Woody Allen details affair with Soon-Yi Previn, Mia Farrow finding the 'erotic photographs' in new memoir

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Woody Allen’s memoir has been released after all — by a new publisher — and it details his affair with now-wife Soon-Yi Previn.

After Hachette Book Group backed out of publishing Apropos of Nothing at the eleventh hour amid public protests and opposition from Allen’s children Dylan and Ronan Farrow, the 400-page book was released Monday by Arcade Publishing.

The 84-year-old director’s book does not cast his former partner Mia Farrow in a positive light, talking about “red flags” he should have noticed from the start of their 13-year romance, which began in 1979. He claims she had a “creepy” relationship with her biological son Fletcher Farrow, mistreated her adopted children and made up the “fake molestation accusation” against him, regarding their adopted daughter Dylan, in an act of “revenge.”

A spokesperson for the actress has not yet responded to Yahoo’s request for comment about the book.

Allen also details the start of his sexual relationship with Soon-Yi, now 49, an adopted daughter of Farrow and her second husband, the late composer André Previn. He writes that Farrow, who oversaw a brood of 14 children, “psychologically and corporally” disciplined her adoptive kids “into submissive obedience”; young Soon-Yi, who was born in South Korea, came off as “sullen” to him when he interacted with her as a girl. (Allen and Farrow never lived together, but he spent time with her and the children in the decade-plus they were together.)

Allen's memoir details his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Allen said that he and Soon-Yi “never particularly liked one another,” but after the “air was out” of his relationship with her mother, they became involved and have now been “married over 20 years” and are “still passionately in love.” (The book is dedicated to Soon-Yi, with whom he has two college-aged daughters, both adopted.)

He wrote at length about Soon-Yi’s negative relationship with Farrow, saying the girl took an “instant disliking” to her adoptive mom when they met, when Soon-Yi was 7. They were “always at odds.” Soon-Yi found Farrow “strict and impatient with a fierce temper” and claimed physical and mental abuse, including an allegation that she was called “retarded.” Allen said Soon-Yi resented him because, in her eyes, he did nothing to stop Farrow’s alleged mistreatment of her and her adopted siblings and seemed like a part of the facade the actress had created. (Allen said he was initially unaware of any problems related to her parenting.)

Actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow attend Democratic National Committee Fundraiser, April 14, 1986. (Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Allen said he “had no interest in knowing” Soon-Yi, saying he “thought she was a quiet, boring kid” and he never gave her “a moment’s thought.” But after remarking to Farrow that Soon-Yi seemed “reclusive” and “maybe she needed a shrink,” the actress suggested he take her to a Knicks game because he was “always looking for someone to go with,” as a season ticket holder.

During the “awkward” game, Allen brought up how they didn’t get along and Soon-Yi, by then college-aged, said it was because she thought he was just another one of Farrow’s pawns and a “consummate sap for not getting it.”

“I soon learned she and Mia didn’t get along, and life at their home was quite different when I was not present,” he writes. “I began to realise this was not an empty young woman as Mia had painted her but quite an intelligent, feeling, perceptive one. It was the start of a friendship that would slowly grow over time and climax with the preposterous realisation that we cared a great deal about each other. It took a long, long time to move from square one to this mutual caring, but it would happen and surprise us both.”

US film-maker Woody Allen and his new bride Soon-Yi Previn walk 26 December in the Jardin des Tuileries, in Paris. (JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Allen said he and Soon-Yi continued to go to basketball games together during her visits home from college — and nothing physical happened until he invited her to his screening room to watch the film The Seventh Seal. It was there that they kissed for the first time, he detailed, saying he made the first move and while he waited for a “bolo punch” in return, “it didn’t come. Instead, she is complicit in the osculation and, to the point as always, says, ‘I was wondering when you were going to make a move.’”

