The Woody Allen Controversy Reader: A Closer Look At Mia Farrow’s Adoption Addiction (Or, The Perils of Using Adoption as an Emotional Salve)
“I don’t know if you know anything about my family, but they are drawn from a large number of countries, and different cities. Most of us are not related by blood, but by love, and the deepest commitment. So when we hear of children, wherever they are – when there is suffering, they are members of our family.” — Mia Farrow, 2013.
“Mia was always very strong-willed. When she was in a bad mood, we’d call that side of her personality ‘Mildred.’ Once, when we were on a boat going somewhere, I said: ‘Let’s throw Mildred overboard.’ Mildred drowned, but the stubbornness remained. You know, I think Mildred is what got her through life.” — Maureen O’Sullivan (Mia Farrow’s mother), 1979.
Mia Farrow has had, to date, 14 children — four biological and ten adopted.
If you simply want a quick reference list of them all, you can find it here. If you would like more detail as to events surrounding Farrow’s desire and motivations for her large family, as well as the nature of her relationship with her children and Woody Allen, read on…
While some have looked upon Farrow’s constant desire to continually adopt more children — many from disadvantaged backgrounds — as a sign of her selfless and giving nature, others have criticized her for her actions, suggesting that her impulse to adopt has actually been detrimental to her family and many of the children themselves.
As Elle Magazine aptly put it, her adoption history is, “a fact some consider admirable and others hold up as evidence of an irresponsible savior complex.”
This became a central issue in the custody battle between Farrow and Woody Allen, whom she shared three children with — Moses, Ronan (originally named Satchel) and Dylan.
The reasons behind the custody battle between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were complex and multifaceted, just as the entire controversy over Woody Allen is to begin with.
The roots of the battle stem from Farrow discovering the fact that Allen became romantically involved with Soon-Yi Previn, a woman who was Farrow’s adopted daughter but had no family relation to Allen himself. In the months that followed, Farrow would go on to accuse Allen of abusing Dylan Farrow, the 7-year-old that Farrow had originally adopted as an infant whom Allen also adopted years later.
Farrow’s supporters have argued that Allen’s filing for custody of the three children he shared with her was nothing more than strategic ploy to deflect from the charges of molestation that Farrow had made against Allen during their private negotiations to work out a custody arrangement — talks which broke down, leading to Allen’s lawsuit.
Allen filed the lawsuit on August 13, 1992, less than 10 days after Farrow accused him of molesting Dylan, but before the allegations were made public or divulged to the press. The theory is that Allen knew the allegations would eventually be made public, so he only filed suit before the press got ahold of the story so that he could then preemptively claim that they were the same sort of fictional, malicious stories that vindictive partners often make up in the midst of a bitter custody battle.
Allen claims the reasons he filed for custody included the fact that he feared Farrow’s allegations would be part of strategy to deny him even partial custody or visitations rights altogether.
As Allen told Newsweek: “ Mia could have prevented it all. When she accused me of child molestation, I felt that was the time to say I don’t want my children in that atmosphere, it’s too sick. And that’s when I did what I had to do. I never thought about anything but the children. I didn’t think about my reputation; I don’t care if I never work again, it means zero to me. When that happened, that was so grotesque, and so fraudulent and so sick that I felt I’ve got to get those children out.”
As the Washington Post reported: “Allen said his lawsuit seeking custody of the three youngest children is a step he took only in response to Farrow’s ‘outrageous allegations. … I felt that for the sake of all my three children I must try and remove them from an atmosphere so unhealthy it can surely leave irreparable scars.’ ”
(Farrow would eventually ask a court to rescind Allen’s adoption of Dylan and Moses, a request that was rejected.)
But there was another reason he cited for requesting custody — the fact that he felt Farrow couldn’t be an effective mother to his children because she had spread herself too thin in caring for so many children at once.
One of Farrow’s nannies said that the Farrow house was “more like a foster home with all those kids”, while Allen’s own sister said, “When you scratch the surface, it’s a nightmare [in Farrow’s house]. She is a working parent who has a limited amount of time and she doesn’t know what’s going on … She just adopts and adopts in a manic frenzy.”
It is this theory that the following essay means to explore (*). But first, it might be helpful to recount some background of the Allen/Farrow relationship to begin with since it was an unconventional relationship that has been the subject of much misinformation.
(* I am indebted to Nadie Lo Dijo for providing me with research confirming information pertaining to the federal immigration laws regarding foreign-born adoptions as well as a key passage from Mia Farrow’s memoir concerning the nature of the Allen/Soon-Yi relationship. I also wish to thank other unnamed friends who helped me correct a few important typos along the way.)
The Nature of The Allen/Farrow Relationship
Despite sharing three children together, Allen and Farrow were never married and never even lived together.
They first met in late 1979 at Elaine’s — a famed restaurant in Manhattan where the pair were introduced to each other by actor Michael Caine. They began to see each other regularly in the Spring of 1980.
Although most accounts claim that the Allen/Farrow relationship lasted 12 years (from 1980–1992), even that characterization is extremely misleading in many respects. They didn’t officially, publicly break up until 1992, but that is not to suggest that they actively carried on a romantic relationship for that long. Allen and other sources insist that they largely stopped being sexually intimate with each other in 1987, when Farrow became pregnant with Ronan.
For the final five years, they largely behaved like a platonic couple who lived apart — refusing to formally call it quits on each other, but not acting like a loving, committed couple that one would imagine when hearing the phrase “12 year relationship”.
There was still platonic affection, to be sure. In fact, in 1991, Allen gifted Farrow $1 million after having a particularly lucrative year. (See Newsday, March 20, 1993, pg. 3.) However, there was still no sexual interactions between them at this time.
So in terms of describing the actual length of Allen and Farrow’s romantic relationship, it was actually closer to seven years than 12 years. It was largely due to Allen’s desire to continue to see his children that the Allen/Farrow “relationship” continued for an additional five years.
During all this time, even during the initial “romantic” years, they always maintained separate residences in New York. Allen never once spent the night at Farrow’s apartment in Central Park.
The New York Post, citing Farrow’s own memoir as a source, wrote, “Allen would have his secretary call her to make dates. He would rarely call her by her name. Upon the adoption of their first child, he tells her, ‘Look, I don’t care about the baby. What I care about is my work.’ ”
The Post also confirms what Farrow has long said, that Allen “mostly ignored” her own children, and that one her “greatest regrets” was that she “permitted this to continue through 12 irreplaceable years of their childhoods.”
Every knowledgable source confirms the fact that Allen ignored and had no interest in Farrow’s children.
Journalist Murray Kempton wrote, “[Allen] continued to live by himself and kept so clear of [Farrow’s] seven children that, often on their dates, he preferred to wait in the car outside until she came downstairs.” (Newsday, Mar. 23, 1991, pg. 37.)
Kristi Groteke was a nanny to Farrow’s children who was hired in the summer of 1991 and throughout 1992 when the Allen/Farrow relationship dissolved. In her book “Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal” (Carroll & Graf Pub.), she writes the following:
[A]ccording to Mia, “[Woody] just made it clear that he had no interest in being in my apartment.”
Yet in 1984 this pattern changed abruptly with Dylan’s adoption. Suddenly, there was an infant to think about, and so the Farrow-Previns stopped shuttling across the park. With Satchel’s birth two years later, the emotional chasm between Woody and Mia became even wider than the physical separation. By the time of my employment, I couldn’t help wondering, Didn’t Mia’ and Woody ever desire any romantic time together at all? Didn’t they want to wake up in each other’s arms? Or share toothbrushes and morning toast? What did they have against those little everyday expressions of togetherness that make up a love affair?
Woody may have whisked Mia off to the Carlyle Hotel for a high-priced evening of love, but the truth is, I never saw them kiss. Never. Not once. Nor did I ever see them hold hands affectionately or spontaneously touch. It was fortunate, I thought to myself, that Mia had all these children to hug and kiss and hold, kids who would let her love them properly.
[“Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal”, pg. 45]
Was their relationship completely platonic after the Ronan pregnancy? Farrow claims this was not the case, but she does not deny a fundamental change in their relationship after her pregnancy with Ronan.
As Kristi Groteke recounts in her book:
As for their sexual relationship during the six months prior to her discovery of the [Soon-Yi] affair, Mia admitted to the court that it was virtually nonexistent. At that time, she claimed, Woody showered her with a litany of excuses-his version of “Please, honey, I have a headache.” Except in his case the excuses were more farfetched. In the fall he put Mia off, sometimes saying that he had come down with a recurrence of his Lyme disease; other times that it might be chronic fatigue syndrome; still others, he was fearful that he had AIDS. “[He said] that he had been with prostitutes thirteen years before, and he had just received some data or read something where you could get AIDS even as long as thirteen years after being exposed to it,” claimed Mia. “He had blood tests [finally], and in early December he told me the results: he did not have AIDS, but he couldn’t account for his fatigue.”
