Actor-director Woody Allen has accused a clothing company of trying to harass and intimidate him with a “scorched earth” approach to defending itself against a $10 million lawsuit.
In papers filed Wednesday by his lawyers, the 73-year-old Allen said American Apparel Inc. went too far in requesting information about his family life, personal finances and career.
Allen sued the company last year for using his image on the company’s billboards in Hollywood and New York and on a Web site. Allen, who does not endorse products in the United States, said he had not authorized the displays, which the Los Angeles-based company said were up for a week.
The new court papers said American Apparel has “adopted a ‘scorched earth’ approach,” issuing broad document requests and subpoenas to many people close to him, including his sister.
Allen’s lawyers said the company was seeking to “tarnish Mr. Allen’s reputation a second time” and called it a “despicable effort to intimate” him.
American Apparel lawyer Stuart Slotnick said the company plans to make Allen’s relationships to actress Mia Farrow and her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, whom Allen married, the focus of a trial scheduled to begin in federal court in Manhattan on May 18.
“Woody Allen expects $10 million for use of his image on billboards that were up and down in less than one week,” Slotnick said. “I think Woody Allen overestimates the value of his image.”
He said the company’s belief was that “after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America’s desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is.”
One billboard featured a frame from “Annie Hall,” a film that won Allen a best-director Oscar. The image showed Allen dressed as a Hasidic Jew with a long beard and black hat and Yiddish text. The words “American Apparel” also were on the billboard.
Allen’s lawsuit said the billboard falsely implied he sponsored, endorsed or was associated with American Apparel.
Slotnick said it was not a cheap shot to bring up Allen’s sex life in a lawsuit over the billboard and Internet ads.
“It’s certainly relevant in assessing the value of an endorsement,” he said.
Farrow starred in several of Allen’s movies during a relationship with the director that ended in 1992, when she discovered he was having an affair with her oldest adopted daughter, Previn, then 22. Allen married Previn in 1997.
During a bitter custody fight, Farrow accused Allen of sexually abusing their adopted daughter Dylan, 7. Allen was exonerated of the abuse charges, but Farrow won sole custody.
American Apparel is known for its provocative ads of scantily dressed models in tight-fitting and sometimes see-through garments.
Allen testified at a December deposition that he considered the company’s advertising to be “sleazy” and “infantile.”
The newly filed court papers revealed new excerpts from Allen, including why he might appeal to some advertisers.
“I’ve always been, from the start of my career, a special taste,” he said. “There have always been people that have loved me and there have always been people that didn’t know what I was about and couldn’t see anything in me.”
Allen also said ads shown to him by American apparel, including his rabbi ad, “have a sleazy quality to them” and were “not classy.”
He said if he were to do a commercial, he would have to be paid a lot and “it would have to be a very clever, kind of witty or intellectual-style” commercial. He said being asked to do an American Apparel ad would be like being asked to do a deodorant or cigarette commercial.
“There are reasons that you say no despite the large sum of money offered because of the product involved, and this very possibly would fall under that category,” he said.
Lawyers for American Apparel have complained that Allen has refused to turn over much of the information they have demanded to prepare for trial.
Among their demands were documents concerning any endorsement requests that were withdrawn after the sex scandal with Farrow and Previn became public.
The documents defined sex scandal as “your relationship with Soon-Yi Previn including the discovery … (of) nude pictures you took of Soon-Yi Previn.”
The lawyers also requested documents concerning Allen’s public image and reputation, including his contention during his deposition that he was a “special kind of entity” or a “special taste.”
Allen’s attorneys said the request for documents related to the sex scandal and custody battle were “vexatious, oppressive, harassing” and irrelevant.
Slotnick said he couldn’t discuss whether there were any settlement talks under way, but he hinted the company may be open to avoiding a trial, saying it had apologized for using Allen’s image.