Ronan Farrow, the Hollywood Prince Who Torched the Castle

Ronan Farrow, the Hollywood Prince Who Torched the Castle, by Marisa Guthrie.

A child of entertainment royalty and an early witness to “power used for ill,” the son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow opens up about helping bring down Harvey Weinstein (“My family background made me understand abuse from an early age”) …

It was Farrow — the golden-haired progeny of Hollywood royals Woody Allen and Mia Farrow — who took a journalistic sledgehammer to this industry’s meticulously tended facade when he (along with reporters from The New York Times) revealed decades of sexual predation by now-disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein. His Oct. 10 exposé for The New Yorker upended the town’s historic casting-couch culture and spurred a wave of disclosures that have toppled powerful men in Hollywood, the media and politics.

Farrow — a Rhodes scholar who graduated from Bard College at age 15 — dismisses “the silly, easy narrative about the son of Hollywood taking down the system” — though he won’t dispute the effect that his family history of alleged sexual abuse had on him personally, and professionally. His older sister, Dylan Farrow, now 32, accused their father, Woody Allen, of molesting her when she was 7. “You see early in life with that kind of a family background the way in which the most powerful men in America wield power for good and for ill,” he says. “And probably, yes, the family background made me someone who understood the abuse of power from an early age.”

His mother, too, downplays the personal motivation of the stories. “It’s not a subject we discussed as a family,” says Mia Farrow, speaking for the first time about her son’s work to bring down Weinstein. “I never got the sense the Weinstein story was personal for him. He was a reporter on a huge assignment.”

Huge is a fair assessment, both in the story’s execution and its impact. Though The Times published first, on Oct. 5, Farrow’s New Yorker piece went deeper, with explicit and painful on-the-record accounts of alleged assault and rape….

Upon publication, even as the piece shook Hollywood to its core, it catapulted the author’s own media profile. Farrow is now a hot commodity, aggressively pursued on the speaker circuit, and though he only has one short-lived TV news-hosting gig under his belt, he is being courted by a wide array of outlets. …

Though Ronan purportedly is Allen’s child, Mia Farrow threw his parentage into doubt when she suggested in a 2013 Vanity Fair profile that he could “possibly” be the son of Frank Sinatra, to whom she was married during the late ’60s. …

Asked if he views himself as an advocate on the topic of sexual abuse, he is decisive: “No. I’m a reporter, not an activist. I’m not pouring out my blood on battleships. My mandate going into the Weinstein story was never to believe all survivors; it was to listen to all survivors. I think it’s completely possible to be both a skeptical, judicious reporter and also create a space for survivors to be heard. If that reporting inspires people to activism, then it’s a job done well.”