Dylan Farrow Would Like to Reintroduce Herself

After living in the shadows of one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals for decades, the debut author of Hush is ready to step into the sunlight.

2/23/2021 1:49:00 AM

'It’s crazy that for some people, the idea that I was brainwashed is somehow easier to swallow than child sexual abuse.' After living in the shadows of one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals, the debut author of Hush is ready to step into the sunlight.

After living in the shadows of one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals for decades, the debut author of Hush is ready to step into the sunlight.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY VALERIE CHIANGScouring the fantasy section of her favorite bookstore near the Connecticut farm where she grew up, Dylan Farrow would pick out anything that “promised me dragons,” she says. She loved the fire and destruction of mythical beasts; conspiracy theories involving families plotting against their own kin; and the way women, children, and other small creatures wielded magical powers that made them stronger in those make-believe worlds than they were in our own. “I think it started out as an escape route,” she says. “For any fans of fantasy, whether they’re in my position or not, it’s fun escapism, a way to step outside of yourself and your problems, and, I don’t know, think about dragons for a while.” She pauses to clarify: “I’m not trying to escape who I am—I’m fine with who I am. I mean, it’s taken me a while to get here, but I can say with [some] degree of certainty that I’m okay.”

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Still, the first time we talked, late last year, it hadn’t quite sunk in for her that she had her own debut young adult fantasy fiction novel,Hush, on bookshelves like the ones she’d perused as a teenager. In a lot of ways, the release ofHushhas served as a debut for the 35-year-old author as well, in her new life as a full-time writer and working mother, defined by no one but herself. After all, for most of her life, Dylan has been known mostly in relation to the salacious scandals that have swirled around her famous family. She became a public figure not by choice, but rather because she was Mia Farrow’s daughter, or Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Ronan Farrow’s sister. “I don’t feel like I have a father,” she says, but at one point her father was Woody Allen, Mia’s boyfriend of about a decade, who’d adopted Dylan as a child. Later, of course, Allen would go on to have an affair with, and then marry, her sister, Soon-Yi Previn. “There’s no support group for people whose sisters marry their fathers,” she says. “Or is he my brother-in-law? And is she my stepmom? I’ve got to joke about it!”

Dylan playing dress-up with Mia in the early 1990s.Courtesy of Dylan FarrowThen there’s the other scandal that she’ll likely never fully escape, now the subject of an HBO investigative documentary series,Allen v. Farrow. In 1992, when Dylan was seven—the same year the Soon-Yi affair blew up—she told her mother that Allen had taken her into an attic crawl space and sexually molested her, as Mia would testify in the ensuing custody battle. It was part of a pattern that Dylan later said went on for as long as she could remember, of Allen getting into bed with her wearing only his underwear, or putting his head in her naked lap. The custody fight was vicious and tore their family apart, estranged Allen from most of his children permanently, and became such a public tabloid spectacle that Dylan remembers having to be sneaked out of the back of her New York City apartment building with a blanket over her head so she could get to school without being snapped by the paparazzi. She still has PTSD from the ordeal. headtopics.com

A report by the Yale-New Haven Hospital Child Sexual Abuse Clinic, whose methods the judge in the custody case questioned as unreliable, concluded that Dylan was not sexually abused and that Dylan was either disturbed and made it up or had been manipulated by her mother. The judge gave Mia full custody, finding that the testimony proved “that Mr. Allen’s behavior toward Dylan was grossly inappropriate and that measures must be taken to protect her.” Allen appealed, but the appellate court agreed with the trial judge’s custody ruling. Although it gave more weight to the Yale-New Haven report, the appeals court found that the overall evidence, while “inconclusive,” “suggest[ed] that the abuse did occur.” New York State child welfare investigators later announced that they’d found no credible evidence of abuse. Several months after the custody decision was announced, a Connecticut state’s attorney announced that he had probable cause to criminally charge Allen but was declining to file charges to spare Dylan the trauma of a court appearance. Criminal charges have never been filed against Allen in the matter, and he continues to maintain his innocence. (Allen declined a request to comment for this article, but he has vociferously and repeatedly denied having molested her, and has pointed to investigations that cleared him of wrongdoing.)

“Believe it or not, the stuff that I wrote about in that essay does not encompass the entirety of my existence.”If you know Dylan’s name now, though, it’s probably because in 2014, well before the #MeToo movement, she wrote aNew York Timesessay about that abuse, calling out Hollywood actors and asking whether they’d be so quick to celebrate Allen’s work had their own daughter been “led into an attic” by him. It wasn’t until her brother Ronan helped expose the misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein that Dylan’s accusations were given much credence. Dylan had emerged from obscurity to become a staunch advocate for survivors of sexual assault. But now she’s ready to emerge from that as simply a writer. “Believe it or not, the stuff that I wrote about in that essay does not encompass the entirety of my existence,” she says. “It’s a small part of 35 years of living.”

