In a recent interview in Time Out New York, Lena Dunham told her Girls co-producer Jenni Konner that she’d been moved to speak out against Woody Allen by the moral courage of her longtime mentor Judd Apatow. According to Dunham, the powerful Hollywood director was “one of the first people ever to speak out against Woody Allen.” But, uh—did he?
Here’s the relevant part of that interview, published earlier this month:
Konner: We’ve chatted about this plenty, but I thought we could talk for a second about the Bill Cosby controversy. One thing that I kind of wanted to talk about was how incredible Judd [Apatow]’s been during it—he’s our partner—the way he’s been one of the lone voices, and certainly one of the lone male voices coming out against Cosby.
Dunham: The lone voice, the lone male voice, the fact that Judd is such a comedy fan. Like Judd’s whole DNA is a commitment to other comedians. You know, Judd was also one of the first people ever to speak out against Woody Allen. Before any of this happened, he was like, Sorry, Woody Allen marrying his daughter is creepy and it’s stopped me from liking his movies. Judd—he’s not moralistic, but he has a strong sense of morality, especially as a father of daughters. He is the most deeply appropriate male I have ever engaged with.
One problem with Dunham’s account: We couldn’t find any evidence that Apatow has ever spoken out against Woody Allen, for any reason.
It is true, as Konner mentions, that Apatow has publicly condemned Bill Cosby, who stands accused of sexual assault by over two dozen women. But there is no similar record of Apatow publicly condemning Woody Allen, who stands accused of child molestation by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow.
It would have been impressive—and courageous—for a comic director of Apatow’s notoriety to loudly and publicly distance himself from Allen, so we checked out his past statements using Google, Nexis, and so on. All we managed to turn up were a handful of positive tweets—here he calls Blue Jasmine an “amazing film”—and interviews like this 2010 conversation with Vulture, in which Apatow declared his love for Allen:
I’m such a fan of Woody Allen that I don’t even reference him as someone I was influenced by because it’s just so deep in me. When the VCR was invented, the first movie we owned was Annie Hall and the second one we owned was Manhattan. And I watched all of his movies so many times, hundreds of times, that it’s beyond discussing as an influence, it’s just in me. ...
As much as I love Woody Allen, I wish he would tell me that things are going to be okay at some point. But I don’t think he's going to.
(In the same interview, he even compared Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture to a Woody Allen film: “It did in an odd way remind me of Manhattan, even though the subject matter’s completely different. There’s an aspect to her personality that echoed that.”)
We emailed Dunham and Apatow’s reps to see if they knew where Dunham had gotten the idea that Apatow was an early critic of Allen. Apatow’s publicist Matt Labov didn’t respond, and Dunham’s spokeswoman told us the actress “can’t remember the outlet” where Apatow denounced Allen.
So if you’ve seen Judd Apatow express his “strong sense of morality” with a condemnation of Woody Allen marrying his partner’s adopted daughter*, let us know. Otherwise Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow are due for a talk about the director.
Update: Two tipsters pointed us to a 2010 episode of Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast during which Apatow discusses Woody Allen. The harshest thing he says about the director is: “Maybe after I read the Mia Farrow book, I got a little creeped out, and my incredible worship and affection got dented.” He does not “speak out” against Allen or otherwise suggest the director’s creepiness has “stopped me from liking his movies.”
* Correction: This post was updated to clarify that Woody Allen’s wife, Soon-Yi Previn, is not Allen’s stepdaughter (or, as Dunham suggests, his daughter). In fact, Previn is the adopted daughter of Allen’s former partner, Mia Farrow, who separated from the director in 1992 after learning about his relationship with Previn. Thank you to the readers who pointed this out.