Perspectives

Woody Allen’s teenage lover reflects on ‘twisted’ dynamics and being ‘part of a pattern’

An aspiring actress who began an eight-year sexual relationship with film director Woody Allen when she was a teenager has spoken publicly for the first time about their time together.

Babi Christina Engelhardt was 16 in 1976 when she became involved with Allen, who was 41 at the time. The age of consent in New York state was 17.

While acknowledging how uneven their power was, Engelhardt insists she is not seeking contrition from Allen, unlike others for whom the #MeToo movement has proved emboldening. “What made me speak is I thought I could provide a perspective,” she told The Hollywood Reporter’s Gary Baum, in a wide-ranging interview. “I’m not attacking Woody. This is not ‘bring down this man.’ I’m talking about my love story. This made me who I am. I have no regrets.”

The accumulated reflections in the course of her interview, and lifted from her own autobiographical writings, suggests her perspective is a conflicted one, however.

Engelhardt, 59, says she met the director when she approached him in a New York City restaurant and gave him her phone number, after which they started to meet regularly at his penthouse. She was still attending high school in New Jersey when the clandestine liaison began, she says.

Aspects of their connection appear to have strongly influenced Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan, in which he plays a 42-year-old man who is sleeping with a 17-year-old girl, played by Mariel Hemingway. Engelhardt recalls seeing the film for the first time while they were still together, and crying through most of it as her “greatest fears crept to the surface,” that he was not serious about her.

When she next saw Allen, she told him she found a lot of similarities between her and Hemingway’s character, Tracy. “I thought you would,” is all she recalls him responding.

“That was it,” she reflects in her unpublished memoir. “That was all I would ever get out of him about the film, and looking back now, I am so angry with myself for not being stronger.”

Nor does Engelhardt presume she was the sole inspiration for the teenager character in Manhattan, mentioning Stacey Nelkin, who dated Allen while she was a 17-year-old high school student after meeting him during the making of Annie Hall, as well as other young women Engelhardt says she and Allen had threesomes with.

Watch a scene from Woody Allen’s Manhattan, in which he plays a 42-year-old man involved with a 17-year-old girl:

In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, writer Richard Morgan — the only man believed to have read the full 57 years-worth of Allen’s drafts, stories, and other assorted writings archived at Princeton University — argues that the collected works can largely be summarized by one basic theme — an “insistent, vivid obsession with young women and girls.”

Engelhardt told The Hollywood Reporter that that piece “put all of the dots together. It made me realize that I was part of a pattern. I’d never been privy to his mind in that way.”

“It wasn’t until after it was done when I really had time to think of how twisted it was when we were together … and how I was little more than a plaything,” she adds, reflecting on how he began his relationship with Mia Farrow while still sleeping with Engelhardt, seeing them both for another four years. “While we were together, the whole thing was a game that was being operated solely by Woody so we never quite knew where we stood.”

Engelhardt says she grew fond of Farrow over the course of a “handful” of three-way sex sessions at Allen’s penthouse, as they smoked joints and bonded over a shared sympathy for animals. As for Farrow, she reckons, “I always had the impression that she was doing this because he wanted it.”

In January, Allen’s adopted daughter Dylan Farrow gave an on-camera interview about her claim that he sexually molested her when she was 7 years old. Speaking with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, Farrow opened up about allegations that she has stood by for more than 20 years. Allen has always denied the accusations, and he did so again in a statement given to CBS News.

Farrow’s brother, Ronan, who helped break the story about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women, says Allen followed the Weinstein playbook of intimidation and media manipulation in order to quash her account of events.

Since then, some actresses who previously worked with Allen, including Ellen PageMia Sorvino and Greta Gerwig, have denounced the director and pledged to never work with him again. Actors Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Hall also expressed regret about choosing to work with Allen on his latest film, and subsequently donated their salaries from the film to charity.

Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter.

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