In fact, Dylan isn’t even Dylan Farrow’s name anymore. When she was eight, she changed it to a name she prefers to keep private, in order to psychologically distance herself from the events of those tumultuous years. But she’s been using Dylan as a sort of pen name, starting with the 2014 essay, to avoid confusion given that Dylan is the name in all the court documents. Among close friends and family, though, she says, “No one’s called me Dylan since I was 10.”

"I’m not trying to escape who I am. I’m fine with who I am", says Dylan."I mean, it’s taken me a while to get here, but I can say with some degree of certainty that I’m okay."VALERIE CHIANGReadingHush, it’s impossible not to see Dylan’s story in its themes. The book centers on Shae, a girl who is dealing with a lot and doesn’t really have time for boys. She’s “short but strong,” Dylan says, and she’s also doggedly determined to ferret out the truth—even as adults tell her it’s all in her head. The world she’s living in is falling apart, stricken by drought and a pandemic that Dylan swears she dreamed up well before 2020. A despotic leadership class wields magic to spread fake news, earn tithes, and control the populace. The written word, the people are told, will kill them; the pandemic spreads through ink. And it is only in trying to solve the murder of someone she loves that Shae finds out that she, too, can wield magic. But can she learn how to use it fast enough, when the truth is slipping away and she’s being gaslighted by powerful forces, causing her to question what she knows? Dylan says that of course the themes are partially based on her life, but readers shouldn’t try to draw too many direct parallels. “As I keep having to assert,” she says, “I do know the difference between fiction and reality.” headtopics.com

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Fantasy writers like"Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, and Susan Cooper were all a big deal in our house," Ronan says, adding that his older sister also"had an abiding love of anime."COURTESY OF DYLAN FARROWAfter being awarded custody in 1993, Mia moved her large family, filled with biological and adopted children, many of them with disabilities, from Manhattan to their country house in Connecticut. Mia was determined to give the kids “the real farm experience,” Dylan says. They had horses, chickens, goats, and a cow who got lonely and tried having sex with everything, including one of the Farrow siblings’ wheelchairs. “It was a busy, noisy life full of children and animals,” Mia says.

Dylan now maintains a happy pandemic pod with her own family on that same farm, 88 acres with hiking and horse trails and a lake. She’s calling via Zoom from a home office with nothing but greenery and sunlight outside her window. Dylan, her husband (she asked that his name not be published), her four-year-old daughter Evangeline (whose name is already all over Mia’s Instagram), their pug Luna, and their English bulldog Nova stay in one house. Her brother Fletcher, who works in tech, and his wife and two daughters live in another. Their mother has a third. When we talked, Ronan and his fiancé, Jon Lovett of Pod Save America, had recently joined them from the West Coast and were staying with Mia.

Dylan’s earliest exposure to fantasy, she says, was a bedtime ritual of her mom readingThe Hobbitto the kids. “My mom, I sometimes forget, is actually a really talented actress,” she says. “So she would read the bejesus out of this book, and it was the most epic thing I had ever heard. My mom would narrate and do all the voices. To this day, her rendition of Gollum is like canon tome.” At around age 11, Dylan wrote stories to read aloud to her younger siblings. “She kept them so enthralled,” Mia says. Ronan, two years her junior, says they both read a lot growing up. “Great women writers of fantasy loomed large for both of us—Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, and Susan Cooper were all a big deal in our house,” he says. “Dylan had an abiding love of anime, which I only dabbled in.” (Dylan says she also had an abiding love of Lance Bass of *NSync.)

Dylan casts a spell on her brother Ronan, whom she calls “one of the most important people in my life.”Courtesy of Dylan Farrow“I loved to play make-believe with Ronan,”Dylan says. “We’d play dress-up, and I’d sometimes let him play Barbies with me, if I was feeling charitable.” They collected pewter Dungeons & Dragons figurines and created a civilization for them. “We developed some pretty elaborate lore,” Ronan says. In her teenage years, Dylan wrote and illustrated a headtopics.com

Game of Thrones–style novel, clocking in at “530-something” pages, that she says “was not fit for human consumption.” Its audience of one was her little sister, Quincy. There were dragons. The main character was an elf. There was a war. Some of it took place in space. “Every concept and every crazy notion I needed to express got chucked into the pot, and it went in a million directions and it was garbage,” she says. “I mean, my sister loves it to this day. She still talks about it.” Back then, as an author, Dylan felt supremely confident. “If I thought it was bad, I wouldn’t have written 500 pages,” she says, laughing.

The court hearings of Dylan’s childhood were, in many ways, a prosecution of her so-called “overactive” imagination. She’d described being in the attic with the “dead heads”—“which was literally because I didn’t know the word for mannequin,” she says. “I knew that people thought that I was using my imagination to tell lies,” she continues, but somehow that never affected her desire to write. Nor did Allen being a famous writer influence her in any way, “although it’s probably the reason I never wrote about New York and jazz and May–December romances,” she says.

