Inside Woody Allen’s Close Friendship With Jeffrey Epstein

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Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Over the past several weeks, audiences have been watching—and endlessly debating—Allen v. Farrow, the eye-opening HBO docuseries examining Dylan Farrow’s allegation that on Aug. 4, 1992, her adoptive father, Woody Allen, took a 7-year-old Dylan up to the attic of their Connecticut country home and molested her.

The film, whose fourth and final chapter airs Sunday, March 14, provides testimony from numerous members of the Farrow-Previn clan, including Dylan, her brother Ronan, and their mother Mia; eyewitness accounts from family friends, neighbors, and hired help; interviews with state and city officials in New York and Connecticut; never-before-heard recordings of phone calls between Woody and Mia; and unearthed documents from the New York and Connecticut investigations into Dylan’s welfare. (Allen and Soon-Yi, who declined to participate in the series, released a written statement through Allen’s sister calling it “a hatchet job riddled with falsehoods” and the abuse claim “categorically false.”)

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, the filmmaking team behind Allen v. Farrow, feel that the Annie Hall filmmaker, whose behavior toward Dylan was deemed “grossly inappropriate” by a judge in the child-custody trial he lost, shouldn’t merely hide behind a prepared statement. “If you had nothing to hide, and you were really being falsely maligned, wouldn’t you want to speak to journalists?” Ziering told The Daily Beast. “What are you afraid of?”

‘Allen v. Farrow’ Filmmakers Call Out Woody Allen: ‘What Are You Afraid Of?’

One thing Woody Allen is not afraid of is defending powerful men who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct. He’s served as one of Roman Polanski’s most vocal defenders, saying the fugitive filmmaker is “a nice person” who’s “paid his dues” for raping a 13-year-old girl and then fleeing the country, and in the immediate wake of the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, accused the movie mogul’s victims of conducting “a witch hunt” against him, before walking it back.

And then there’s his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.

It’s not clear when Allen and Epstein first crossed paths, though the two were longtime friends and neighbors on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for years. The director and his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, have been photographed a few times leaving the financier’s townhouse—including in September 2013, five years after Epstein pleaded guilty to child prostitution charges, when a Page Six headline declared: “Woody Allen pals around with child-sex creep.”

Epstein “was hugging him and talking close to his ear,” and “had his arm on Woody’s shoulder,” one witness told the tabloid, adding that the pals appeared to enjoy a stroll down Madison Avenue before arriving at Epstein’s seven-story mansion.

Diplomat Terje Rød-Larsen joined this walk, along with his friend, filmmaker Håkon Gundersen, who told the Norwegian newspaper DN last October: “I heard that Epstein knew Woody Allen and several other famous film producers. With my background, I thought it was very interesting.”

When Allen arrived, Epstein allegedly told Gundersen, “Here you will meet someone else who is also very interested in film.” Gundersen said they all visited Central Park for about two hours that day before heading back to Epstein’s home. (Woody Allen and Soon-Yi did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.)

Around the same time, Epstein hosted another dinner at his New York home, where he introduced Allen to a connection at MIT. Joi Ito, former director of the MIT Media Lab, “met other influential individuals at meetings with Epstein, including Woody Allen, a senior executive at the Hyatt Corporation, and a former prime minister of Israel,” according to a report commissioned by the school on its ties to Epstein.

MIT staff even raised the possibility that Epstein would bring Allen to campus during his October 2013 visit. “Ito expressed concern that inviting Epstein and Woody Allen to campus could create a public relations headache for MIT,” the report states. Apparently citing the Page Six story, Ito tried to dissuade Epstein from bringing Allen. “Since you two were just in the news recently, I wonder if that might be bad,” Ito emailed the financier.

REVEALED: We Found Billionaire Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s Secret Charity

Yet Allen apparently had no qualms about consorting with a convicted sex offender who served jail time in 2008 and 2009 for soliciting an underage girl, and appeared to stay close to him until his death. In New York, Epstein was registered as a Level 3 offender, meaning he was a threat to public safety and at high risk for committing similar crimes again.