Mia traced the decline of their sexual relationship back to the birth of Satchel. “I thought about it a lot,” she said, “and I thought that maybe I’d made a mistake having him in the room during my Cesarean.” She also wondered if perhaps Woody’s disinterest in sex was because he was getting older, or, yes, “Maybe this is what happens after twelve years together.”
On their third family trip to Europe, specifically Ireland, in June 1991, Woody and Mia stayed in separate rooms. Woody, she said, needed his own bathroom and a quiet place to write. In New York, she explained, they would occasionally have sex in Woody’s apartment or his screening room up until July, 1992, but never in her house.
[“Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal”, pgs. 200–201.]
Allen himself described the situation this way: “Mia and I were going through the motions of a long-defunct relationship and, you know, I would get up, go there in the morning, play with my kids and then go to work. And then come back at night, play with the kids, put ’em to bed. Mia and I had a civil relationship. We went out to dinner once a week, maybe, but we never did anything together.”
He had testified in court that he had not slept with Farrow during the last five years of their 12-year relationship, save for a single instance near the end when Farrow first discovered his affair with Soon-Yi Previn — an act he said he did after Farrow begged him to, which he complied with in order to calm her down. (See Newsday, Mar. 23, 1993, pg. 3.)
At this same time, Farrow also reportedly begged Allen to marry her as a way of reassuring her that he would not continue his relationship with Soon-Yi. Again, as a means to placate Farrow’s reaction which vacillated between near-homicidal and suicidal rages at times, Allen effectively lied by saying he would consider it. (See Newsday, Mar. 24, 1993, pg. 5.; Dr. Susan Coates recounts Farrow asking her if she thought she should marry Allen, a proposition she thought to be absurd under the circumstances.)
The bottom line is that it not entirely accurate to suggest that Allen and Farrow maintained a steady romantic relationship for 12 years. They may have maintained a complex relationship for 12 years, but descriptions of it simply as a “12-year relationship” without noting their separate residences, the refusal to marry and the serious change in the relationship after the Ronan pregnancy might leave the uninformed reader with a false impression — one that fails to take account of the true dynamic that developed over the later years.
Unraveling The Complex Situation With The Children That Allen and Farrow Shared Together
Since Allen and Farrow were never married and never lived together, and with Farrow having several children but Allen only having three, some adopted, some not, people get understandably confused as just what Allen’s relationship with his children were and how it came about.
Let’s start with Mia Farrow’s children.
Farrow’s Six Children From The Andre Previn Era (1970–1979)
Her first children were twins Matthew and Sascha that Farrow gave birth to in 1970 stemming from her illicit affair with composer Andre Previn while he had been married to his wife Dory.
(Previn would divorce Dory and marry Farrow when the pregnancy was discovered, contributing to a nervous breakdown by Dory that caused her to be institutionalized and undergo electroshock therapy.
The experience prompted Dory Previn to compose an album of songs in 1970 that included the tunes “Beware of Young Girls” whose lyrics were inspired by Farrow’s affair with her husband, and “With My Daddy in the Attic” concerning the tale of an incestuous affair between a clarinet-playing father and his young daughter that takes place in an upstairs attic. Farrow would later admit in court to be being aware of Dory Previn’s compositions and that the song “Beware of Young Girls” specifically referred to her.)
Farrow’s marriage to Previn lasted from 1970 to 1979. In addition to their initial twins, they had the following additional children together:
1973 — Lark Song Previn, an adopted infant from Vietnam.
1974 — Fletcher Previn, the third and final biological child that Farrow and Previn had together.
1976 — Daisy Song Previn, another adopted infant from Vietnam.
1978 — Soon-Yi Previn, an adopted girl from Korea whose birth records were lost but was estimated to be anywhere between 5 and 7-years-old based on medical bone scans performed on her. The Farrows would go on to treat her birthday as occurring on October 8, 1970 for purposes of her passport and birthday celebrations, making her nearly 8 at the time of her adoption.
By the time they divorced in 1979, Farrow and Previn had 6 children together, 3 biological sons (Matthew, Sascha and Fletcher) and 3 adopted daughters (Lark, Daisy and Soon-Yi).
Shortly after her divorce to Previn, People Magazine stated in their profile of her, “The more mature Mia now seeks fulfillment in her children.”
Farrow’s Three Children From The Woody Allen Era (1980–1992)
After her divorce from Previn, Farrow adopted two more children as a single mother and gave birth to another that is reported to have been Allen’s but whose true paternity has been questioned in some circles (more on that later). Keep in mind that Farrow and Allen still never married or even lived together during this time, and that when Mia Farrow originally adopted her two children from this era, she was the only one to originally adopt, not Allen.
1980 — Moses Farrow, a 2-year-old with cerebral palsy adopted from Korea.
1985 — Dylan Farrow, adopted as a two-week old infant. (*Nearly all sources cite 1985 as the year Dylan was adopted, despite Groteke’s reference in her book to the event taking place in 1984.)
1987 — Ronan Farrow (originally named Satchel), who Mia Farrow gives birth to. (The father is presumed to be Allen’s at this time.)
There are actually many instances of Farrow changing the name of her children throughout the years. More on that later. But for now, I shall refer to Ronan by his current name and all others by their names listed above.
So by the end of 1987, the parental status was this: Farrow now had nine children. Five of her children were adopted, and four she had given birth to. Woody Allen now had one child (Ronan), with whom he had with Farrow, despite neither marrying nor living with her.
The Changing Status of Allen as Father: Allen’s Initial, Long-Time Reluctance Regarding Children
Before we explore how Woody Allen managed to become a father to three children that he shared with Mia Farrow without ever marrying her, let’s back up a bit and examine his relationship to children before the mid-to-late 1980s when things began to change for him.
In complete contrast to Farrow’s mindset, Allen had initially never been interested in children when he began his relationship with Farrow — not in having them, nor in even being around them. That is why some considered their relationship to be such a mismatch at first glance.
Allen had been married twice previously, first to Harlene Rosen (1956–1962) and later to Louise Lasser (1966–1970). Neither marriage produced any children, and there is nothing to suggest that Allen ever wanted any during this time.
In her autobiography entitled “What Falls Away” (Random House Pub.), Farrow herself described the realization she had from the start of their relationship concerning Allen’s aversion to children.
I was, of course, acutely aware that he had lived his forty-five years entirely without children. He had never dated a woman with even one child. As he put it. “I have zero interest in kids.” And if that wasn’t clear enough. he talked about his sister, who also lived in Manhattan, with whom he had shared an unusually close childhood. He spoke to her on the phone; he loved her, and he helped her financially, but he avoided her company. He described her as “pushy,” and as an example he told me about her unwelcome and futile efforts to involve him with her children when they were younger.
[“What Falls Away”, pgs. 177–178]
Allen told biographer Eric Lax, among the many differences he had with Farrow was the fact that, “[s]he likes to spend tons of time with kids; I like to spend my time with work and only a limited time with kids.”
Farrow knew all of this about Allen from the beginning, yet Farrow’s own, polar-opposite obsession with children manifested itself with him early on.
Sources say that only a mere three weeks into their relationship, Farrow told Allen, “I want to have a child with you.” Allen laughed off the suggestion as crazy. [See Newsday, November 18, 1992, pg. 3.]
Farrow continually persisted in her suggestion that they have a child together, and as their relationship grew over the next few years, Allen finally agreed (despite the fact that he still never considered marriage with her). The problem was that when they finally began to actively try to have a child together, Farrow had trouble getting pregnant despite Allen’s efforts. It was at that point, in 1985, when Farrow decided to adopt Dylan by herself in order to help satiate her need for another child. [Newsday, November 18, 1992, pg. 3]
Farrow’s adoption of Dylan therefore stemmed in part from her disappointment over the fact that Allen was unable to impregnate her despite her continued desires for another child. It was only a year later that she became pregnant with Ronan.
Again, it was also this period when the Farrow/Allen relationship began to wane and became essentially sexless.
In the eventual custody dispute between Allen and Farrow, The New York Court of Appeals wrote in its decision from May 1994:
While [Allen] testified that he was happy at the idea of becoming a father, the record supports the finding that Mr. Allen showed little or no interest in the pregnancy. It is not disputed that Ms. Farrow began to withdraw from Mr. Allen during the pregnancy and that afterwards she did not wish Satchel to become attached to Mr. Allen.
Reporters Mitch Gelman and Dennis Duggan reported on the Farrow/Allen breakup for Newsday. Their published account on November 18, 1992 entitled “Woody’s Story: Friends Tell Tragic Tale of Jealousy, Obsession” was based on “interviews with friends of Allen, material related to the case obtained by New York Newsday and previously published reports”. In it, they reported the following:
Three months into the pregnancy [of Satchel/Ronan], friends say, he was waiting for her to come over on a Friday evening when the phone rang. “I’m not coming over anymore,” Farrow said. “We’ve got to talk.”