Allen admitted that at the time he was “still in some version of a relationship with” Farrow even though they had “just been going through the motions.” However, he couldn’t fight his attraction to Soon-Yi and while “filming the movie Husbands and Wives, Soon-Yi and I started an affair. An affair that began the next time she came in from college. Passionate from that day on, it has resulted now in many happy years and a wonderful family. Who would have predicted? I only knew she was not the nonentity her mother had dismissed and written off. How wrong Mia was. Here was a sharp, classy, fabulous young woman; highly intelligent, full of latent potential, and ready to ripen superbly if only someone would show her a little interest, a little support and, most important, some love.”

Allen said at the start they would spend “afternoons walking and talking, delighting in each other’s company and, of course, going to bed.” And it was during one of those afternoon trysts that he took “erotic photographs” of her with a Polaroid camera he had been gifted.

Actors Woody Allen and Mia Farrow w. her adopted daughter Soon-Yi leaving Farrow's apartment to see Liza Minnelli at Carnegie Hall. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

“Turned out she could work it, and erotic photos they were, shots well-calculated to boost one’s blood up to 212 Fahrenheit,” he wrote. “Anyhow, you probably read the rest in the tabloids.”

Allen lived alone and while he put some photos in a drawer, he put others on his fireplace mantel — and that is where Farrow saw them. (Ronan Farrow, the former couple’s only biological child together, had therapy appointments at Allen’s apartment and his mother would bring him over and wait. While she waited, she wandered in the apartment and saw the photos.)

“Of course I understand her shock, her dismay, her rage, everything,” Allen wrote. “It was the correct reaction. Soon-Yi and I thought we could have our little fling, keep it a secret, since Soon-Yi wasn’t living at home and I lived alone like a bachelor. I thought it would have been a nice experience, and probably Soon-Yi would eventually meet some guy at college and enter a more conventional relationship. I didn’t realise how attached to one another we’d already grown. It had started slowly, but once it hit it was the real thing. Were it not for the discovery of the photos, who knows how long the burned-out, convenient regimen with me visiting the kids at Mia’s apartment would have lasted? Of course, sooner or later one of us would’ve been gone as it was definitely over in spirit, if not routine.”

Woody Allen's autobiography, "Apropos of Nothing," has been released after all. (Photo: Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing)

Allen said that things imploded at that moment, in early 1992, claiming Farrow “called all her kids together” that day “and spared them nothing. After explaining that I had raped Soon-Yi — which led [Ronan], aged 4, to tell people ‘my father’s f***ing my sister’— she called people and told them I’d raped her underage, retarded daughter. She then locked Soon-Yi in her bedroom, hit her and kicked her, and she and André cut off her college tuition. She then phoned me in the middle of the night several times to tell me Soon-Yi was awash in guilt and thinking of committing suicide. She’s a good actress, and when you’re awakened at 3 a.m. and a hysterical woman is telling you someone is suicidal, it’s unnerving. Soon-Yi was of course not allowed to use the phone, and this was pre–cell phone days. On the advice of a well-known psychiatrist neighbour, Mia was persuaded to send Soon-Yi to a reputable head doctor. Once out of the house, Soon-Yi called me and said of course she was not suicidal and didn’t regret a second we’d spent together, but Mia had her locked up and was violent periodically.”

While he said Farrow tried to keep them apart, he and Soon-Yi continued the illicit relationship — and he began involved in a custody battle in which he claimed that the actress vowed to keep their daughter Dylan from him in an act of “revenge.” Of course, several months later, Farrow publicly alleged that Allen sexually assaulted Dylan, then 7. Allen wasn’t charged and has repeatedly denied it.

Dylan, who maintains she was abused, spoke out against Allen’s memoir ahead of its planned release by Hachette, saying she was never contacted for fact-checking. It was her speaking out — as well as objections from Ronan, now a Pulitzer journalist — which led employees of Hachette to stage a walkout, demanding that the book not be published. Ultimately the Hachette — which had also published Ronan’s best-selling book, Catch and Kill — opted not to publish it.

On Monday, the news that Arcade Publishing would be publishing the memoir came as a surprise. Arcade editor Jeannette Seaver spoke of the decision to release the memoir, telling the Associated Press, "In this strange time, when truth is too often dismissed as 'fake news,' we as publishers prefer to give voice to a respected artist, rather than bow to those determined to silence him."