A former teenage model has claimed that she had an eight-year relationship with famed director Woody Allen that began when she was just 16 and Allen was 41.
Babi Christina Engelhardt, now a 59-year-old assistant to prominent Hollywood producer Bob Evans, described the alleged relationship in a profile published Monday in The Hollywood Reporter. In the interview, Engelhardt’s first public comment about the previously unknown affair, she described an unequal but, she insisted, not unhappy relationship with a complicated man.
“This is not ‘bring down this man.’ I’m talking about my love story,” Engelhardt told THR’s Gary Baum. “This made me who I am. I have no regrets.”
The two met in a restaurant in New York in October 1976, two months before Engelhardt’s 17th birthday — the age of consent in New York. Engelhardt recalls initiating the relationship when she passed Allen a note with her phone number.
Allen called, she said, and invited her to the first of as many as 100 trysts at his Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment over the next few years.
She said he never asked her age, but knew she was a high school student at the time.
Engelhardt’s story, contained in an as-yet unpublished memoir, bears striking resemblance to Allen’s 1979 dramatic comedy “Manhattan,” in which 42-year-old frustrated writer Isaac, played by Allen, dates beautiful 17-year-old high schooler Tracy, played by Mariel Hemingway.
Engelhardt says the relationship may have been unequal, but was not forced. She described their trysts as Allen “playing with me,” and recalled several times when Allen would bring other women to the apartment for threesomes.
"I was a fragment. …Great artists cherry-pick." Christina Engelhardt, then 16, on Woody Allen, then 41.
— Zosia Bielski (@ZosiaBielski) December 17, 2018
Allen’s 1979 movie “reminded me why I thought he was so interesting — his wit is magnetic. It was why I liked him and why I’m still impressed with him as an artist. How he played with characters in his movies, and how he played with me.”
She recalled feeling intensely jealous when, in 1980, Allen asked her to meet his new “girlfriend” — Mia Farrow, who became Allen’s partner for many years. Allen would go on to marry her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn in 1997. Dylan Farrow, another adopted daughter of Allen and Mia Farrow, has accused Allen of sexual assault when she was seven years old.
“I felt sick. I didn’t want to be there at all, and yet I couldn’t find the courage to get up and leave,” Engelhardt recalled. “To leave would mean an end to all of this. Looking back now, that’s exactly what I needed, but back then, the idea of not having Woody in my life at all terrified me.”
Engelhardt is now a divorced mother of two adult daughters living in Beverly Hills, California. She said she did not recall those years as unhappy ones, but believes Allen’s interest in her was part of a pattern of the man she still views as a “great artist” taking an interest, both personally and artistically, in much younger women.
“I was a fragment…. I thought I was special and then I realized he’s a big person and he’s got a big life.”
In the interview, Engelhardt mused on her own German immigrant background as playing a part in the relationship, and in Allen’s interest.
“Woody’s the uber-Jew, and I’m the uber-German,” she said. “I had been taunted, tormented as a ‘Nazi child’ in the Jewish neighborhood I grew up in: Matawan, New Jersey. My father ran around in lederhosen. I had doors slammed in my face…. There was a chip on my shoulder [during the relationship] about wanting to please those who cast me aside. I wasn’t confrontational because I thought, ‘Nobody likes Germans.'”
When she decided to leave Allen in 1984, she left New York entirely.