Stunned, Allen went across the park to her place and Farrow explained that since they were not going to be together much longer after their child was born, she suggested he not get close to the baby. For Allen, friends said, this was a tremendous blow. The two never had sex again after that phone call, friends said, and Allen often thought back to the comment she made during the movie. He wondered whether she had just used him to get another baby.
Still, Allen was there for Farrow’s caesarian delivery of their son, Satchel, on Dec. 19, 1987 at New York University Medical Center. But when he saw Satchel’s birth certificate, he was shocked again: His name, according to sources, was missing. “The doctors and nurses just forgot,” Farrow told him, the sources said. But Allen had to hire lawyers to put it on.
While on the stand in his custody battle, Allen himself spoke about Farrow’s warning.
The New York Times reported: “In 1987, when she was pregnant with Satchel, he said, she told him, ‘Don’t get too close to him, because I don’t think this relationship is going anywhere.’ After the boy was born, Mr. Allen said, Ms. Farrow stopped sleeping with him, shunted Dylan aside and spent all her time with the new baby.”
Allen summarized the situation up until the mid-1980s:
“Until Dylan was born, I had no contact or interest in any remote way with the children, none whatsoever. I lived my life. They lived their life. Mia and I went out and worked together and that was fine. The only reason I believe that we stayed together was because we achieved a kind of separate stasis. It was comfortable and very distant, I mean, very distant, uh, you know, in every way.”
The Changing Status of Allen as Father: Questions About Ronan’s Paternity
Allen’s paternity of Ronan was never publicly questioned in the press at the time, and he raised him under the presumption that he was in fact the father. Thus he became Ronan’s legal father in the eyes of the law, regardless of what the factual truth might be. However, as Ronan grew into adulthood, more and more people came to suspect that Farrow’s ex-husband, Frank Sinatra, might have been the true biological father.
Though the question of who Ronan’s true biological father was has never been settled definitively, a review of the full range of evidence has at least served to continue speculation beyond the small conspiracy-minded crowd.
Despite any suspicions Allen or others may have had at some point about Ronan’s paternity, all indications were that he was a loving father to Ronan and fully supported him financially.
However, a fact that is rarely commented on is the reality that the change in the Allen/Farrow relationship from one of active romance to a platonic friendship between partners who have always lived apart happened to coincide with the time of Farrow’s pregnancy with Ronan.
Allen himself admitted, “My relationship with Mia was simply a cordial one in the past four years, a dinner maybe once a week together. Our romantic relationship tapered off after the birth of Satchel, tapered off quickly.”
None of this changes the fact that, by the end of 1987, the parenthood status of Allen was that of having a single son (possibly still not his own biologically speaking, but unquestionably his own legally speaking).
The Changing Status of Allen as Father: A New and Growing Interest In Fatherhood (1985–1990)
Farrow had adopted Dylan on her own in 1985. But her adoption of Dylan sparked a gradual change in attitude by Allen regrading the prospect of becoming a father.
With regards to this specific point in the timeline of their relationship, the published decision by Judge Elliott Wilk in the eventual custody battle between Allen and Farrow is both accurate and instructive.
Mr. Allen and Ms. Farrow met in 1980, a few months after Ms. Farrow had adopted Moses Farrow, who was born on January 27, 1978. Mr. Allen preferred that Ms. Farrow’s children not be a part of their lives together. Until 1985, Mr. Allen had “virtually a single person’s relationship” with Ms. Farrow and viewed her children as an encumbrance. He had no involvement with them and no interest in them. Throughout their relationship, Mr. Allen has maintained his residence on the east side of Manhattan and Ms. Farrow has lived with her children on the west side of Manhattan.
In 1984, Ms. Farrow expressed a desire to have a child with Mr. Allen. He resisted, fearing that a young child would reduce the time that they had available for each other. Only after Ms. Farrow promised that the child would live with her and that Mr. Allen need not be involved with the child’s care or upbringing, did he agree.
After six months of unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant, and with Mr. Allen’s lukewarm support, Ms. Farrow decided to adopt a child. Mr. Allen chose not to participate in the adoption and Ms. Farrow was the sole adoptive parent. On July 11, 1985, the newborn Dylan joined the Farrow household.
Mr. Allen’s attitude toward Dylan changed a few months after the adoption. He began to spend some mornings and evenings at Ms. Farrow’s apartment in order to be with Dylan. He visited at Ms. Farrow’s country home in Connecticut and accompanied the Farrow-Previn family on extended vacations to Europe in 1987, 1988 and 1989. He remained aloof from Ms. Farrow’s other children except for Moses, to whom he was cordial.
In 1986, Ms. Farrow suggested the adoption of another child. Mr. Allen, buoyed by his developing affection for Dylan, was enthusiastic. Before another adoption could be arranged, Ms. Farrow became pregnant with Satchel.
During Ms. Farrow’s pregnancy, Mr. Allen did not touch her stomach, listen to the fetus, or try to feel it kick. Because Mr. Allen had shown no interest in her pregnancy and because Ms. Farrow believed him to be squeamish about the delivery process, her friend Casey Pascal acted as her Lamaze coach.
A few months into the pregnancy, Ms. Farrow began to withdraw from Mr. Allen. After Satchel’s birth, which occurred on December 19, 1987, she grew more distant from Mr. Allen. Ms. Farrow’s attention to Satchel also reduced the time she had available for Dylan. Mr. Allen began to spend more time with Dylan and to intensify his relationship with her.
Mr. Allen conceded that he originally had no interest in children, while he said Ms. Farrow thought of little else. Paraphrasing, he said she had told him, “You have your work, and my big aim in life is having copious amounts of children.”
But when Ms. Farrow adopted Dylan as a newborn in 1985, he said, it transformed him. “At that point, I just became what I consider a wonderful, wonderful father to Dylan. It became the single most important thing in my life."
Thus began Allen’s eventual quest to adopt both Dylan and Moses, whom Farrow had previously adopted on her own. However, Allen still never considered marrying Farrow during this time. The idea was to be a second, single-parent adoption by Allen that was concurrent with Farrow’s single-parent adoption.
It is unclear at what specific point that Allen had firmly decided to formally adopt Dylan and Moses. However, the process of the adoption was still winding its way through the New York adoption and social services divisions throughout most of 1991. By the end of 1990, Allen was still only the legal parent of Ronan and no other.
The Changing Status of Allen as Father: Formal Adoptions Coinciding With the Soon-Yi Affair (1990 – 1992)
The fact that Allen had now shown an interest in adopting both Dylan and Moses did not suggest a change of heart regarding children in general for him. He still essentially ignored Farrow’s other children during his relationship with her. Though his growing interest as a father to Ronan and a potential adoptive father to Dylan and Moses caused him to spend more time at Farrow’s residence, they still lived apart and maintained what amounted to a largely sexless, platonic relationship.
As Judge Wilk explained in his court ruling, “Until 1990, although he had had little contact with any of the Previn children, Mr. Allen had the least to do with Soon-Yi.”
Allen stated in court, “She was someone who didn’t like me. I had no interest in her, none whatsoever. She was a quiet person who did her work. I never spoke to her.”
Q. Why did you want to have children with Mia?
A. I didn’t. She adopted Dylan, I didn’t. But a month after she was there, I found myself bonding with her. She was just the greatest little girl. Suddenly I got tuned into the joys of parenthood. When Mia said it would be nice if she had someone else, I think I’ll adopt another child, I said great. And coincidentally she got pregnant shortly after that. I was delighted.
Q. But then what happened to your relationship?
A. The relationship was starting to wane anyhow. Dylan’s arrival sort of resuscitated it for a while; we had something in common, co-parenting the kids. But when Satchel came along, it drifted down to a polite and cordial end.
Q. But didn’t you become a father surrogate to the children she had adopted with Andre Previn?
A. I was not involved with the other kids. They had their own father. I didn’t spend much time with them, particularly the girls. I spent absolutely zero time with any of them. This was not some type of family unit in any remote way.
In 1990, when Soon-Yi was 19, she started to communicate and interact with Allen regularly. It began when Allen had nobody to go to the Knicks basketball game with. Soon-Yi volunteered to go. Farrow encouraged Allen to take her since she had long encouraged him to spend more time with her kids though he had always previously declined to do so.
Eventually, Allen and Soon-Yi began a romantic affair. Allen testified during his custody case that his affair with Soon-Yi began a few days after Christmas 1991. Though some have questioned Allen’s testimony regarding the precise timeframe when their relationship became romantic, nobody disputes the fact that it began sometime in 1991, when Soon-Yi was at least 20-years-old.
Many have criticized Allen for his Soon-Yi affair not only because she was the adopted daughter of the woman whom he had previously had a romantic relationship with, but because it was assumed that, due to his romantic relationship with Farrow, he must have been a “father figure” to Soon-Yi and thus “groomed” her at a young age to become romantically involved with him.
