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A look inside Hollywood and the movies : Mia's Back At Work, Sans You-Know-Who

September 05, 1993|WILLIAM HALL

BALLYKNOCKAN, Ireland — In an interview from the set of her first film since the highly publicized, bitter custody battle with Woody Allen, actress Mia Farrow said "Making this movie is like therapy after these past horrendous months I've lived through. Do you know it's the first film I've done without Woody Allen in 13 years? No wonder it feels so strange to find a new face behind the camera."

The film she has chosen for "the start of my new life" is "Widow's Peak," a low-budget Irish period comedy that is being shot in this tiny lakeside village in the green hills of County Wicklow south of Dublin. The new face behind the camera is British director John Irvin, who at six feet tall and burly is a far physical cry from the actor-filmmaker whom the 48-year-old Farrow was romantically and professionally tied to for more than a decade.

Still feeling the ripples of a brief and unpleasant encounter with Allen when he paid an unwelcome visit to the set in the middle of shooting to visit their son Satchel, Farrow said of the man who transformed her career with such films as "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "The Purple Rose of Cairo": "I regret the day I ever met him. I hope I never see him again."

The actress, who won a custody battle over their three children, said she "came perilously close to a genuine meltdown of my very core" and now feels "like I'm out of a cage."

"I mean, all of Woody's films were all so--insular," she explained. "He had his own family of actors, and everyone knew his movies took up most of a year. So I never got the chance to do anything else."

Farrow insists that "now the scripts have started coming through again, and please God may they continue. I've got a lot of kids, and I need the money!"

The actress said she "couldn't wish for a better picture to start my career again than this one," referring to "Widow's Peak," in which she plays one in a group of women in a small Irish community in the 1920s run by a despotic matriarch (Joan Plowright). All the women are widows, except for Farrow's shy and demure character Miss Stacey O'Hare, who is being courted by the local dentist (Jim Broadbent). The arrival of a beautiful war widow (Natasha Richardson), however, brings out the claws in O'Hare, causing havoc in the tight-knit sect.

Speaking of claws, Farrow can't pass up an opportunity to take another dig at her former lover: "I love John (Irvin, whose films include "Dogs of War" and "Hamburger Hill"). I find him incisive, positive--he's not the great talker, he doesn't go on and on about what you should do the way Woody did, soul searching and analyzing."

Irvin, who for Farrow represents a reassuring presence, acknowledges that he is "working with an artist who has been through a lot of pain, and she may still be in a lot of pain." The director said, "I do what I can to help. I would be a lousy director if I was insensitive to anybody's suffering."

Talking about being in the spotlight again but no longer in Allen's shadow, Farrow muses: "I did wonder what it would be like to act again--without Woody . . . I've gone through so much. But I know I've made the right choice."

Farrow was to star in Allen's latest movie, "Manhattan Murder Mystery," but dropped out when their custody battle erupted and she learned that her partner of 13 years had been having an affair with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi. The actress was replaced in the role by another of the actor-writer-director's former lovers and co-stars, Diane Keaton.

"I've changed," Farrow stated. "You become very strong when your children are threatened. I know I did. I went to hell and back! I dug deep, and found hidden reserves in myself that I never knew existed. Call it God. All I know is that when I had to find it, when the crunch came, the strength was there."

Farrow's final gesture in cutting the ties and erasing the trauma of the past months will be to buy a farmhouse in Connecticut, two hours out of New York.

"There will be chickens in the yard, a pony for the kids, and a horse for me. Books to read and music all day. It's going to be great," she said, her face lighting up in genuine delight at the thought.

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