When word came down that Woody Allen’s next film would star actress of the moment Elle Fanning, beloved singer-turned-actress Selena Gomez, and “Call Me By Your Name” star Timothée Chalamet, the responses were — like any news involving the controversial filmmaker — divided.
Allen has always been a fan of fresh young talent, casting Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, and Scarlett Johansson in important early roles. As prolific as he is provocative, the list of Hollywood actors he has worked with feels longer than those he hasn’t. More recently, he has a knack for picking promising young stars when they are most in demand, such as Jesse Eisenberg, Evan Rachel Wood, Ellen Page, and Kristin Stewart.
While Gomez and Fanning fans may be too young to remember, Allen’s work has long been tarnished by allegations of sexual assault made against him by his daughter, Dylan Farrow, whom he co-adopted with Mia Farrow in 1991. While Allen has never been charged or convicted of any crime, in 2014, Farrow penned an op-ed in The New York Times describing her childhood trauma in great detail. Earlier this year, as Allen’s “Café Society” debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, her brother, Ronan Farrow, wrote a personal essay supporting his sister.
Still, starlets keep flocking to Allen’s films, sometimes with diminishing returns. It’s never hurt an actor’s career to do a film with him. While there have been more duds than hits in the last 20 years, every few films he churns out a winner like “Midnight in Paris” or “Blue Jasmine.”
As young women in an industry that places increasing importance on political activism, Fanning and Gomez will undoubtedly have to field questions about working with Allen from now until the foreseeable future. Luckily for them, there are a wealth of examples to choose from when looking for the best (or worst) way to handle the backlash.
Don’t: Call him a feminist
Blake Lively, who rose to fame in “Gossip Girl,” tripped over herself earlier this year to defend Allen in Cannes, where she was by his side promoting “Café Society.” “It’s very dangerous to factor in things you don’t know anything about,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “My experience with Woody is he’s empowering to women.” After a distasteful rape joke made its way into the opening night reception at Allen’s expense, she told Variety: “I think any jokes about rape, homophobia, or Hitler is not a joke.”
Don’t: Overempathize as a fellow celebrity
Kristen Stewart chose to embrace ignorance as bliss. Recalling a conversation she shared with Jesse Eisenberg about the allegations, she told Variety: “If we were persecuted for the amount of shit that’s been said about us that’s not true, our lives would be over.” While that kind of empathy is slightly preferable to Lively’s blind support, Stewart’s defense smacks of a “we celebrities have to stick together” mentality. Stewart, however, is an expert at dodging questions she doesn’t want to answer — a skill that would come in handy for Gomez and Fanning.
Don’t: Go batshit on Twitter
Exhibiting significantly less self control when asked why he chose to work with Allen on “Blue Jasmine,” Alec Baldwin issued a series of tweets railing against any reporter who would dare meddle in the director’s personal life. “What the f&@% is wrong with you that you think we all need to be commenting on this family’s personal struggle?” he wrote. “So you know who’s guilty? Who’s lying? You, personally, know that? You are mistaken if you think there is a place for me, or any outsider, in this family’s issue.”
Do: Offer your respects and deflect, deflect, deflect
It’s no surprise that Cate Blanchett’s onscreen grace and eloquence extend to her offscreen interactions as well. Rather than offer any angry defense or bumbling explanation, Blanchett extended a simple show of support to the family for any pain they may be feeling. “It’s obviously been a long and painful situation for the family and I hope they find some resolution and peace,” the actress said.