Though the first criticism remains valid, the notion that Allen was a “father figure” to Soon-Yi or “groomed” her the way that sexual predators do towards minors is completely belied by the evidence.
In his Time interview from August, 1992, Allen gives details about the history of his relationship with Soon-Yi before they became romantically involved:
Q. How could you get involved with someone who was almost a daughter?
A. I am not Soon-Yi's father or stepfather. I've never even lived with Mia. I've never in my entire life slept at Mia's apartment, and I never even used to go over there until my children came along seven years ago. I never had any family dinners over there. I was not a father to her adopted kids in any sense of the word.
Q. Soon-Yi never treated you as a father figure?
A. Not remotely. She never said two words to me. For years I thought Soon-Yi was studying to be a nun. She was going to Sacred Heart, so I thought, well, I had no idea what she was doing. I was only interested in my own kids.
Q. How did your relationship with her begin?
A. One night, just fortuitously, I was over at Mia’s, and I had no one to go to the basketball game with. And Soon-Yi said, I’ll go. And so I took her, and I found her interested and delightful. This was a couple of years ago. Mia had encouraged me to get to know her. She would say, Take a walk with Soon-Yi, do something with her. Try and make friends with her, she’s not really as hostile to you as you might think. Mia thought it was fine I took her to the game.
Q. So then you started secretly dating her?
A. No. I took her to a game again, maybe a month later. And this happened on a few occasions. And we struck up a relationship. It was strictly — I don’t want to say an intellectual relationship, because I’m not saying we were discussing Kant or anything, but we chatted about different things.
Q. Did you talk about Mia?
A. Well, yes, I’m not sure I want to get into that too deeply, but she told me things that were surprising to me about the family, and that it was not exactly as happy as I thought it was. She and other kids had problems with their mother. Soon-Yi did not have a good relationship with her, and we spoke about that. She said her mother had been very cruel to her.
A. Physically, and mentally. Mia was very impatient with her. She had hit her with a brush. She had written English words on her hand because she couldn’t learn them, and made her go to school with them on her hand, and that humiliated her. I believe also she threatened to put Soon-Yi into an institution because she was impatient with her for having trouble learning the language. There were many other things. But I don’t want to say, because I don’t want to get anybody in trouble. But if I do have to say them someday, I will.
Q. But she may have been telling you these things because she was interested in you or trying to get back at her mother. How do you know they were true?
A. Because when I made it my business to check about it, I found out. She was worse to Soon-Yi because she stood up to her. And there was a definite difference in the way she treated the adopted children and her own children.
Q. How did your sexual relationship with Soon-Yi come about?
A. We’d chat when I came over to Mia’s house. It started to become hotter and heavier late last year, very late. We had a number of conversations, saw a couple of movies, and you know it just — well, I can’t say there was any cataclysmic moment.
Q. But you fell in love with her?
A. Yes, yes. My flair for drama. What can I say?
In Newsweek, Allen described the relationship this way:
I was not remotely close to Soon-Yi. She is the adopted daughter of Andre Previn and Mia. I must have spoken to the other kids in that house a hundred times more than Soon-Yi. Soon-Yi was a quiet person, and I never had any interest in her at all. None. And then once, when she was 20 years old or almost 2 1, one night I had no one to go to the basketball game with me, and she wanted to see a basketball game live.
Well, I took her to the game and, we chatted and had a nice time. And she said some things to me about the family that shocked me, and she said, you know, you’re not over here enough, so you don’t really know, but it’s not what you think it is. And we talked, and we got friendly, and a month or so later I said I’m going to the game again, do you want to go? And we went and we had a nice time and, and gradually over a period of time a strictly talking relationship developed. And then only, only long after the relationship was finished with Mia did it very gradually drift into an intimate relationship.
But she’s not part of my family. Soon-Yi has a very high-profile father; I was not a father figure to those children. I was a father figure to my own children, period. Those are the three in my will.
Please don’t try and dramatize my relationship with Woody Allen. He was never any kind of father figure to me. I never had any dealings with him. He rarely came to our apartment before his own children were born. Even then, he never spoke and the truth is I never cared that much for him. He was always preoccupied with work and never talked to me. Not really to any of us. Only when Dylan was born did he start visiting regularly and then only to play with the baby. My own father is Andre Previn, who came to visit pretty often and took us all out frequently. When I first got friendly with Woody, he and Mia were finished with their romance and were just friends.
It would therefore be inaccurate to suggest that Allen suddenly “dumped” Farrow for Soon-Yi since he hadn’t been romantically involved with Farrow since the Ronan pregnancy in 1987.
None of this is to suggest that there was somehow a complete and total “firewall” between Allen and Soon-Yi when she was a minor. He obviously knew of her existence. She, along with many other of Farrow’s children, appears as a background extra for a Thanksgiving scene in Allen’s film “Hannah and Her Sisters” (though any background extra will tell you that they almost never interact with the director on the set, only the assistant directors).
Kristi Groteke claims in her book about Allen and Farrow that “after she had turned thirteen, he would, specifically at Mia’s request, take long walks with her in order to help her feel more comfortable around men.” (“Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal”, pg. 80. The italics for emphasis here appear in Groteke’s original text. It should also be noted that Groteke was not hired by Farrow until 1991, when Soon-Yi was almost 21, so she obviously would not have first-hand, personal knowledge of this claim regarding Allen’s walks with Soon-Yi. Presumably the claim came from Farrow herself in her discussions with Groteke.
However, this information is contradicted in Farrow’s own memoir “What Falls Away”. On pg. 219 of her book, Farrow writes:
I can only suppose it had never occurred to my children that their mother would ever do anything that could result in pregnancy. It was an adjustment for all of them, and they seemed a little stunned at first, particularly Soon-Yi, whose dislike for Woody had always been palpable. Because she had arrived m our family just as Andre was leaving it, I worried that she had lacked a positive male role model in her life. So when she was little, I asked Woody several times if he would take her for a walk, buy her an ice cream or something, but he had declined. Now, when I told her I was pregnant, she burst into angry, uncomprehending tears. She didn’t like Woody, she said, he was nasty and ugly, and the baby would be ugly like him. I held her and tried to reassure her.
So though Allen’s critics insist that he was a “father figure” to Soon-Yi, and Allen claims that she “never said two words to me”, evidence suggests that the truth is likely somewhere between these two extremes, but far closer to Allen’s description on the spectrum. Allen was certainly aware of Soon-Yi’s existence as one of Farrow’s adopted children, and there was likely some occasional, minimal interactions when Soon-Yi was a minor, but always at Farrow’s own insistence.
But even if one were to fully assume the accuracy of Groteke’s account, it is both inaccurate and disingenuous to describe Woody Allen as a father figure to Soon-Yi or in any way a “groomer” of a minor child.
Soon-Yi’s only known father was Andre Previn. Full stop.
Soon-Yi has more recently finally spoken out to give a more detailed account of her relationship with Allen (and Mia Farrow), confirming the notion that Allen was never a father figure to her or “groomer”.
Critics of Allen who are desperate to paint his relationship with Soon-Yi as a form of child molestation will also point to a 2015 interview he gave to NPR where, when he described his relationship with Soon-Yi, stated, “I was paternal. She responded to someone paternal.”
They cite this interview as an “Ah-Ha! Gotcha!” moment as proof that, all along, Allen was really a “father figure” to Soon-Yi after all, and that Allen was finally confessing to an affair that morally amounted to incest. But any reasonable reading of his comments in context prove no such thing.
The use of the word “paternal” in the context of relationship with a much younger, but still adult, woman refers to the fact that Allen was able to expose Soon-Yi to many things in life that she otherwise would have been sheltered from. This obviously gave both Allen and Soon-Yi certain satisfactions in their relationship with each other, though different kinds of satisfactions for each partner.
Key excerpts from Allen’s NPR interview bear out this interpretation when he stated:
I liked her youth and energy. She deferred to me, and I was happy to give her an enormous amount of decision-making just as a gift and let her take charge of so many things. She flourished. It was just a good-luck thing.
And the age difference didn’t seem to matter. It seemed to work in our favor, actually.
She enjoyed being introduced to many, many things that I knew from experience, and I enjoyed showing her those things. She took them, and outstripped me in certain areas that I showed her.
This is common dynamic in many relationships, where one partner gets a vicarious thrill in introducing his or her partner to something new, and the other partner gets the pleasure of experiencing something new that they otherwise would not have experienced but for their relationship.
It is simply disingenuous for Allen’s critics to take his choice of words out of context and use it to argue that it somehow proves Allen is sexual “groomer” of young children.
Where things admittedly do get messy and morally complex (to put it lightly) is the fact that the beginning of Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi coincided with the final stages in his efforts to adopt Dylan and Moses.
Again, Allen testified that his affair with Soon-Yi first began a few days after Christmas 1991.
Earlier that very same month, Farrow had described Allen as a model parent to the officials in charge of approving his adoption of Dylan and Moses. In the first half of December 1991, she wrote a letter in support of Allen’s efforts to adopt, calling him a “loving, caring, attentive parent, far more of a father than most natural fathers are or choose to be.”
