On Monday an announcement was made by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, that Woody Allen’s memoir would be released on April 7, 2020. Hachette said the book would be released in Canada, Italy, France, Germany, and Spain, with other releases around the world. By Friday the publisher canceled it. Talk about a quick change of mind.
It’s been reported that Woody Allen secured a multimillion-dollar deal with Penguin in 2003 but he backed out of it. By 2018 his representative was looking for a book deal but by then the #MeToo movement was a factor so publishers took a pass. The New York Times reported ‘In the last year, Allen quietly tried to sell a memoir, according to executives at four major publishing houses, only to be met with indifference or hard passes.’ Because of Woody Allen’s personal history with allegations of molesting his adopted daughter with Mia Farrow, Dylan, and his marriage to Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, let’s just say it’s complicated. In March 2019 a deal was made after publisher and SVP Ben Sevier read a completed draft of the book.
Dylan’s brother Ronan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a book of his #MeToo reporting in the Harvey Weinstein case. Ronan’s book was published by a subsidiary of the Hachette Book Group. He immediately voiced his disapproval and ended his relationship with Hachette when the announcement was made. He called their decision “a betrayal” in an email.
“Your policy of editorial independence among your imprints does not relieve you of your moral and professional obligations as the publisher of ‘Catch and Kill,’ and as the leader of a company being asked to assist in efforts by abusive men to whitewash their crimes,” Mr. Farrow wrote in an email to Michael Pietsch, the chief executive of Hachette, whose Little, Brown imprint published “Catch and Kill.”
“As you and I worked on ‘Catch and Kill’” — a book “in part about the damage Woody Allen did to my family,” Mr. Farrow added — “you were secretly planning to publish a book by the person who committed those acts of sexual abuse.”
“Obviously I can’t in good conscience work with you any more,” he wrote at the end of his message. “Imagine this were your sister.”
Pietsch responded as you might expect a publishing executive to do – he said there is a market for Allen’s book. Interested fans want to know his side of the story, as well as the rest of the story of his life. He said that one publishing division does not interfere with another publishing division.
Then events took a turn – employees of Little, Brown, and Co. (Ronan’s publisher) staged a walk-out in support of Ronan and Dylan the day after the announcement. They were joined by employees from the imprints Basic, Orbit, Forever and Hachette Books. On Thursday Hachette emailed a statement to the Los Angeles Times: “We respect and understand the perspective of our employees who have decided to express their concern over the publication of this book. We will engage our staff in a fuller discussion about this at the earliest opportunity.”
By Friday, Hachette caved to the demands of its staff and announced the book release is canceled.
“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one. At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books,” Sophie Cottrell, a spokesperson for the publisher said in an emailed statement to USA TODAY. “As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”
The statement continued: “Also, as a company, we are committed to offering a stimulating, supportive and open work environment for all our staff. Over the past few days, HBG leadership had extensive conversations with our staff and others. After listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG.”
So, the cancel culture won over the free speech rights of one 84-year-old man. Let me be upfront here and state that I am not a fan of Woody Allen. I never understood the success of his movies. I think he’s one of those entertainment personalities that you either really like his work or you don’t at all. Then, when the turmoil in his family life was exposed, I quit even trying to understand him. But here’s the thing – after more than one investigation into the allegations made by Dylan (in 1992 when she was 7 years old), and lawsuits and court appearances, plus therapy, the process played out. The judge in Allen’s custody case against Mia Farrow found Allen’s behavior toward Dylan to be “grossly inappropriate” and that Dylan needed to be protected. The state attorney declined to press charges against Allen.
It’s reasonable to think of Allen as a troubled, sick man. It’s also reasonable to assume he is entitled to the same rights as any other American. Why is Ronan allowed to publish his story of his family’s history but not Woody Allen? I don’t care about Woody Allen but I do care about the First Amendment. Silencing others because of a different point of view is wrong. Also, why is the staff of a company making the decisions over that of the executives in charge?
Ronan is pleased that Hachette isn’t going to publish the book, as is Dylan.
— Dylan Farrow (@RealDylanFarrow) March 6, 2020
Author Stephen King isn’t happy about Hachette’s decision. I rarely agree with him but in this case, I do.
The Hachette decision to drop the Woody Allen book makes me very uneasy. It’s not him; I don’t give a damn about Mr. Allen. It’s who gets muzzled next that worries me.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 6, 2020