In Hollywood, love stories come in all shapes and sizes, but few are as unusual and controversial as the one between director Woody Allen and his much younger wife, Soon-Yi Previn.
Their love story began in the early 1980s when then-45-year-old Woody started dating 35-year-old Mia Farrow, and a young Soon-Yi was only about ten years old.
Fast forward to 1997, and the 87-year-old filmmaker and Soon-Yi tied the knot, eventually adopting two children.
Woody Allen and his much younger wife, Soon-Yi Previn, have embarked on a complex relationship that has raised eyebrows and caused controversies (Credit: IPA / INSTARimages)
But the couple’s journey to marital bliss is far from straightforward.
Keep reading as we dive deep into the intriguing and complex tale of how Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn’s paths crossed, leading to a relationship that has raised eyebrows and sparked debates.
How Woody Allen Started His Directorial Career in Hollywood
Woody Allen, born Allan Stewart Konigsberg in New York City on November 30, 1935, is synonymous with American filmmaking, acting, and comedy. Throughout his illustrious career, he has accumulated an impressive net worth of $140 million.
Born to Nettie and Martin Konigsberg, Woody grew up in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood alongside his younger sister, film producer Letty.
His family’s roots are traced back to immigrants from Austria and the Lithuanian city of Panevėžys who spoke languages like German, Hebrew, and Yiddish.
Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on November 30, 1935, in New York City (Credit: Abaca Press / INSTARimages)
With over six remarkable decades in the industry, Woody has been showered with accolades, including an impressive 16 nominations for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
He has garnered four Academy Awards, ten BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and even a Grammy Award. His achievements extend to an Emmy Award nomination and a Tony Award nod.
Woody began his journey by writing material for television in the 1950s alongside comedy greats like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, and Neil Simon.
He also contributed humorous pieces to The New Yorker and penned several books of short stories. In the early 1960s, he transitioned into stand-up comedy in Greenwich Village, crafting a unique monologue style that set him apart.
Woody Allen boasts of an illustrious career that spans six decades (Credit: IPA / INSTARimages)
After his stand-up success, Woody ventured into writing, directing, and starring in a series of slapstick comedies that left audiences in stitches. Titles, like Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper, and Love and Death, showcased his comedic genius.
However, Annie Hall in 1977 truly catapulted him to fame. This romantic comedy, starring Woody and Diane Keaton, captured hearts and earned four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress.
New York City became the backdrop for many of his films, such as Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Crimes and Misdemeanors. His work was hailed for its influence on European art cinema, marking him as a vital part of the New Hollywood wave.
Woody Allen’s Complex Relationship with Mia Farrow
In 1979, Woody Allen embarked on a professional and personal relationship with 78-year-old American actress Mia Farrow. Their union would span over a decade and lead to the creation of films and a family. Together, they were an influential couple in the glitzy world of Hollywood during the 1980s.
Despite their close collaboration on 13 of the famed director’s films since they became a couple, Woody and Mia led largely separate lives.
Their unique arrangement was partly due to Mia’s status as a mother of seven children, including three biological sons from her previous marriage to the late composer André Previn, three adopted daughters, and one adopted son.
Mia Farrow and Woody Allen had a professional and personal relationship in 1979, and they were an influential couple in Hollywood during the 1980s (Credit: Startraksphoto)
The couple lived in separate apartments on opposite sides of New York City’s Central Park to accommodate their priorities.
Woody, in particular, made it clear that he had no interest in raising children. However, Mia wanted to expand their family, leading her to suggest having a biological child together.
In the 2021 documentary Allen v. Farrow, Mia claimed, “He said, ‘Yeah, I would not object to that, but you have to understand I have zero interest in a kid, so you would be entirely responsible, financially and in every way.’”
After struggling to conceive, Mia proposed adoption, and Woody, though still disinterested in parenting, did not object. However, he had a unique request – he preferred a “little blonde girl.”
Mia, committed to making their relationship work, fulfilled this request, hoping it would bring them closer, saying, “I thought if he cares about that, I should try to find a little girl like that. And maybe he’ll love her.”
In 1985, Mia adopted a baby girl named Dylan, and Woody began spending more time with her children. His affection for Dylan grew, and he admitted, “I quickly found this tiny baby girl adorable, and found myself more and more holding [Dylan], playing with her and completely falling in love with her, delighted to be her father,” in his 2020 autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing.”