Allen’s adoption of Dylan and Moses was formally completed and finalized on December 17, 1991. This did nothing to change the status between he and Farrow. They both remained unmarried to each other, in a relationship that by now was essentially platonic and (as always, from the start,) living in separate residences.
According to Allen’s own testimony, his affair with Soon-Yi began less than two weeks later.
Others, including Farrow and Groteke, have speculated that it may have actually started months earlier, based on the amount of time that Allen and Soon-Yi were spending together in the months leading up to December 1991. (See Groteke’s “Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal”, pgs. 95–98.) Though nobody has disputed that the affair began in 1991, when Soon-Yi was at least 20-year-old, Farrow and her supporters argue that had the affair begun before Allen had successfully adopted Dylan and Moses, that fact likely would have prevented Allen from successfully adopting them, had it been known at the time. That is precisely the argument that Farrow used in her unsuccessful attempt to get the courts to void Allen’s adoptions — suggesting that it was performed under fraudulent circumstances. The court ultimately rejected Farrow’s arguments.
Less than three weeks after Allen insisted it began, Farrow discovered the affair on January 13, 1992, when she found nude photos of Soon-Yi at Allen’s apartment (taken at Soon-Yi’s request) and confronting her about it.
In February or March of 1992, within a month or two of her discovery of the Soon-Yi affair, Farrow, who had not been especially religious, had her children baptized. This included the children she shared with Allen, a move that he likely interpreted as a deliberate attempt to alienate them from him. (See Newsday, March 20, 1993, pg. 3, describing Allen’s court testimony which recounted the baptisms.)
Allen eventually sued for custody seven months later on August 13, 1992.
It is thus important to realize that when Allen tried to sue for custody of his children and Farrow subsequently tried to sue to rescind or void Allen’s adoptions, Allen himself had only been the father to Dylan and Moses for a number of months, whereas Farrow had been their mother for years beforehand.
Given the strange, “foster home” atmosphere in Farrow’s residence where some children had been adopted orphans while others Farrow had given birth to, Allen didn’t think Soon-Yi as a sister to his own children in any real, practical sense (despite the undeniable fact that they were legally considered as such).
In countering the criticism by both the members of the Farrow family and the general public, Allen explained to Newsweek:
Yes, but it’s not that they’re really sisters.
These are kids who are very, very dependent on Mia. A number of them are orphans, you know. Some of them are her own flesh and blood, but they’re completely financially dependent. When she parades these kids on television, what do you think they’re going to say? They’ve got to go home and sleep there, they’re dependent on her for food, for school funds, for everything. As they become independent, they will say other things.
Time Magazine’s Richard Corliss does an admirable job in trying to speculate about and explain the mindsets at play here:
Allen’s argument goes like this: Once upon a time, he and Mia were together, adopted kids, had one. When they stopped having sex, it was as if they were divorced but retained joint custody of the children. He was surely divorced emotionally; he could see no betrayal of Mia by turning to Soon-Yi. Perhaps Mia was still in love with him, assuming she had any love left over. But if Farrow’s love turned to total obsession — the woman-scorned syndrome, which could provoke fantasies of child abuse — Allen’s had long since become total detachment. That is why he admits not the slightest ethical error or ambiguity in his affair with Soon-Yi. It is also what blinds him to one crucial fact: he may not have considered himself Soon-Yi’s father; but he must have known that Farrow considered herself Soon-Yi’s mother.
Allen’s defenders might take issue with the “divorced” analogy that Corliss uses here since Allen never even lived Farrow at any point, making any “marriage” analogy a weaker one than it otherwise would be. They might also argue that any ethical errors seen at the time should be considered in the now current context of Allen’s successful and seemingly-happy marriage to Soon-Yi that has endured for over 20 years.
However, to many who saw Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi as unethical to begin with, subsequent events did not alleviate Allen’s “original sin” of starting the affair and look upon the fact that Allen never lived with Farrow as an irrelevant technicality.
No matter how you look at it, there is no denying the fact by anyone that this was an unusual situation overall that was difficult to analogize to other kinds of familiar relationship dynamics.
The mess and chaos of this state of affairs left the parental status by the end of August 1992 as follows:
Farrow now had nine children. Five of her children were adopted, and four she had given birth to.
Woody Allen now had three children that he shared with Farrow as co-single parents. Two of whom were adopted (Dylan and Moses) and one (Ronan), with whom he had with Farrow (despite the continuing, legitimate questions as to his true paternity).
Farrow’s Adoption Spree (1991 - 1995)
After her well-publicized, final public split from Allen in 1992, Farrow would go on to successfully adopt five more children between the latter half of 1992 and 1995, bringing her total number of children to 14. She had made attempts or engaged in initial steps to adopt even more.
Many have speculated that adoption has been Farrow’s way of compensating or distracting from other emotional turmoils in her personal life. The sudden spasm of her adoptions in the wake of Allen leaving her for one of her own adopted daughters does nothing to dispel this theory.
Her first attempted adoption since Dylan actually occurred in October 1991 when her relationship with Allen was at a low ebb, but before the Soon-Yi affair became a factor and caused Farrow’s final split with him. This attempted adoption involved a paraplegic boy from Vietnam named Sanjay, whom authorities guessed to be six years old.
In an interview with Allen’s sister, Letty Aronson, Time Magazine wrote the following in August 1992:
“Mia adopts children in a manic nature — not for their needs but for hers. She favors her biological children while treating the older adopted kids as servants. I think Mia always had a grand plan to meet Woody, have a relationship with him, be in his films and eventually have his child. Once she did, things began to deteriorate. But even after she knew about Woody’s affair, she still wanted to continue her relationship. If he gave up Soon-Yi, Mia would make the children accessible and drop the charges. She’d even want him back.”
Aronson denies that Allen was a father figure to Soon-Yi. “Andre Previn was her father,” she says. “He supported her; he visited her; they saw him on vacations.” She also disputes the image of Farrow as an Earth-Mother Teresa. Early this year, Aronson says, Mia journeyed to Vietnam to adopt a boy, and she “dragged Satchel along — he wasn’t even four — exposing him to illnesses and disease.” The adoptee was using a wheelchair. When Mia returned, says Aronson, she took the boy to a doctor and learned he might also be slightly retarded. “That was not a handicap that suited her, so she pawned him off on another family. She gave him back to the woman who had arranged the adoption.”
Kristi Groteke offers a more sympathetic account of the attempted Sanjay adoption, but she doesn’t deny the fact of its occurrence, nor the fact that Farrow eventually felt compelled to give him up. She writes:
[W]hat stands out most about that day is how utterly delighted Mia seemed with Sanjay. In moments we were walking up to the house, where she showed me the wheelchair that she had had custom-built for him. It was bright red and cheery-looking, with a checkerboard-patterned seat cushion. “I’m so thrilled that he’s here with us, Kristi,” she confided. She was prepared to start building ramps leading from her stone terrace into the kitchen, and from the laundry room steps that led down to the boys’ room. Mia reacted instinctively and wholeheartedly to these special considerations. They were part of what made her so pleased to adopt disabled children.
The next time I spoke to her, however, Mia appeared much less chipper. When I asked what was wrong, she told me that the family was having problems with Sanjay. Several doctors had examined and tested him, and although they had previously assumed that his babble had been a Vietnamese dialect, now they claimed that it was no dialect at all, that he had never learned any language skills whatsoever. The new child soon presented a series of thorny problems. An entry from my journal:
October 16, 1991.
Mia is in a dilemma over Sanjay. Doctors have agreed that
he is retarded and functioning at the level of an eighteen-
month-old. He pulls himself around on his hands. He is
driving the kids crazy with his constant screaming and
carrying-on. At night he shrieks at the top of his lungs,
waking up Satchel repeatedly, Several doctors have looked
at Sanjay, but none seem to find the real problem. Mia
may have to give him up. God pray she feels no guilt and
In our next phone conversation a few days later, Mia told me that she was giving Sanjay to a New Mexico family who had actually requested a child exactly like him, one with extensive disabilities. Though she was beset by guilt and anxiety, she felt that he couldn’t function in her family.
[“Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal”, pgs. 65–66.]
Groteke confirms throughout her book what many other sources have claimed — that Farrow had a near reflexive habit of trying to adopt children during times of stress in her own life as a way of trying to focus her own attentions elsewhere, regardless of the wisdom of the timing of bringing another child into the household or concerns about the child’s own best interests.
On pg. 69–70 of “Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal”, Groteke recounts the time in January 1992, shortly after Farrow found out about the Soon-Yi affair.