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In her senior year at Bard College, where she was majoring in art and Asian studies, Dylan decided to sign up for an online dating site associated withThe Onion. This was in 2007, well before Tinder, “when dinosaurs roamed the Earth,” she says. At first, she wasn’t having much luck. “I signed up and there was, like, an influx of fifty-somethings being like, ‘Age ain’t nothing but a number, right?’ ” she says. “I’m like, ‘You’re barking up the wrong tree.’ ” Then she came across this “adorable” recent graduate living in New York City who described himself as a geek. “So I did the thing I’ve never done before or since, and I sent him a message and flirted with the guy,” she says. “I said, ‘You didn’t mention you were a cute geek.’ Winky-face emoji. I’m turning bright red telling you this.”

They met up at Grand Central Terminal and got pie and coffee, and the conversation never stopped flowing. After graduation, she moved in with him in New York. “He tried to kick me out,”she says. “He told me, ‘You’re finally independent. You should have the experience of having your own place, paying your own rent.’ I’m like,‘That’s really responsible of you, but that sounds like a lot of work.’ ” Dylan got a job as a production assistant at CNN, working the phones and the copy machine at the

Nancy Graceshow, mainly so she could continue to crash with her boyfriend. She was eventually laid off. “Journalism, it turns out, wasn’t for me. Wrong member of my family,” she says. When her boyfriend got a job offer he couldn’t turn down in South Florida and asked her to join him, she agreed. “In the back of my head, I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’d better get an engagement ring out of this,’ ” she says. And she did. They’ve been together for 14 years, married for 10.

Dylan has been writing stories to entertain her younger siblings since age 11."She kept them so enthralled," Mia says. COAT, S MAX MARA, $1,690, MAXMARA.COMVALERIE CHIANGDylan spent the following six years in Broward County, living a relatively normal life. She worked for a weight-loss center, and later found a job as a graphic designer. Back at home, she’d write fantasy stories well into the early hours. “That was where I was finding my happy place,” she says. “I sat down with my husband at one point and I said, ‘Look, I spend every morning sitting in my car giving myself this pep talk, like, Today is going to be over at some point. And I can’t live like this.’ ” She did some soul-searching and realized she wanted to become a full-time writer. “My husband was like, ‘Okay, this is important to you. We’ll make it work.’ He’s a champ.”

So she sat down and wrote a novel. NotHush, but a “casserole” of ideas. “It was about necromancers, set in a Spanish Inquisition–like setting,” she says. “It was maybe a little anti-religion; they were heretics.” Her protagonist was too old for YA, but the story didn’t exactly work for a broader fantasy audience either. “I wound up learning a lot about, you know, what sort of book gets picked up by publishers,” she says, laughing.

Around 2014, Dylan and her husband decided to move back northeast to Connecticut. Woody Allen’sBlue Jasminehad come out to critical praise the previous year, garnering two Golden Globe and three Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Screenplay for Allen. The sexual assault allegation, the custody battle, and leaving Manhattan had all happened in 1992 and 1993. Dylan had started fourth grade in Connecticut, thinking she’d never have to worry about any of it again, except for the rare occasions when her mom went to court. “I sort of treated it as out of sight, out of mind, and I did that for about 20 years,” she says. “But then he was up for an Academy Award, and no one cared.

We were in the process of relocating, and I snapped and went crazy and the essay happened.” When she told someone close to her that she was thinking about speaking out, he said, “Well, why? Nobody cares.” When she told her therapist that “maybe this is something, someday, you know, nebulously, abstractly I’m considering,” he told her that it was a terrible idea and she’d undo all the progress she’d made.“Obviously, I didn’t listen to those people,” she says. “The thing is, in a lot of ways, they were wrong. But in a lot of [other] ways, they were right. In 2014, nobody really did give a crap. And I did undo all the progress I’d made.”

The essay caused a stir, but Allen kept his Academy Award nomination, and the star ofBlue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett, won the Oscar for Best Actress. Meanwhile, Dylan had opened Pandora’s box. “I had to develop an entirely new skill set with different coping mechanisms based around having spoken out and the aftermath of that,” she says. “The difference was, I was doing this on my own terms.” She still struggles at times, “but on the whole, it does feel healthier to cope with it on that level rather than just ignore it. I think it’s also more helpful to the people in my life: my husband, my family, my friends. They know what’s going on now. I’m not just freaking out because I saw some random movie poster. There’s a method to the madness.”

Mia, Ronan, and Dylan in Connecticut, in 2016.Courtesy of Dylan FarrowMia can see a huge difference. “She’s evolved from being a shy child to being much more assertive. And a lot of it has to do with coming out with her personal story and feeling less like a victim,” she says. “I do know that as a mother, my job, among other jobs, is and always has been to support her in whatever she needs. I’ve stood by her all these years, and I will continue to do so.”

Dylan has only seen three of Allen’s movies: 1973’sSleeper(“As a kid, I think it was framed as, ‘Do you want to see Daddy eat a rubber glove?’ and I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ ”) and two others,AliceThe Purple Rose of Cairo, neither of which Allen appears in onscreen. According to IMDb, Dylan appears in

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