Woody Allen on Relationship with Soon Yi Previn: ‘I Was Paternal’

Woody Allen has remained pretty mum when it comes to his past relationships, given his alleged history of sexual abuse and his marriage to his ex Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon Yi Previn.

Allen is undeniably a scandalous character, in spite of his position in Hollywood as a celebrated director, and his recent interview with NPR is quite revealing.

Here is how Allen, 79, describes his relationship with Soon Yi, 44, to NPR’s Sam Fragoso:

I lucked out in my last relationship. I’ve been married now for 20 years, and it’s been good. I think that was probably the odd factor that I’m so much older than the girl I married. I’m 35 years older, and somehow, through no fault of mine or hers, the dynamic worked.

I was paternal. She responded to someone paternal. I liked her youth and energy. She deferred to me, and I was happy to give her an enormous amount of decision-making just as a gift and let her take charge of so many things. She flourished. It was just a good-luck thing.

He then traces back to his thought process in the ’80s, when he first started dating Previn while he was still in a relationship with Farrow.

I started the relationship with her and I thought it would just be a fling, it wouldn’t be serious. But it had a life of its own. And I never thought it would be anything more. Then we started going together, then we started living together, and we were enjoying it. And the age difference didn’t seem to matter. It seemed to work in our favor, actually.

She enjoyed being introduced to many, many things that I knew from experience, and I enjoyed showing her those things. She took them, and outstripped me in certain areas that I showed her. That’s why I’m a big believer in luck. I feel that you can’t orchestrate those things. Two people come along, and they have a trillion exquisite needs and neuroses and nuances, and they have to mesh. And if one of them doesn’t mesh, it causes a lot of trouble. It’s like the trace vitamin not being in your body. It’s a tiny little thing, but if you don’t have it, you die.

On the point of him being “paternal,” interestingly enough Vanity Fair notes that his statement contradicts a 1999 Time interview, in which Previn said, “To think that Woody was in any way a father or stepfather to me is laughable.”

Of course, the passage of time renders such disjunctions of perception within every human.

When asked if his audience has been affected by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow’s 2014 open letter, detailing his alleged sexual abuse of her back when she was 7, he answered, “I would say no. I always had a small audience. People did not come in great abundance, and they still don’t, and I’ve maintained the same audience over the years. If the reviews are bad, they don’t come. If the reviews are good, they probably come.”

Even though he’s nearing 80, that doesn’t mean his career is slowing down anytime soon.

Well, I am 80 in a few months. Who knows what I can count on? My parents lived long, but that’s not guarantee of anything. It’s too late to really reinvent oneself. All I can do is try to do good work so that people can say, “In his later years, in his last years, he did some of his best work.” Great.

On the question of whether or not he thinks he’s a good person, Allen replied,

I would consider myself … decent as I got older. When I was younger I was less sensitive, in my 20s. But as I got older and began to see how difficult life was for everybody, I had more compassion for other people. I tried to act nicer, more decent, more honorable. I couldn’t always do it. When I was in my 20s, even in my early 30s, I didn’t care about other people that much. I was selfish and I was ambitious and insensitive to the women that I dated. Not cruel or nasty, but not sufficiently sensitive.

Allen also touched upon his lifestyle, calling himself a “boring person” who’s never done drugs:

I’ve never done any drugs whatsoever. I’ve never taken a puff of marijuana. I’ve never taken a recreational pill of any sort. I can barely bring myself to take two Extra Strength Excedrin.

…I don’t even have the curiosity. People say all the time, “Aren’t you curious?” But I’m not a curious person. I’m not curious to travel, but I do because my wife likes it. I’m not curious to see other places, I’m not curious to try new things. I go to the same restaurants all the time, and my wife is always saying, “Let’s try something new!” I don’t enjoy that. When Elaine’s was open in New York, I ate every dinner, seven nights a week, for 10 [to] 12 years.

…The subject of drugs never interests me. There are a lot of subjects that don’t hold my attention. I’m not interested in technology. I don’t have a computer. I’m not interested in traveling, popular music. I can’t bring myself to get motivated.

Allen and Farrow separated in 1992 after she found nude polaroids of Previn, who was then in college. Allen and Previn have been married since 1997. They have two adopted daughters.

Read Woody Allen’s entire interview here.