Two years later, Mia gave birth to their first biological child, Satchel Farrow, now known as Ronan Farrow, a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement and an award-winning investigative journalist.
Ronan Farrow is Mia Farrow and Woody Allen’s first biological child (Credit: Kelly Jordan / Startraksphoto)
However, despite their growing family, Woody Allen’s intimate relationship with Mia Farrow ended after Ronan’s birth and after adopting Dylan and Moses.
In 1991, Woody initiated a romantic involvement with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia and André. This development led to their separation, and in 1992, Mia publicly accused Woody of sexually abusing their adopted daughter, Dylan.
The accusation drew significant media attention but did not result in charges or prosecution against Woody, who vehemently denied the allegations.
Soon-Yi Previn’s Journey From an Abandoned Child to Woody Allen’s Wife
Born Oh Soon-Hee in South Korea, Soon-Yi Previn was found abandoned in Seoul on February 12, 1976. After being placed in Maria’s House and later St. Paul’s Orphanage, she was granted a legal birth document on December 28, 1976, with an official birth date of October 8, 1970.
At the time of her adoption, a bone scan estimated her age to be between five and seven. Her early years were marked by hardship, as she lived on the streets and scavenged for food in trash cans.
The 53-year-old recounted her childhood in a September 2018 profile with Vulture, saying, “I remember being extremely poor. You know, no furniture, nothing. Just a bare room and a mother, and we had a backyard, kind of with concrete. No trees, no foliage… And then I decided one day to run away. That this couldn’t be for life, that there must be something better out there.”
Soon-Yi Previn was born Oh Soon-Hee and was placed in an orphanage with an official birth date of October 8, 1970 (Credit: Goff / INFphoto)
In 1978, Mia Farrow and her then-husband, musician André Previn, extended their loving arms to Soon-Yi, adopting her and bringing her to the United States.
This act required a particular private bill, HR 1552, to be passed as Private Law 95-37, enabling Soon-Yi to immigrate to the US. She joined the Farrow-Previn family, including Vietnamese adoptees Lark Song Previn and Summer “Daisy” Song Previn.
Her life took another turn when Mia’s marriage to André ended in 1979, and her mother began a relationship with Woody Allen in 1980 when she was only ten years old.
In the same Vulture interview, Soon-Yi shared, “Woody wasn’t interested in meeting us children. And the feeling was mutual; we weren’t interested in meeting him. I hated him because he was with my mother, and I didn’t understand why anyone could be with such a nasty, mean person. I thought he must be the same way.”
Soon-Yi faced learning disabilities during her early years. However, Mia’s dedication to her well-being was evident as she provided her with opportunities to learn and grow.
Soon-Yi Previn was adopted by Mia Farrow and her then-husband, musician Andre Previn (Credit: Scott Kirkland / INFphoto)
She graduated from the Marymount School of New York in 1991 and continued her commuter studies at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Later, she pursued a master’s degree in special education from Columbia University.
Throughout her life, Soon-Yi Previn faced challenges, including allegations of physical abuse by Mia Farrow in 1992. In 2018, her brother, Moses Farrow, also came forward with similar allegations.
Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn’s Unconventional Love Story
Soon-Yi Previn and Woody Allen’s paths initially had little to do with each other. Their first friendly interaction came when Woody offered to transport her to school after she was injured playing soccer during 11th grade.
During her teenage years, Soon-Yi had uncredited roles in two notable films. She appeared in Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986, directed by Woody and starring Mia Farrow. She also worked as an extra in Paul Mazursky’s Scenes from a Mall in 1991, which featured Woody Allen in a leading role.
In 1991, Woody became close to Soon-Yi, often attending New York Knicks basketball games with each other. A few days after Christmas that year, the duo embarked on a romantic relationship despite their significant 35-year age difference. Woody was 56, and Soon-Yi was only 21.
Soon-Yi Previn and Woody Allen have a significant 35-year age difference, and they began their relationship when the former was only 21 years old and the latter 56 (Credit: TOMMY LAU / Startraksphoto)
During the highly publicized custody trial for Dylan, Satchel, and Moses, the judicial investigation concluded that their sexual relationship began in December 1991. Still, Mia alleged it might have started earlier when Soon-Yi was in her final year of high school.
