Woody ducks out just as they start to roll the credits

MIKE LITTWIN

November 25, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

Woody, Woody, Woody. So, you tell us you're not a child molester. Congratulations.

A little humiliating, though, isn't it? You have to go on "60 Minutes" to tell the world that, though you may be a pig, you're not that big a pig. You say you're clean. You say you took lie detector tests. You say you'd never, ever.

I believe you. What am I going to believe? I'm supposed to think you're capable of doing that? I'm supposed to think anybody I know could do that? You're Woody. OK, you're on the screen, but you're somebody I think I know. That's the deal with you and your fans -- and I've been one from the beginning -- who laugh at the angst-ridden ground you walk on. You're somebody they know. Knew, anyway.

And yet, somebody does do it. All the time, sick, scary, horrible people who look unsick, unscary, normal are doing terrible things to kids while saying they'd never, ever.

Not you?

OK. Not you. Can't be you. Not Woody. Not Alvy Singer, not Fielding Mellish.

But you don't stop there. You go on TV and tell us it's Mia who has the problem -- not you. You tell us she's nuts, that she threatens your life in late-night phone calls, that she wants to rip your eyes out, that she accuses you of the unthinkable in a mad stab at vengeance.

Gosh, Woody, why would she be upset?

Let's reconstruct, briefly. You're involved in a long-term, marriage-like relationship with a woman who has mothered your child and some of whose children you have adopted; who is, except for the license, your wife. And behind her back, you're sleeping with her college-age daughter (yes, yes, yes, she's not your kid and, yes, she was of age). You say the relationship with Mia was all but over. Except it wasn't over. And how does Mia find out that Uncle Woody is sleeping with Soon-Yi? She waltzes over to your apartment only to discover pictures of her nude daughter.

Let me ask you, is this worse than finding a Buick-sized spider in your bathtub?

If you were making a movie, do you think you might have the mother get the slightest bit weird? How do you think Brian De Palma plays this one? You think he stops at scratching your eyes out?

And how about this: Do you think if Mia is nuts that maybe you bear some of the responsibility for her condition? If she's over the edge, did you maybe give her a push?

We saw the Valentine, the one she gave you with the knife through her heart and the skewers through the hearts of her children. Nice touch. I wonder why Stephen King never thought of it. Nuts? Sure. But you have to appreciate the intrinsic drama. She's saying you killed her. She's saying you killed her family.

What do you say? You say on TV if people want to think you did anything wrong, you'll "take the heat."

What you didn't say, though, and I listened closely, was that you did anything wrong. I remember when the scandal broke, you said basically that you fell in love without meaning to and that you had to follow your heart wherever it led.

You suggested you bore no responsibility. It's love. Blame love. I remember: We need the eggs.

But maybe this is different. Let's play amateur psychologist. That's what you do in the movies, isn't it? You won't mind.

Is this love or an act of hostility? You tell me what's more hostile than sleeping with your lover's daughter. What could be a crueler rejection? And now, asked about the relationship, you say you see Soon-Yi sometimes on weekends when she comes home from school. I'm trying to picture you, nearly 57, at a freshman mixer.

We know about your hostility. You beat us over the head with it in the last movie, "Husbands and Wives." There was Mia without makeup. There was Mia's character described as passive aggressive. There was you, in the end anyway, so noble.

In the movie, you break it off with the young woman before the relationship gets anywhere. This is where you let yourself off the hook.

That's what you do, isn't it?

Mia's nuts; you did nothing.

And, you know, as I watched the movie, I let you off the hook, too. I laughed all the way through. It was you doing your Woody thing at your Woody best. It was smart and funny and nearly perfect, just like the old Woody.

I laughed, even though I didn't want to. Couldn't help it. But I also couldn't help remembering this: Trust the art, not the artist.

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