The duo also reportedly had another mutual friend: Allen’s former teenage mistress, model Christina Engelhardt, who was 16 when she began dating the director in 1976. Their secret relationship lasted eight years, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Engelhardt tells The Daily Beast that she worked as a personal assistant for Epstein in the early 1980s, back when he was “only a millionaire” and “wasn’t there yet” when it came to sex-trafficking underage girls. She says she told Epstein that she’d dated Allen, but that the two New Yorkers weren’t friendly yet.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Christina Engelhardt</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Amy Graves/Getty</div>

Christina Engelhardt

Amy Graves/Getty

“Nothing surprises me with either one of those men,” Engelhardt offers. “I still am shocked that these very talented people choose these sadistic paths that bring them down. There’s nothing good about it.”

Working for Epstein eventually became toxic, and Engelhardt decided to flee to Italy to serve as an assistant (and muse) to director Federico Fellini, whom she says was a lovely man. As for her time with Allen and Epstein, Engelhardt says, “I escaped one monster and ran away from the other.”

“Woody is a bad guy,” she adds. “And the documentary really helped open my eyes to just how bad.”

In December 2010, Allen attended a lavish dinner at Epstein’s residence toasting Britain’s Prince Andrew, who faces abuse accusations himself from Virginia Roberts Giuffre, an alleged victim of Epstein’s. Other celebrity guests at the soiree included TV journalists Katie Couric, Charlie Rose, and George Stephanopoulos, publicist Peggy Siegal, and comedian Chelsea Handler.

Back then, Daily Mail columnist Richard Kay reported that “Andrew was in [a] jolly mood... ­especially when other guests, including Hollywood star Woody Allen, asked him for an invite to” the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Handler recently spoke up about the event, which she described as “weird,” claiming she tagged along with Couric and was seated next to Allen and Soon-Yi. “When we got there I was like, what is this gathering?” Handler recently said on Rob Lowe’s podcast. “We had dinner and it was so awkward and so weird. I was like, what are we doing here? And then I asked Woody Allen how he and Soon-Yi met and that was when I left.”

“I really was curious!” Handler added. “I had forgotten for a moment… but as it came out of my mouth, I knew that it was too late.” Allen, however, was apparently amused. “And he loved it, and Soon-Yi, I don’t think she heard it…”

Epstein reportedly decorated his New York home with photos of himself and famous friends, including Allen, former President Clinton, and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Following Epstein’s suicide whilst awaiting trial on charges of sex-trafficking minors, New York Times scribe James B. Stewart detailed visiting Epstein’s Manhattan mansion in August 2018, and spotting the snapshots with Allen and Clinton. “Displaying photos of celebrities who had been caught up in sex scandals of their own also struck me as odd,” Stewart wrote, adding that Epstein called him a week later and invited him to a Saturday dinner with Allen. The reporter declined.

“The overriding impression I took away from our roughly 90-minute conversation was that Mr. Epstein knew an astonishing number of rich, famous and powerful people, and had photos to prove it,” Stewart continued. “He also claimed to know a great deal about these people, some of it potentially damaging or embarrassing, including details about their supposed sexual proclivities and recreational drug use.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein, and Michael Bolton</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Davidoff Studios Photography</div>

Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein, and Michael Bolton

Davidoff Studios Photography

Allen wasn't Epstein's only Hollywood connection. The financier was friendly with disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who allegedly tried to attack a woman in Epstein’s orbit. His rolodex included a host of other celebrities including media investor Ron Burkle and actors like Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Elizabeth Hurley, and Minnie Driver.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, Epstein and Allen also had mutual friends in Paris. Former French politician Jack Lang—who’s publicly defended Allen amid Dylan’s child sexual abuse allegations—claimed he met Epstein in 2012 at a party hosted by Princess Camilla of Bourbon Two Sicilies. The socialite threw the party in Allen’s honor.

One victim of Epstein even mentioned meeting Allen in a lawsuit she filed against the financier’s estate. The woman, referred to as Priscilla Doe, says she was a 20-year-old dancer in New York when Epstein began abusing her in 2006 until 2012—including when he was on “work release” at the Palm Beach County lockup.

“On one occasion, Jeffrey Epstein forced [Priscilla Doe] to serve hors d’oeuvres at Epstein’s private party with Woody Allen,” Doe’s lawsuit states. “This server’s role was forced upon [her] in order to demean her, frighten her, and impress upon her the need for her to conceal the commercial sex trafficking enterprise he was running.”

Asked about Doe’s complaint, her lawyer Brad Edwards said, “Woody was a very close friend of Epstein’s. They hung out quite frequently. I cannot comment beyond that.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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