Shortly after her trembling phone call, Mia adopted Isaiah, a black crack baby. And a week later, Tam, eleven, a blind girl whom Mia and Woody first saw standing beside Sanjay in photos taken at their Vietnamese orphanage, arrived, following a year of frustrating bureaucratic red tape. Mia thought briefly about canceling Tam’s adoption, but then decided that she simply couldn’t in good conscience do that to this little girl’s future. Besides, she felt, it would make her happy too. She immediately cut Soon-Yi’s face out of a photo that hung, framed on the wall, replacing it with Tam’s. Nobody noticed this seemingly bizarre act. Two days later Mia guiltily removed the picture.
With two new children in her household who were extremely demanding, Mia often asked me to help her on weekends. She seemed preoccupied. Occasionally I would walk in on her in the kitchen and see her crying. I figured that maybe she and Woody were having a hard time or thinking about breaking up. But she never mentioned anything specific to me. She never told me that Woody was cheating on her with her own daughter, and that is why she had removed the girl’s image from the family photo. Not then.
That winter Mia had her hands full with the new arrivals. The timing of the adoptions seemed horrible, I thought. Here she was, expanding her family at the moment when everything that props her up personally and professionally was starting to crumble. Yet the paperwork for Tam’s adoption had begun a year earlier. Isaiah was somewhat of a surprise, although she had been talking about adopting a baby (as opposed to a child) for some months. His adoption may also have come out of an emotional void; she had just lost Soon-Yi and Woody, and perhaps was looking for a new outlet for her love.
She recounts Mia’s subsequent efforts to foster still another child on pgs. 113–114:
[E]ven with Mia’s agony over Soon-Yi and the demands of her two newest kids, she wanted to foster yet another child, a crack-addicted baby named Tunisia…
For a brief moment I was supportive of this foster-child plan, knowing that it would distract Mia from her own anguish.
But the moment I had my wits about me, I voiced concern about her adopting again. Didn’t Mia think she had her hands full with her other children? And was the possible arrival of Tunisia meant to be a diversion from the pain at hand? Or was it a way to test her own capacity for love at a moment that felt bleak and loveless? At any rate, when Mia mentioned this foster sister to Satchel and Dylan, they were enthusiastic. But they told their mother that they didn’t want any baby whom they would have to give back; they wanted one whom they could grow up with. Eventually, Mia withdrew her foster-child application. Little Tunisia and her doll clothes went elsewhere.
And again on pgs. 215–216:
In February  Mia toyed with adopting a six-year-old MS child who would most certainly die at an early age. She said the adoption agency had been looking for a home for the boy since he was two, and she didn’t want him to die alone. “No one will understand, Kristi, but it doesn’t matter,” she explained to me in a voice that sounded very sure. “What’s right is right.”
That may have been so, but I didn’t want her to take one more emotionally draining responsibility into her life. Mia said that she could handle this child because she had been through so much tragedy herself. I, however, thought it would be too hard on her kids. They were already suffering. Happily, the red tape to adopt this boy became too complicated-and Mia eventually abandoned the idea.
And yet again on pg. 228 where Groteke implies that talk of another adoption was triggered by Mia’s stress of having to testify in her custody battle:
When Mia once again began to talk of adopting, I figured that her emotional state was pretty delicate. Even though we shared a devout Catholic background, I couldn’t understand this need. Was it a way of distracting herself during hard times or even dull times? Or was it a real drive to do good in the world, to help others, as she claimed?
She was describing her needs and what fulfills her. She admits that it is in part a selfish need she has to adopt all these children. But as she ate her cereal, she explained to me that everyone must find a way to give in God’s eyes, and this was her way.
And yet again on pg. 243–244, where another attempted adoption is described that is again quickly discarded when Farrow realizes that the child is too severely mentally handicapped for her to deal with:
For Mia, it was a definite sign of recuperation, and of her faith in the future, that in January 1994 she received another new child from Vietnam.
Shay was her name. She was two and, like Tam, blind. Mia had been awaiting her arrival for almost a year. Yet, Mia had the baby at home for less than six hours when she realized-as she had with Sanjay the year before-that the child was severely retarded. Shay had an impaired sucking reflex, was unable to sit up in the crib, and her eyes were misshapen. Mia immediately brought her to the hospital for tests and began to fret about how difficult it would be to enfold a child like that into her family. Blindness was fine; mild retardation, fine; but with a brood as large, diverse, and needy as the Farrows, Mia quickly decided to give Shay up. (Another couple immediately adopted her.)
When I spoke to Mia in late January, shortly after she had given the baby up, she was saddened but resolved to adopt soon again. “I have a hole inside of me,” she told me. “I couldn’t bear to give Shay up, but I couldn’t keep her.” To fill her emptiness, Mia has already applied for another African-American crack infant, a little girl who will be a companion and playmate for Isaiah. She has already chosen a name from her Filofax list: Bailey.
Farrow would go on to successfully adopt this year-old child who ended up originally being named Kaeli-Shea before later having her name changed to Quincy.
That same year, Farrow adopted a paraplegic from India named Gabriel who later had his name changed to Thaddeus.
The following year in 1995, Farrow would go on to adopt Frankie-Minh, who, like Tam, was also a blind girl from Vietnam.
Even before her final adoptions, Farrow’s ex-husband Andre Previn was said to have joked, “You have to be careful where you step in Mia’s apartment. There might be a baby.”
Farrow’s own mother, actress Maureen O’Sullivan, admittedly lost track of how many grandchildren she had due to her daughter’s proclivity to adopt. When asked in 1994 how many children Farrow had, O’Sullivan said, “I don’t know. I think it is 12.” (She either managed to guess correctly, or was off by one, depending on what specific time of year she was asked this question.)
That same year, Allen gave his own interview to Esquire magazine where he cryptically alluded to problems within the Farrow household by stating: “You know, she is a good actress and a great-looking woman, but not a good mother. People just irresponsibly let her adopt children and no one says, ‘Hey, can you really take care of so many children?’ I mean, you can’t. I’ve had to do and say a lot of things over the last couple of years that were very tactful, things that I don’t necessarily believe, because my children are under her influence. It’s a difficult situation to deal with, and you have to go very, very slowly. Just as it was frustrating when the hostages were held in Iran. You know, you can’t rush in.”
Farrow’s Compulsion To Change The Names of Her Children After Birth or Adoption
Just as Farrow has shown a compulsion to adopt more children, she has also shown a penchant to change their names well after first becoming part of the family. Five of Farrow’s children have undergone name changes, some more than once.
The five children whose names were changed include:
- Dylan Farrow, who first changed her name to Eliza, then later to Malone, then apparently back to Dylan as seen in the most contemporary press and social media accounts.
- Ronan Farrow, who was originally born Satchel, then changed his name very briefly to Harmon, then to Seamus, all before changing it yet again to Ronan (supposedly because people kept mispronouncing Seamus).
- Summer Farrow who would later be called Daisy.
- Gabriel Farrow, who would later be called Thaddeus.
- Kaeli-Shae Farrow, who would later be called Quincy.
Dylan and Ronan first changed their names shortly after Mia Farrow and Woody Allen had split, leading to speculation that the name changes were a way of distancing themselves (perhaps at Mia’s behest?) from Allen.
Kristi Groteke writes of this period in the following passaged from pg. 216 in “Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal”:
It was early during that winter of 1993 that Dylan and Satchel decided to change their names-a decision that infuriated Woody. Dylan took the name Eliza because she was so charmed by Audrey Hepburn’s performance as Eliza Doolittle in the movie My Fair Lady), and Satchel chose Harmon, from a list of male and female names that Mia keeps in the rear of her Filofax for new adoptions. Both children had expressed interest in this. Maybe, I thought, they wanted to reclaim themselves from the reporters and photographers who hounded them at every turn of the corner. Mia consulted with the kids’ therapists, who felt that these changes might help them put the bad times behind them, and so she encouraged them as well.
But even if the theory of changing names as a way to cast off memories of Woody Allen is true, it doesn’t account for the name changes of Summer/Daisy, Gabriel/Thaddeus or Kaeli-Shae/Quincy. It at least suggests the possibility that Mia Farrow is as compulsive with the names and identities of the children themselves as she is in her desire to adopt.
Kristi Groteke confirms that Farrow kept a full “Filofax” of names for new adoptions. Perhaps she felt compelled to try them all out even during the periods when she wasn’t adopting. One can only speculate on the effect it might have one one’s identity as part of large brood of 14 children who have been banded together.
The Full Chronological Listing of Farrow’s Adoptions To Date
With all of the adoptions, attempted adoptions and name changes that Farrow imposed upon them, it is difficult to keep track of just how many children Mia Farrow adopted. The full chronological list of her 14 children is as follows:
- Matthew Previn — (Born to Farrow and Andre Previn in 1970. Twin brother to Sascha.)
- Sascha Previn — (Born to Farrow and Andre Previn in 1970. Twin brother to Matthew.)
- Lark Previn — (Adopted as an infant by Farrow and Andre Previn in 1973 from Vietnam. Born in 1973.)
- Fletcher Previn — (Born to Farrow and Andre Previn in 1974.)
