• U.S.

The Heart Wants What It Wants

14 minute read
Walter Isaacson and Woody Allen

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. But wasn’t it breaking many bonds of trust to become involved with your lover’s daughter?

A. There’s no downside to it. The only thing unusual is that she’s Mia’s daughter. But she’s an adopted daughter and a grown woman. I could have met her at a party or something.

Q. Were you still romantically involved with Mia when you became interested in Soon-Yi?

A. 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.

Q. What was your relationship with Soon-Yi when you first started going over there to visit your children?

A. I never had a single extended conversation with her. As a matter of fact, I don’t even think she liked me too much. The last thing I was interested in was the whole parcel of Mia’s children.

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.

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. Don’t you worry about what the children might feel when their dad is sleeping with someone they consider a sister?

A. I don’t think they think of “sleeping with.” They only know what is constantly drummed into them. And I don’t think my children feel any lack of affection or any rivalry. Soon-Yi and I will be very, very cognizant of their situation and feelings.

Q. Is Soon-Yi mentally handicapped in some way, as some have said?

A. No! Am I going to spend my time with a mental deficient? I mean, use your head. What would be the interest? She is not a mental deficient in any remote way. She goes to college, she is a psychology major, she has a B average.

Q. No learning disability?

A. Yes, a learning disability. I don’t know what. She came here when she was seven and didn’t know the language.

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.

Q. Physically?

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?

Q. She fell in love with you at the same time?

A. That’s hard to say. My guess is after. She returned my feelings.

Q. But didn’t it occur to you, worry you, that her feeling had something to do with her resentment of her mother?

A. I did not think that. I never think of those things. When you’re having a nice time, you don’t look for those motivations.

Q. Weren’t you worried that the emotions and motivations were too complex for a young girl?

A. No. Because if you knew her, you’d know that’s not true. She’s a sharp, grownup person. She’s probably more mature than I am. I really mean that.

Q. Your movies always explore these types of emotions and motives. You must have sat up one night and thought about the problems you might cause dating the daughter of a previous lover, a mother she doesn’t like?

A. I didn’t think about her not liking Mia. I did think that, well, she is the adoptive daughter of my previous girlfriend, but that didn’t mean anything to me. It didn’t manifest itself in any significant way. She was a grown, sophisticated person. She was raised in New York.

Q. You’re a guy who can find moral dilemmas in a broken DON’T WALK sign. Didn’t you see some here?

A. I didn’t find any moral dilemmas whatsoever. I didn’t feel that just because she was Mia’s daughter, there was any great moral dilemma. It was a fact, but not one with any great import. It wasn’t like she was my daughter.

Q. Did you ever discuss with her, “What is Mom going to think of this?”

A. Mom would have thought more or less the same thing if it had been my secretary or an actress.

Q. Come on!

A. There is a different psychodynamic here, without any question, but the difference is one of small degree. If I had said to “Mom” — it was actually “Mia” that she called her — I’m in love with my secretary, there would have been some version of the same thing.

Q. But you didn’t tell Mia before it blew up, right?

A. I wanted to make sure this thing was going to take off. For all I knew I might have just been a little footnote in Soon-Yi’s life, and then she would later say, Well, I had a little flirtation with my mother’s boyfriend at the end of their relationship.

Q. Did you talk to your analyst about how this would affect a child?

A. It wasn’t so complex. It doesn’t have that quality to it that you think.

Q. What about how it would affect her siblings?

A. These people are a collection of kids, they are not blood sisters or anything. If Mia did not keep them whipped up and enraged these days, telling them how to react, I don’t think they would have cared two seconds.

Q. Did you really take nude pictures of Soon-Yi?

A. Yes. Soon-Yi had talked about being a model and said to me would I take some pictures of her without her clothes on. At this time we had an intimate relationship, so I said sure, and I did. It was just a lark of a moment.

Q. What did Mia do when she found them?

A. She hit the ceiling. I said, Look, our relationship has been over for some time. We should go our separate ways. The important thing is that we do what is right for our children. She was too angry. She instantly brought all the kids in on it, told all of them. This was Jan. 13. It was a dreadful thing to do. She phoned people saying I had molested her daughter, raped her daughter.