Their relationship remained hidden until Mia discovered nude photographs of Soon-Yi in Woody’s home in January 1992. This discovery led to a public scandal that made tabloid headlines and late-night monologues.
In the HBO documentary series Allen v. Farrow, Mia detailed how she discovered the “pornographic” photos, saying, “[I] was at his apartment because I wasn’t working that day. So, I took one of the kids over after we left a coat over there, and there by the side of the phone, to the right of the phone, was his stack of Polaroid pictures, of pornographic pictures of a woman, a girl. And I picked them up and I realized all of them were of Soon-Yi. It was my own child.”
She added, “She was in her first year of college and they were all just like… They wouldn’t put them in ‘Playboy.’ They were like, I don’t know, ‘Hustler’ pictures or something. [They] really were raunchy pictures.”
Mia contended that she ended her relationship with Woody upon discovering the affair. However, Woody and Soon-Yi maintained that the former couple were estranged by then.
Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn maintain that the former and his then-wife Mia Farrow were already estranged when they began their relationship (Credit: Ciao / INFphoto)
Woody initially described his relationship with Soon-Yi as a “fling,” saying in his audiobook, “Soon-Yi and I thought we could have our little fling, keep it a secret since Soon-Yi wasn’t living at home and I lived alone like a bachelor. I thought it would be a nice experience and Soon-Yi would eventually meet some guy at college and enter a more conventional relationship. I didn’t realize how attached to one another we’d already grown.”
Meanwhile, Soon-Yi revealed that she was “madly in love” with him, noting, “[I was] completely attracted to him, physically and sexually. I know he’d said that I’d meet someone in college, but I’d already decided. From the first kiss, I was a goner and loved him.”
In August 1992, Woody publicly declared his love for Soon-Yi in a press conference.
Despite the turbulence, Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn married in Venice on December 22, 1997. Soon-Yi was 26, and Woody was 61. They adopted two daughters, Bechet Dumaine Allen and Manzie Tio Allen, and built a life on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn have adopted two daughters, Bechet Dumaine Allen and Manzie Tio Allen (Credit: IPA / INSTARimages)
What Woody and Soon-Yi Say About Their Controversial Relationship
Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn’s unconventional love story has been scrutinized and debated for years. Both individuals have expressed their thoughts on their relationship and its controversies.
In an interview with Time Magazine in August 1992, Woody emphasized, “I didn’t feel that just because she was Mia’s daughter, there was any great moral dilemma. It was a fact, but not one with any great import. It wasn’t like she was my daughter.”
He firmly stated, “I am not Soon-Yi’s father or stepfather. I’ve never even lived with Mia. I’ve never in my entire life slept at Mia’s apartment, and I never even used to go over there until my children came along seven years ago. I never had any family dinners over there. I was not a father to her adopted kids in any sense of the word.”
Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn have endured years of being scrutinized for their relationship, and both of them have expressed their thoughts regarding the controversies surrounding their union (Credit: Dara Kushner / INFevents)
Soon-Yi echoed this sentiment in the same interview with Vulture, saying, “We didn’t think of him as a father.”
She emphasized that traditional family dynamics did not define their relationship. Soon-Yi recalled, “He didn’t even have clothing at our house, not even a toothbrush.”
In March 2021, Woody elaborated on their relationship in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning (via USA Today), stating that Soon-Yi “turned out to be the deepest relationship in my life.”
He emphasized that he did not believe their relationship was inappropriate and that it felt natural and gradual to both of them.
Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn have an unconventional love story that still raises eyebrows and stirs up controversies to this day (Credit: Cover Images)
However, Woody acknowledged that he understood why their relationship raised concerns. In an interview with Daily Mail in May 2020, he admitted, “It looked to the outside world that it was an exploitative situation – that I would exploit her as an older predatory male, and she would exploit me for whatever I had.” Still, he asserted that it was never the case.
Soon-Yi herself addressed the controversy, telling Newsweek in August 1992, “I admit that it’s offbeat, but let’s not get hysterical.”
She rejected any portrayal of herself as a helpless victim, saying, “I’m not a retarded underage flower who was raped, molested and spoiled by some evil stepfather — not by a long shot.”