- Daisy Previn — (Originally called Summer. Adopted in 1976 from Vietnam as a two-year-old girl. Born in 1974.)
- Soon-Yi Previn — (Adopted from Korea in 1978. Exact date of birth unknown, but public records state her birthday as October 8, 1970, making her at least 7 at the time of her adoption.)
- Moses Farrow — (Adopted from Korea as a two-year-old in 1980. Born in 1978 with cerebral palsy. Eventually co-adopted by Allen in December 1991.)
- Dylan Farrow — (Later changed her name at one point to Eliza, then Malone. Adopted by Farrow as an infant from Texas in 1985, the same year as her birth. Eventually co-adopted by Allen in December 1991.)
- Ronan Farrow — (Originally called Satchel, then Harmon, then Seamus, before settling on Ronan. Born to Farrow in 1987. Father is presumed to be Allen, but credible allegations have persisted that his true biological father may have been Frank Sinatra.)
- Tam Farrow — (Adopted in 1992 from Vietnam as blind girl at age 12 or 13. Exact date of birth is unclear, but the year of her birth is listed as 1979. Adopted the same week as Isaiah Farrow.)
- Isaiah Farrow — (A crack-addicted infant less-than-a-year-old adopted in 1992, the same week as Tam Farrow. Born in 1992.)
- Thaddeus Farrow — (Originally called Gabriel. Adopted in 1994 as a five-year-old paraplegic boy from India. Born in 1989.)
- Quincy Farrow — (Originally called Kaeli-Shae. Adopted as an infant in 1994. She was born in 1993. Reportedly could not use her arms initially at the time of her adoption.)
- Frankie-Minh Farrow — (Adopted in 1995 as a six-year-old blind girl from Vietnam. Born in 1989. Reportedly named after Frank Sinatra.)
Farrow’s Impulsive Emotional Need To Adopt, and The Efforts She Made To Overturn Laws That Had Stood In Her Way
Before trying to assess the results of Farrow’s continued desire to adopt ever-more children, it should first be noted that Farrow herself was responsible for overturning the law that previously prevented a person from adopting multiple foreign-born children to begin with.
There were numerous reasons for the restrictions in the first place: Concerns about potential child trafficking, the encouragement of baby selling, concerns about economic pressures unduly determining parenthood since adoptions from poor countries flow into richer countries, concerns that too many adoptions by a single family would not be in the long-term best interests for the children, etc.
The law had generally limited each family to two foreign-born adoptions. Farrow used her celebrity and high-profile connections to wage a lobbying campaign to overturn the law in order to allow her to adopt Soon-Yi.
Farrow states in her own memoir (“What Falls Away”): “Forget it, the [adoption] agency told us: to change the law would require an act of Congress. But we already had been sent a blurry black-and-white two-by-two-inch head shot of a child.… This was my daughter…. My old friends, Bill and Rose Styron, sought the help of Massachusetts Congressman Michael Harrington, and he agreed to sponsor the bill that was necessary…. Finally, in 1977, Congress passed the bill. Soon-Yi could come home.”
The Nation described her efforts as “a concise illustration of the workings of class privilege in America.”
When Kristi Groteke wrote about Farrow’s attempts to get the courts to void Allen’s adoptions of Dylan and Moses, she wrote: “It’s odd, and sad. Just a few years ago Mia went out of her way to help repeal a federal law prohibiting unmarried couples from adopting children together. Now she is trying to undo the very adoptions that took so much effort.” [“Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal”, pgs 253–54.]
(It is admittedly unclear which specific law Groteke was referring to with regards to the federal law that prohibited unmarried couples from adopting children together. Most such laws are determined at the state level. Nonetheless, it serves as further proof that Farrow was willing to use her star power to change the laws in order to make adoptions easier.)
Some observers have linked Farrow’s impulse for adoption to her own childhood experience in dealing with polio at age 9 — being forced into isolation for weeks and having her dog given away and personal belongings burned out of fear of having it spread.
In her memoirs, Farrow points to this event and states, “I was 9 when my childhood ended.”
She admits a connection between her own experience in suffering from polio and becoming involved in humanitarian causes.
“It made me feel like a pariah and left me with the desire to relieve suffering,” Farrow said.
Farrow’s son Matthew wrote, “My mother’s way of making life meaningful was to give a home to orphaned children.”
In observing Farrow’s life, Kathryn Harrison wrote in the New York Times, “A child who perceives herself as cut off from girlhood, she becomes the waif-woman fascinated with the never-never landscape of childhood, one who decades later (and before the liaison with Mr. Allen) characterizes herself as having an ‘inner life of turmoil, fear, loss, loneliness and disillusionment’ — a frightening void, which, it is difficult not to conclude, she fills with children: 14 of them.”
Even Kristi Groteke, one of the many assistants that Farrow had hired to help her raise the kids, concluded that Farrow’s motives to adopt may have come out of an “emotional void”. [“Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal” pgs. 70–71.]
Groteke also wrote, “I began to wonder if perhaps Mia had had the need to create her large and loving family in order to replace her large and indifferent one.” [pg. 185.]
In 1994, Farrow’s own mother became concerned with the amount of her adoptions, stating, “The last time she adopted, I was distressed. I said, ‘Oh, Mia, it detracts from your personal life and your physical life. What man would want to be so involved with so many children?’”
Others are even less generous in their assessment. An unidentified “member of the extended family who sides with Allen” described Farrow as “manipulative” and said, “Anyone who adopts this many children for her own needs has real stability problems.”
Columnist Patricia Volk took notice of the situation in her Newsday column dated April 2, 1993, excerpts from which included the following observations:
MIA FARROW describes Woody Allen as “needy.” What would she call a working single mom who keeps adopting more children? How did she get seven when my sister went through Adoption Hell getting one?
“If you have enough money and a big enough network of lawyers, and you’re willing to take one from overseas, you can always get a baby,” the home-finding coordinator of a New York adoption agency tells me. “I don’t think she’s capable of taking care of one, no less eleven.”
Are Mia Farrow’s adopted kids better off with her than they would have been otherwise? Do women who have serial relationships with famous men, women like Farrow, Jane Fonda and Francoise Gilot, rely on children for sustained intimacy? What’s private time like at the Farrow house, when Mia tucks each kid in at the end of the day? Does she start at 3?
“We would never give her a kid,” the coordinator continues. “You give her 20, she’ll want 30. She can never be satisfied. She’s like Swiss cheese. You can’t fill the holes. What are her motives? Is she emotionally deprived? Did she have a home study? Did she have an abuse clearance? We have people begging for babies. Why would we give one to a mother with 11 kids? They should have given her 11 cats. It would be the same thing.”
…I got married and had a baby. Then I had another baby. Still, despite a helpful husband, a great babysitter, and a boss who came in after I did, the days were still too short. What I had to split two ways, Mia Farrow split 11.
No mother can pass judgment on another mother. That’s for caseworkers, psychologists, supervisors and, in this case, the courts….One image haunts: Woody Allen comes to Mia’s apartment to pick up the three favored children, leaving the rest home. Three kids go to the circus with Mom and Woody, eight kids get left behind. There’s enough pain in that household for 11 families.
Mia Farrow. It means my litter. There are people who will tell you names are destiny.
Farrow’s estranged daughter, Soon-Yi, said in 1992, “I don’t think you can raise 11 (and soon she will have 13) children with sufficient love and care. Take it from one who’s lived through it — it can’t be done. Some of us got neglected, some got smothered. Anyhow, there’s problems. I could say many devastating things about Mia, but I will only do it if I must in a court.”
Allegations That Some of Farrow’s Children Are More Equal Than Others: Favoring Her Biological Children Over Her Adopted Ones?
Soon-Yi’s stark assessment of the environment she grew up in stands alongside allegations from others that, despite them all being Farrow’s children, the children that Farrow actually gave birth to were more privileged than the adoptees who were not always treated as well.
There was testimony from witness Jane Martin who said that Lark Previn was treated like a “pack mule” and a “scullery maid” in comparison to Farrow’s biological children.
Nanny Monica Thompson backed up the broader points made by Martin, testifying that “It was more like a foster home with all those kids. I noticed that the adopted kids did most of the chores — the cooking and the shopping — and her biological kids didn’t do much.”
Thompson also testified that the children would agree that bringing another adoptee into their family would not be a good idea, but that their concerns would be overridden by Farrow. She said that Farrow favored her biological children over the others.
Another unidentified nanny told the NY Post that Ronan was often allowed to stay with Farrow in her bedroom while most of the adopted children were relegated to places downstairs.
Speaking at a time when Ronan was being called “Seamus”, the nanny said, “I feel like Dylan [his adopted sister] and Seamus were up there with her a lot, and I was downstairs with the younger kids. There was kind of a divide between the adopted kids and Seamus.”
She described Ronan as being very close to his mother in a way that is not described with regards to the other children.
