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Woody Allen: My Marriage with Former Stepdaughter Worked Because ‘I Was Paternal’

After the spark fades, relationships either work, or they don’t. In Hollywood, finding true love is considered an anomaly, and director Woody Allen is now describing the “it” factor that has made his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, his former stepdaughter, thrive.

“I’m 35 years older, and somehow, through no fault of mine or hers, the dynamic worked,” the 79-year-old director told NPR recently, according to Page Six. “I was paternal. She responded to someone who was paternal.”

“She deferred to me, and I was happy to give her an enormous amount of decision-making just as a gift and let her take charge of so many things,” he continued. “She flourished. It was just a good luck thing,” he added.

Allen and Previn began dating in the late 1980s, when Allen was still with Mia Farrow, whom he adopted several children with.

Previn was Farrow’s adopted daughter from a previous marriage.

“I started the relationship with her and I thought it would just be a fling. It wouldn’t be serious, but it had a life of its own. And I never thought it would be anything more. Then we started going together, then we started living together, and we were enjoying it. And the age difference didn’t seem to matter. It seemed to work in our favor actually,” Allen said of courting his adopted stepdaughter.

Allen and Previn married in 1997 and adopted two children together.

The director described the dynamics of the early stages of his relationship with Previn, and also dished on the elements he believes are essential for any relationship.

“She enjoyed being introduced to many, many things that I knew from experience, and I enjoyed showing her those things. She took them, and outstripped me in certain areas that I showed her,” he said.

“That’s why I’m a big believer in luck. I feel that you can’t orchestrate those things. Two people come along and they have a trillion exquisite needs and neuroses and nuances and they have to mesh, and if one of them doesn’t mesh, it causes a lot of trouble. It’s like the trace vitamin not being in your body. It’s a tiny little thing, but if you don’t have it you die.”

Allen also doesn’t believe in the philosophy that relationships require work and compromise to function.

“If you feel that you have to work at it — a constant business of looking the other way, sweeping stuff under the rug, compromising — it’s not working,” he concluded.

While Allen attributes age difference and paternal instincts to why their relationship has worked, Previn shares contradictory views.

“To think that Woody was in any way a father or stepfather to me is laughable,” she told TIME in 1992.

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