Steve Kroft: ...is the fact that from your initial statements...

Woody Allen: Mm-hmm.

Steve Kroft: ...there was no sense at all that you had done anything questionable or wrong.

Woody Allen: Well, from where I sat--of course, I understand why people think that and they're correct in--in--in their--their perceiving it that way.  From where I sat, I did not feel that, but I can see what...

Steve Kroft: It never occurred to you that--that this was going to be controversial, that...

Woody Allen: Look...

Steve Kroft: ...that might be a problem here?

Woody Allen: ...it's conceivable--yes, yes, it's conceivable to me that it's controversial, that it was controversial.  I understand that.  And as I say, I take full responsibility for that.

Steve Kroft: Did you have any reservations about it?

Woody Allen: Reservations about what?

Steve Kroft: About getting involved with--with Soon-Yi?

Woody Allen: Did I have rese--I didn't have reservations because I had--it was a totally separate thing.  Wha--what I'm getting at here is there has been an attempt to link my relationship with Soon--Soon-Yi with charges of child molestation. They're two completely different things.  I have an adult relationship with Soon-Yi.  Those people that feel--they want to feel that it's--it's questionable and not their taste or they--she's too young for me or she's Mia's daughter, and--or whatever they want to think, I'll take that heat.  I--I'm responsible for that.  I accept all the criticism that they want, you know, that--it's my life and it's Soon-Yi's life and I--I accept that.  That does not mean that I should be charged with child molestation.

Steve Kroft: Is this still an on--still an ongoing relationship with you?

Woody Allen: Yes, it is.  I mean, she--you know, she's away at school and you know, so--so it's limited by that.  And she has a few years to go before she graduates.  And that's what she's mostly focused on, is--is getting her education.  But yes--yes, it is ongoing.

Steve Kroft: Does she live here?

Woody Allen: No, no, no, she doesn't live here.  She lives--she has a room at school.

Steve Kroft: You're still seeing her.  You see her on weekends or...

Woody Allen: Yeah, I see her when she--when she gets off school.  I'll see her on weekends and, you know, she gets off for a holiday or something.

Allen is busy now filming a new movie.  Mia Farrow has been replaced by Diane Keaton.  He is awaiting the state of Connecticut's decision on whether or not to prosecute him for child abuse.

Steve Kroft: It's such a pernicious allegation...

Woody Allen: Mm-hmm.

Steve Kroft: ...very difficult to disprove.

Woody Allen: Mm-hmm.

Steve Kroft: Is there any way that--that you can recover your reputation?

Woody Allen: I don't think my rep--I can ever get my reputation back, but I don't care about that.  It's irrelevant to me that if I walk down the street and someone thinks, "Hey, wasn't that the guy that was once accused of child molestation?  Well, he--he denied it, but we never really knew if it was so or not." You know, that doesn't bother me. That--that--that's the least of my concerns.  I care--if you tell me that I--that I could see my children and be with them and all of that, and that--and--that--that's all that I care about.

Steve Kroft: What about your career?

Woody Allen: It doesn't matter to me if tomorrow you said to me, "No one is ever going to see your films again," or "You will never be hired again," this kind of thing.  It doesn't--you know, it--it would not matter to me.

Steve Kroft: As we said, this is Woody Allen's story.  If Mia Farrow would like to come on this broadcast next week to tell her side, we've already made that offer, and we're waiting to hear from her.

  • Steve Kroft

    Few journalists have achieved the impact and recognition that Steve Kroft's 60 Minutes work has generated for over two decades. Kroft delivered his first report for 60 Minutes in 1989.

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