Fallout: The Perils of Using Adoption Addiction as an Emotional Salve (Or, The Dangers of Building A Foster Home, Rather Than A Family)
The circumstantial evidence of a divide between Farrow’s biological children versus her adopted ones only grows when you examine their lives.
Sascha Previn graduated from Fordham and became an accountant for Bohbot Communications Inc., a media buying company in New York, before becoming a stay-at-home father with his second wife, a pediatric cardiologist.
Matthew Previn is now a successful partner at a major national law firm.
Fletcher Previn is the Chief Information Officer for IBM.
Ronan Farrow is now the toast of high society — having won the Pulitzer Prize and accolades for his work in journalism, in addition to his voice lessons and working on global youth issues for the State Department in Washington.
Unlike the other children, Ronan often accompanies his mother on her humanitarian jaunts to Africa. (Though this partnership resulted in its own set of problems for Ronan — causing him to contract a rare bone disease that left him in a wheelchair, crutches and braces for several years, starting his late teens, if you believe the press about this story. Other sources claim that Ronan’s stint in a wheelchair was actually from Mia pressuring him into cosmetic surgery in order to make him look taller through bone grafts.)
In contrast, Quincy Farrow, despite working two jobs, has been forced to take to the Internet to ask the public for money just to sustain basic amenities of life. Quincy describes her situation as follows:
Never thought I would post for help. Many of you know me, I’m sure we’ve had good experiences together, and some of you know the full story of what is going on in my life right now. I’m in my second year of nursing school, (45 mins away from my house) I am working two jobs, paying for my apartment, food, oil, electricity, phone, honestly, the list goes on forever. These are things that you don’t realize your parents even pay when you are a child!! At first it was really hard, and then between school and work I got into a groove and for the past year have been doing OK for myself. Things took a turn on the 15th of this month when somebody was texting and driving and caused a four car accident on a major roadway near my home. My shoulder was dislocated, a small bone in my wrist was broken and I received a bad concussion with a very tiny bleed in my brain, which was observed until the next morning and found to be non life threatening. While, I’m so happy that my injuries were not more serious, my car was totaled… my car that I had spent two years saving up to buy and pay for in cash is completely gone. Now I need help in buying a new (used) car. I haven’t been able to go to work or school for the past 15 days because of my lack of transportation. I have been trying to figure out ways to work from home and raise money, pick up jobs where I can walk to, but at this rate, I feel my best option is to turn to my friends for help. I so desperately want to finish school and change the world, and it’s so hard when you’re stuck in one place. I never thought I would do something like this, but sometimes one of the bravest things you can do is ask for help. God bless you all
Though nobody is suggesting that the well-off Mia Farrow is as wealthy as Bill Gates, and though one can appreciate an attitude of a parent that encourages children to become self-sufficient, the contrast with Farrow’s biological children is striking. Given the specific circumstances of Quincy’s predicament, one can’t help but speculate that some of Farrow’s children might be more equal than others.
Farrow’s reputation was not helped any when it was alleged that Farrow was only able to find a photo of Quincy by doing an Internet search for “Mia Farrow and her black children”.
One observer said, “You’d think Mia Farrow would have a photo of her daughter without having to Google it… with such an awkward search.”
Farrow herself later claimed that someone else had used the search terms to send her a link to Quincy’s photo. But in either case, it made for an awkward confession.
Things have been more dire for many of Farrow’s other adopted children.
First there are the allegations of physical and mental abuse at the hands of Mia Farrow by Moses and Soon-Yi.
Moses recounts years of abuse, being slapped and having his mouth washed out with soap for things he never did, being humiliated by being forced to strip naked and stand in a corner where others could see him, and being constantly kept on a fearful edge over the erratic wrath of his adoptive mother.
Soon-Yi speaks in similar tones, telling Newsweek:
Mia was always very hot-tempered and given to rages which terrified all the kids. They can’t speak freely because they’re still dependent on her. But they could really tell stories and I’m sure one day will. It’s true Mia was violent with me and I have conclusive proof…Some of us got neglected, some got smothered. Anyhow, there’s problems. I could say many devastating things about Mia, but I will only do it if I must in a court…The tragedy here is that, because of Mia’s vindictiveness, the children must suffer. I will always have a feeling of love for her because of the opportunities she gave me, but it’s hard to forgive much that followed.
During the final rupture that led to her fleeing Farrow’s presence permanently, Soon-Yi said that Farrow had “punched her, hit her with a chair, ripped her clothing and repeatedly yelled at her in the middle of the night”.
Soon-Yi’s sister Lark spoke to the press who reported on a “traumatic powwow Farrow held with her older children during which Soon-Yi was told to choose between Woody and Mommy”.
Regardless of whether their relationship with Allen is one of a wife or an adopted son, both Soon-Yi and Moses now imply that his presence in their life ultimately resulted in their liberation from an abusive home.
Still others in the Farrow household had fates that proved to be even more tragic.
Thaddeus committed suicide in 2016 by shooting himself in his car that was parked in close proximity to his mother’s house. His death was originally reported in the press as a “car accident”. He was 27.
Lark was convicted of shoplifting, along with sister Daisy, in 1991. She then later developed a drug habit, becoming an addict and living in poverty before contracting AIDS and dying of the disease on Christmas Day in 2008. Lark’s own two daughters (Mia Farrow’s granddaughters) were tragically born with the AIDS virus as a result. (Remarkably, both members and friends of Farrow’s family actually blame Allen for this turn of events.)
Then there was case of Tam, who mysteriously died of a reported “heart failure” in 2000 at the young age of only 21. The notion of a 21-year-old girl dying of heart failure has led to speculation that Tam’s death may have been a suicide as well — especially in light of the fact that the family and authorities have refused to release further details concerning her death or say whether Tam had suffered a long illness. (The fact that Thaddeus’s suicide was initially reported as a “car accident” also does nothing to inspire confidence on this matter.)
Moses Farrow has subsequently come out to state directly that Tam had in fact committed suicide and that the press reports of “heart failure” were nonsense.
Most media sources claim my sister Tam died of “heart failure” at the age of 21. In fact, Tam struggled with depression for much of her life, a situation exacerbated by my mother refusing to get her help, insisting that Tam was just “moody.” One afternoon in 2000, after one final fight with Mia, which ended with my mother leaving the house, Tam committed suicide by overdosing on pills. My mother would tell others that the drug overdose was accidental, saying that Tam, who was blind, didn’t know which pills she was taking. But Tam had both an ironclad memory and sense of spatial recognition. And, of course, blindness didn’t impair her ability to count.
The details of Tam’s overdose and the fight with Mia that precipitated it were relayed directly to me by my brother Thaddeus, a first-hand witness. Tragically, he is no longer able to confirm this account. Just two years ago, Thaddeus also committed suicide by shooting himself in his car, less than 10 minutes from my mother’s house.
All of this comes in addition to allegations that all of the remaining children in her family have been taught (or coerced) by Mia Farrow to hate Woody Allen. Those that have defied her will seem to have been cast out and cut off from the family.
As UK reporter Tom Leonard wrote about Farrow’s adopted family that she “collected”, “Cynics have been saying for years that Farrow, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2000, might have been better off helping her own dysfunctional clan rather than trying to save the world. She has never really listened…Perhaps it’s just as well that Mia Farrow — a modern-day Joan of Arc on a quest to save humanity — can’t waste too much time worrying about her own ill-starred family. Just the thought of it might be enough to crush anyone.”
Does this factual recounting of events represent that of a “cynic”? Readers are invited to study the evidence and decide for themselves.
Coda: Woody Allen Embraces Marriage & Parenthood (1997 — Present)
After beginning his affair with Soon-Yi in late 1991, Allen eventually married her in 1997 (at age 27). Two years later in 1999, they adopted their first daughter Bechet Dumaine Allen, originally born in China in December 1998.
Allen and Soon-Yi adopted a second infant daughter in 2000, a six-month old named Manzie who (like Dylan) was originally born in Texas.
In 2018, Bechet and Manzie would respectively be 19 and 18 years old.
The state of New York had no problems in allowing Allen to adopt, despite the molestation accusations leveled against him by Mia Farrow and Dylan.
Much like their parents, both Bechet and Manzie have avoided the press. But it is interesting to note that there has never been so much as a rumor or whisper campaign of discord within Allen’s family to date. The rare instances of press coverage seems to suggest a happy, stable family in a marriage that has endured for over 20 years now.
The solitary accusation by Dylan Farrow against Allen while he and his mother were in the midst of negotiating custody arrangements during their pending break-up remains the only accusation against him — without even rumors surfacing of other instances of such behavior before or since throughout his life.
The man who actively ignored most of Mia’s children and admitted to enjoying “only a limited time with kids” has apparently come full circle to enjoy being a parent — but still at a pace where he knows his children will be able to get the proper attention they deserve.
Whatever personal desire Allen had for adopting more children, it seems to have benefitted everyone in equal measure. For Allen, adoption was not primarily a means of coping with other problems in his life.
Can Mia Farrow claim the same?