Woody Allen shrugs at 'cancel culture' at Venice Film Festival as protests stir against him

Woody Allen in a tuxedo poses next to wife Soon-Yi Previn in black dress and Manzie Tio Allen, Bechet Allen in dresses
Woody Allen's wife, Soon-Yi Previn, and their children, Manzie Tio Allen and Bechet Allen, made a rare appearance together at the 2023 Venice Film Festival. (Vianney Le Caer / Invision/Associated Press)

Woody Allen's appearance at the 80th Venice Film Festival in Italy to debut his latest movie was met with protests against him and other filmmakers who have been accused of sexual assault.

On Monday, a crowd greeted Allen, 87, with cheers as he stepped onto the red carpet of the Palazzo del Cinema, making a rare appearance with his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, 52, and their two adult daughters, Manzie Tio Allen and Bechet Allen.

But elsewhere, protesters reportedly peppered the Oscar winner with boos and calls for "No rape culture," as some demonstrators attempted to enter the red carpet. Others removed their shirts and passed out papers that read, "Turn the spotlight off of rapists,” referring to Allen and fellow directors Roman Polanski and Luc Besson, all of whom have faced allegations of sexual assault and screened films at the festival. Several dozen people walked by the venue with their hands raised, loudly chanting in Italian, "We are the loud and fierce shout of all the bodies that no longer have a voice," according to the Daily Mail.

Read more: Timeline: Woody Allen's relationship with Mia Farrow, alleged abuse of Dylan Farrow

While at Venice before the debut of his film, "Coup de Chance" (Stroke of Luck), Allen made further waves when he decried cancel culture, commenting to Variety, "I just find that all so silly. I don’t think about it. I don’t know what it means to be canceled. I know that over the years everything has been the same for me."

In the same interview, the "Annie Hall" director also called some aspects of the #MeToo movement "silly" while acknowledging it as "a good thing" overall. When asked to get more specific, Allen said, "When it’s being too extreme in trying to make it into an issue when, in fact, most people would not regard it as any kind of offensive situation."

While Allen did not mention a specific situation, he had separately given comments that seemed to dismiss the sexual misconduct controversy in Spain involving suspended Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales, who is accused of kissing female soccer player Jenni Hermoso on the lips without her consent after Spain’s FIFA World Cup victory. The head coach, Jorge Vilda, was fired Tuesday amid the scandal.

Read more: Reports of his films' death are exaggerated: Woody Allen 'has no intention of retiring'

During Allen's stay in Venice, Spanish publication El Mundo asked him about the controversy in Spain. He seemed to minimize the allegations, saying, “He wasn’t raping her.

"It's hard to imagine that a person could lose their job for kissing in public," he continued, according to Euro News. “It was only a kiss and it was a friend. What’s wrong with that?”

In 1992, Allen was accused of sexually abusing his then-7-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow; a judge later rejected the allegation and an investigation concluded that the claim was unfounded. Allen has denied the allegations and continued making critically acclaimed films, racking up Oscar nominations and a win in 2011. However, the sexual abuse case reentered the public eye in 2014 when Allen's ex-partner Mia Farrow and her son, acclaimed journalist Ronan Farrow, rehashed the allegations in a series of tweets, protesting Allen's Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes. Dylan Farrow also started telling her side of the story. The case faced new scrutiny amid the #MeToo movement and after the release of an HBO documentary series, "Allen v. Farrow."

Soon-Yi Previn is Mia Farrow's adopted daughter.

Read more: Woody Allen interview with CBS News will stream on Paramount +

The "Manhattan" and "Midnight in Paris" director has since largely been shunned by Hollywood. While continuing his rapid pace of production, he has struggled to get financing and distribution in the United States for his recent films. Many have been shot and produced in Europe. A long list of actors have said they regret working with him, including Greta Gerwig, Timothée Chalamet, Elliot Page, Kate Winslet, Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall. In the lead-up to Venice, Allen has continued to hint at retirement.

The audience at Venice showered Allen with a customary 3-minute standing ovation that seemed to emotionally move the filmmaker (though at Venice, ovations under five minutes are considered short). His film was generally favorably received by critics.

Besson, whose rape charge was dismissed in June, and Polanski, who was charged in 1977 with raping a 13-year-old girl in California and pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor before fleeing the country, received similarly short ovations, according to Deadline. Besson's action film "Dogman" received mixed reviews, while Polanski's dark comedy "The Palace" tanked among critics and currently sits with a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an aggregate of 13 critics who reviewed the film.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.