Q. What did she do with Soon-Yi?

A. She locked Soon-Yi in the bedroom in her apartment — there’s a lot of corroboration of this — beat her on numerous occasions, smashed her with a chair, kicked her, raised black-and-blue marks so the kids at school said, Where did you get those? Finally, through the intervention of, I believe, a doctor, she got out of the house and went to live up in the college dormitory.

Q. Did you talk to Soon-Yi while this was happening?

A. She called me once when she could get to a phone and told me she was fine, that her mother would say she was suicidal, but it’s untrue. I love you, and I don’t regret a minute of this.

Q. Why did the whole thing become public?

A. Suddenly I got a memo from her lawyers saying no more visits at all. Something had taken place. When I called Mia, she just slammed down the phone. And then I was told by my lawyers she was accusing me of child molestation. I thought this was so crazy and so sick that I cannot in all conscience leave those kids in that atmosphere. So I said, I realize this is going to be rough, but I’m going to sue for custody of the children.

Q. Did you molest your daughter?

A. I have not molested my daughter, nor would I ever.

Q. What did happen in the house?

A. It was a Wednesday two weeks ago. I came in the midafternoon for a visit. Allegedly, I took her in the attic, according to what the child-protection agency told me was the allegation, and did unspeakable things to her. But nothing at all happened. Nothing. In light-years I wouldn’t go into an attic, I wouldn’t even know how to find Mia’s attic. I’m a famous claustrophobic. And I would not molest my daughter.

Q. Were you ever with her alone?

A. I may have been with her alone for a second, a moment or something, but I wasn’t really alone with her. I am not going to, on the eve of hammering out a separation agreement, drive to Connecticut and in Mia’s house, an open house, where there are two baby-sitters and people are always walking in and out, I’m not going to take her and molest her.

Q. Mia was there?

A. Of course she was there.

Q. There must have been some incident, some basis for this charge?

A. No, nothing. I was never in a private room with Dylan. I slept downstairs that night in the guest bedroom. The next morning when I was about to leave, the kids ran downstairs and were jumping all over me and playing with me. And Dylan gave me some brochure from a toy store and she had checked off some toys she wanted me to get for her. Everything was wonderful.

Q. Have you seen Dylan’s videotape?

A. No. And don’t you think that’s strange, that Mia made a videotape?

Q. Was there any other evidence?

A. She brought the kid to the doctor, and there is no physical evidence of anything.

Q. Then why do you think Mia and Dylan made the allegation?

A. The atmosphere up there in Connecticut is so rife with rage against me. So it’s possible this emerged from that. But it also could have been made up intentionally.

Q. Have you talked to Mia recently?

A. Yes, in fact she called me five times today ((Friday)).

Q. What do you say to each other?

A. She said, Can we stop this grotesque publicity circus? And I said, You have hired a lawyer, you’re parading relatives and the kids on television, you leaked this videotape of Dylan unconscionably. She said, Can’t we negotiate this? And I said, First you must clear my name unequivocally. And if you do that and we can agree to give Dylan some real therapy to get over the dreadful scars of this thing, and I am part supervisor of that therapy, then O.K., we can see if there’s a way of toning things down.

Q. Do you use your movies to work through dilemmas you’re facing in life?

A. No, people always confuse my movies and my life.

Q. But don’t you confuse your movies and your life?

A. No. Movies are fiction. The plots of my movies don’t have any relationship to my life. My next movie is a murder mystery.

Q. Who’s going to get murdered?

A. Oh, some stranger.

Q. Inappropriate love with younger women seems to be a theme in your movies and in your life, right?

A. It’s not a theme in my life. I’ve been married twice, both times to women practically my age. My two other relationships — Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow — they’re not really much younger women.

Q. Will your relationship with Soon-Yi continue?

A. Yes. I’m in love with her. As soon as the reporters go away, we’ll do the things we like to do. We’ll walk and eat out and go to the movies and basketball games.

Q. What’s your emotional bond, since it’s not intellectual?

A. It’s fully dimensional. I would not be interested in someone who’s not interesting.

Q. Do you consider it a healthy, equal relationship?

A. Well, who knows? It’s perfectly healthy. But I don’t think equal is necessarily a desideratum. Sometimes equality in a relationship is great, sometimes inequality makes it work. But it’s an equal-opportunity relationship. I mean, I’m not equal to her in certain ways.

The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that’s that.

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