On Friday, March 6, 2020, Hachette Book Group (HBG) announced it would not be publishing Woody Allen’s memoir.
Hachette’s decision was a reaction to critics, including the company’s own employees, who objected to the publication of a book by a man who has been accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter.
The pushback against Allen has resulted in actors refusing to work with the famous director and the loss of an Amazon deal worth millions. Allen’s memoir is one of many books that have been pulled due to allegations of sexual impropriety against various authors.
Hachette pulls “Apropos of Nothing”
In HBG’s Friday press release, the company announced that they had made the “difficult” decision to pull Allen’s memoir, “Apropos of Nothing?,” which was set to be published in April 2020. The company’s decision was made after “extensive conversations with our staff and others.”
The book was to be published by an imprint of HBG, Grand Central. However, days after the memoir was announced, employees at Grand Central and a number of other imprints under the HBG umbrella staged a walkout in protest.
The employees were protesting the publication because Allen has been accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, when she was seven. Allen has denied the allegations.
The accusations against Woody Allen
As detailed by The New York Times in 2018, the accusations against Allen go back decades.
In the late 1970s, Allen became romantically involved with Mia Farrow, an actress who was married to André Previn. With Previn, Mia had three biological children and three adopted children. After their divorce in 1979, she adopted two more children, Moses and Dylan Farrow.
Mia and Allen would later have a son together, Ronan Farrow. In 1991, Allen officially adopted Moses and Dylan. However, that same year, Allen began an affair with one of Mia’s other adopted daughters, Soon-Yi Previn, who was 21. Allen married Soon-Yi in 1997.
After Mia learned of Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi, Allen allegedly sexually assaulted the seven-year-old Dylan on August 4, 1992 at Mia’s country house. The allegations were looked into by investigators with Yale-New Haven hospital. While Allen was reportedly cleared of wrongdoing by the investigation, the report was never officially released.
In the years since the initial allegation, Allen’s defenders have included Dylan’s brother, Moses, as well as Dr. John M. Leventhal, who headed up the Yale-New Haven investigation. Leventhal said he believed Mia coached her daughter in what to say.
However, as an adult, Dylan maintains that she was sexually abused by Allen, and she says he made advances toward her when she was 18. Another brother of Dylan, Ronan, has also publicly stated he believes Allen assaulted her. As an adult, Ronan’s investigative reporting helped publicize the sex crimes of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The career of Woody Allen
Allen’s career as a director and screenwriter has included critically-lauded comedies and dramas, including “Annie Hall,” for which Allen won his first Academy Award as a director, “Hannah and Her Sisters” (which featured Mia Farrow), and 2013’s “Blue Jasmine.” He has directed over 50 films and one TV series for Amazon Studios.
Though the allegations against Allen have been publicly known since the 90s, in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, the director’s career has begun to take a hit. Amazon Studios, which had a US$68 million deal with Allen to produce four films, pulled out of the contract in February 2019. This followed sympathetic comments Allen had made in relation to Weinstein.
Allen sued Amazon Studios for breach of contract, and the two parties came to a settlement in November 2019. However, the first film Allen had produced under the deal, “A Rainy Day in New York,” has never been released in the United States.
Some actors who have appeared in Allen’s films, including Diane Keaton, who won an Oscar for “Annie Hall,” have defended Allen. Other actors, particularly of the younger generation, have said they would not work with the director. Ellen Page and Griffin Newman, two actors who have appeared in Allen’s films, have stated that they regret having worked with the director.
Canceling book publications
Allen’s is not the first high-profile book publication to be disrupted because of sexual misconduct allegations.
In 2017, Penguin Press canceled the publication of a book by Mark Halperin, a political pundit and writer who formerly worked for ABC News. Halperin has been accused by multiple women at ABC News of sexual harassment.
Two established names in young adult fiction — Jay Asher, who wrote “Thirteen Reasons Why,” and James Dashner, creator of “The Maze Runner” series — were both dropped by their agencies following accusations of harassment and predatory behavior.
Also in 2017, Simon & Schuster canceled a book deal with conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous after a video surfaced in which he advocated for adult men having sex with young boys. That deal had originally netted Yiannopoulos an advance of US$250,000 for his memoir, “Dangerous.” The author later sued Simon & Schuster and self-published the book.
At the time, the cancelation of Yiannopoulous’ deal was at the center of a conversation about censorship. Some worried it represented the censoring of conservative voices and could lead to other controversial voices being silenced.
After the announcement of the cancellation of Allen’s memoir, the renowned horror author Stephen King tweeted a similar sentiment.
“The Hachette decision to drop the Woody Allen book makes me very uneasy,” King wrote. “It’s not him; I don’t give a damn about Mr. Allen. It’s who gets muzzled next that worries me.”
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