Dozens of Hachette employees staged a walkout of its New York City offices on Thursday in protest against the company’s decision to publish Woody Allen’s autobiography.
Grand Central, a Hachette imprint, announced this week it would publish the Hollywood director’s Apropos of Nothing on 7 April. Financial terms were not disclosed for the book, which Grand Central quietly acquired a year ago.
The 84-year-old Allen is an Oscar-winning film-maker, known for such works as Annie Hall and The Purple Rose of Cairo, and he is among the most influential comedians of his time. But allegations by his daughter Dylan Farrow that he molested her as a child in the early 1990s have effectively stalled his movie career in the US.
Allen has denied any wrongdoing, and he was never charged after two separate investigations in the 1990s.
The author Ronan Farrow, Allen’s son, has stood by his sister’s account. Farrow’s book on the #MeToo era, Catch and Kill, was recently published by Little, Brown, also an imprint of the French-owned media group, and he has threatened to cut ties with the publisher.
Hachette employees told the Guardian they felt moved to take action because they felt their concerns about the Allen memoir were not being addressed.
“It’s a huge conflict of interest and wrong,” said one Hachette employee, who declined to be identified. Asked if they had called for the book to be withdrawn, the employee added: “It’s not up to us – it’s up to the higher ups if they want to hear our voices.”
Another employee said: “Everybody has a right to respond to allegations against them but do we have to pay them God knows how much to do that? Everybody should take responsibility for their actions.”
After staff walked out, Dylan Farrow tweeted: “Unbelievably overwhelmed and so incredibly grateful for the solidarity demonstrated by @HachetteUS and @littlebrown employees today. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
She added that Hachette’s decision to publish Allen’s book was “deeply upsetting to me personally and an utter betrayal of my brother”.
Anger over the planned publication of Allen’s book escalated after Hachette’s CEO, Michael Pietsch, claimed in an interview with the New York Times that “each book has its own mission. Our job as a publisher is to help the author achieve what they have set out to do in the creation of their book.”
In an email to Pietsch, Ronan Farrow claimed that Hachette’s policy of editorial independence between imprints “does not relieve you of your moral and professional obligations as the publisher of Catch and Kill, and as the leader of a company being asked to assist in efforts by abusive men to whitewash their crimes”.
Farrow continued: “As you and I worked on Catch and Kill”, which addressed “the damage Woody Allen did to my family … you were secretly planning to publish a book by the person who committed those acts of sexual abuse.
“Obviously I can’t in good conscience work with you any more,” he added. “Imagine this were your sister.”
That criticism followed a statement, released via Twitter on Tuesday, in which Farrow accused Hachette of “a lack of ethics and compassion for the victims of sexual abuse”.
“Obviously I can’t in good conscience work with you any more,” he added in the email. “Imagine this were your sister.”
His mother, Mia Farrow, said in statement that that Hachette’s decision to publish her former partner’s memoir “provides yet another example of the profound privilege that power, money and notoriety affords”, she said.
“Hachette’s utter complicity in this should be called out for what it is and they should have to answer for it.”
The protest won support from others in the publishing industry. Unionized employees at HarperCollins sent out a tweet soon after Hachette staff walked out: “We stand in solidarity with Hachette workers. Collective action is how we hold the powerful accountable.”
Allen has in recent years been largely shunned by the film industry in the aftermath of accusations against recently convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein fuelled the #MeToo movement.
Several actors, among them Greta Gerwig, Timothée Chalamet, Mira Sorvino and Rebecca Hall, have since expressed regret for working with Allen. Some have apologized to Dylan Farrow. Two years ago, Amazon Studios cancelled a distribution deal and it was reported that that Allen’s memoir was passed over by several publishers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report