Former model Babi Christina Engelhardt is speaking out publicly for the first time about her alleged eight-year relationship with Woody Allen, which she says started when she was underage. While she “thought [she] was special” during the affair, over time she has slowly come to realize how little agency she had.
Engelhardt, who has dropped “Babi” from her name, told The Hollywood Reporter that she first met Allen at New York City restaurant Elaine’s in 1976, and says she approached him and gave him her number. She says she told Allen that she was in high school in New Jersey, though he apparently never asked for her age, nor did she disclose it. She was 16, one year shy of New York’s age of consent, and 25 years Allen’s junior. She isn’t the only underage woman to say that Allen behaved inappropriately with her: for years, Dylan Farrow has maintained that her adoptive father molested her as a child, which Allen has denied for just as long. He also married Soon-Yi Previn, his adopted daughter, whom he met when she was 10, and Manhattan star Mariel Hemingway says he tried to fly her to Paris when she turned 18.
Over the course of their eight-year relationship, Engelhardt says she and Allen had more than 100 sexual encounters. Around four years in, she says he introduced her to his “girlfriend,” Mia Farrow — a moment that first opened her eyes to how Allen regarded her, which left her feeling “sick.”
“I didn’t want to be there at all, and yet I couldn’t find the courage to get up and leave,” she writes in unpublished manuscripts for her memoirs. “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. So I sat there, patiently, calmly trying to assess the situation, trying to understand why he wanted the two of us to meet.”
(Neither Allen nor Farrow responded to The Hollywood Reporter’s request for comment.)
Engelhardt’s relationship with Allen resembles the central one in Manhattan, in which a 17-year-old girl (played by Mariel Hemingway) sleeps with Allen’s 42-year-old character, which leads Engelhardt to believe that she served as inspiration for the film. (Stacey Nelkin, a 17-year-old who dated Allen, has also claimed that she was Allen’s Manhattan muse.) In her memoir manuscripts, Engelhardt recalls what it was like to watch Manhattan in theaters when she and Allen were (allegedly) still together — eye-opening and devastating.
“I cried through most of the movie, the dawning of realization slowly settling in as my greatest fears crept to the surface,” she writes. “How was our partnership not something more than just a fling? … How could he deconstruct my personality and our life together as if it were just some fictional creation for art house fatheads to pore over?”
It wasn’t until the Washington Post published an article in January about Allen’s “misogynist and lecherous musings” in his Princeton papers — specifically, a series of short stories about middle-aged men who were sexually involved with teenagers — that Engelhardt says she realized that her affair with the director was “part of a pattern.” While Engelhardt says that she has “no regrets” about the relationship, she writes that she no longer has dreams about “making love” to Allen; today, she dreams of him “dying in [her] arms.”