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Soon-Yi Previn Accuses Mia Farrow of Abuse, Tells How Relationship With Woody Allen Started

Soon-Yi Previn is a fascinating person. At the age of five ,she looked around her home, thought “this sucks” and ran away, kicking off a chain of events that would lead to her being adopted by Mia Farrow and her then-husband Andre Previn and eventually to her 20+ year marriage to legendary director and screenwriter Woody Allen.

The story we’ve been told by Mia Farrow implied that Woody Allen took advantage of Previn, whom Farrow said was “retarded” while he was basically her father, though even when news of their relationship first broke, she said “I’m not a retarded little underage flower who was raped, molested, and spoiled by some evil stepfather — not by a long shot.”

Previn hasn’t been one to do press before, but she sat for a long interview with New York Magazine’s Daphne Merkin, some of it with her husband present and some without him, and talked about her life and the circumstances around how her relationship with Allen began.

Here’s what she had to say about the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of Mia Farrow.

When Soon-Yi was a girl, she says, Farrow asked her to make a tape about her origins, detailing how she’d been the daughter of a prostitute who beat her. The request puzzled her, Soon-Yi says, since she had no memory of anything like that, so she refused.

[…]

Despite the pastoral tranquillity, Soon-Yi says, she felt achingly unhappy, a state of affairs that was not helped by Mia’s and André’s “bone-chilling tempers” or by Mia’s playing favorites. “There was a hierarchy — she didn’t try to hide it, and Fletcher was the star, the golden child,” she says. “Mia always valued intelligence and also looks, blond hair and blue eyes.” Soon-Yi had arrived without knowing a word of English, and Mia was impatient with her new daughter’s learning curve. “She tried to teach me the alphabet with those wooden blocks. If I didn’t get them right, sometimes she’d throw them at me or down on the floor. Who can learn under that pressure?”

[…]

“Mia used to write words on my arm, which was humiliating, so I’d always wear long-sleeved shirts. She would also tip me upside down, holding me by my feet, to get the blood to drain to my head. Because she thought — or she read it, God knows where she came up with the notion — that blood going to my head would make me smarter or something.” Farrow also resorted, as Soon-Yi describes it, to “arbitrarily showing her power”: slapping Soon-Yi across the face and spanking her with a hairbrush or calling her “stupid” and “moronic.” Sometimes, according to Soon-Yi, Farrow lost it completely, as when she threw a porcelain rabbit that her mother had given her at Soon-Yi (“She never really liked it,” Soon-Yi wryly observes. “That’s probably why she threw it at me”), smashing it to pieces and startling both of them. “I could see from the expression on her face that she felt she had gone too far. Because it could have really hurt me.”

[…]

When Soon-Yi reached puberty, she was pretty much left to her own devices. “I wish she had taught me how to put on makeup,” she says. “I don’t know how to do any of that stuff. Mia never taught me how to use a tampon, and my babysitter got me my first bra.”

Soon-Yi’s adopted brother Moses Farrow corroborates her story, but many of her other siblings issued a statement supporting Mia Farrow.

Soon-Yi also talked about how she and Woody Allen came to be a couple. She said that she and Allen didn’t get along for years, but they grew closer when she broke her ankle and they started going to basketball games together, an idea suggested by Mia Farrow.

Both of them are vague on how and when their friendship turned sexual — “It was 25 years ago,” she says — beyond the fact that it was a gradual process. “I think Woody went after me because at that first basketball game I turned out to be more interesting and amusing than he thought I’d be,” Soon-Yi offers. “Mia was always pounding into him what a loser I was.” At one point, Soon-Yi sends me an email addressing the inception of their affair: “We talked quite a bit,” she writes, “and to the best of my memory I came in from college on some holiday and he showed me a Bergman movie, which I believe was The Seventh Seal, but I’m not positive. We chatted about it, and I must have been impressive because he kissed me and I think that started it. We were like two magnets, very attracted to each other.” In other words, the first stirrings of what would become an enduring romance sounds like a scene straight out of a Woody Allen movie.

Previn also relates that when Mia Farrow found about the affair between herself and Allen, she was always telling Woody Allen that Soon-Yi was suicidal, something she denies. It was also during that time, during a heated custody hearing, that Farrow accused Allen of molesting daughter Dylan. This has been rehashed to death and no one knows what happened, and nothing anyone says is going to change anyone’s mind about what they think happened.

At the end of the day, two women are each claiming they were abused by one of their parents and that the other one is a liar. People are necessarily going to believe one and not the other. What is clear from this profile is that Soon-Yi was never the helpless mentally challenged girl Mia Farrow portrayed her as.

[Image: David Shankbone]

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