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Woman claiming to be Woody Allen's 'secret teen lover' speaks out for first time, says she inspired 'Manhattan'

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·5 min read
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A woman who claims she had a sexual relationship with Woody Allen that started when she was 16 is detailing their time together.

In October 1976, Christina Engelhardt — who then went by Babi Christina Engelhardt — was a confident young model who approached the 40-year-old controversial director at Elaine’s, a restaurant in New York City, to give him her number. She told the Hollywood Reporter that kicked off an eight-year sexual relationship, which she thinks partially inspired his 1979 film Manhattan — the one where Mariel Hemingway’s 17-year-old character slept with Allen’s 42-year-old character. Engelhardt also claims their relationship included threesοmes with Mia Farrow.

Christina Engelhardt says that in 1976, when she was 16, she began a romantic relationship with Woody Allen. (Photos: Getty Images, christinaengelhardt.com)
Christina Engelhardt says that in 1976, when she was 16, she began a romantic relationship with Woody Allen. (Photos: Getty Images, christinaengelhardt.com)

Engelhardt, who wrote an unpublished (for now!) memoir about her time with Allen as well as being the platonic muse of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, said she was a teen living at home in New Jersey when the intimate relationship began. Allen never asked her age, she claimed. In December 1976, she turned 17, making such a liaison legal in New York. Several people Engelhardt, now 59, knew back then confirmed the relationship, including photographer Andrew Unangst, who was with her when she met Allen, as well as a friend who dropped her at Allen’s New York penthouse. Engelhardt’s younger brother, Mike, recalled to THR how Allen would call their parents’ home to speak to his sister: “I’d holler out, ‘Babi, it’s Woody!’ My brain didn’t think something romantic; I was 11 or 12 and a huge fan. I mean, Bananas?!”

Engelhardt, who went on to work in the entertainment industry as an actress, producer, and personal assistant to producer Bob Evans, made it clear to THR she’s not out to get Allen. “What made me speak is I thought I could provide a perspective,” she said. “I’m not attacking Woody. This is not ‘Bring down this man.’ I’m talking about my love story. This made me who I am. I have no regrets.”

Engelhardt detailed how she jumped into the relationship with Allen, going to his Manhattan apartment more than 100 times. They’d play chess or watch a basketball game on TV, but mostly they were in an upstairs bedroom facing Central Park. A year into things, he occasionally brought home two other “beautiful young ladies” for threesοmes, she claimed. Some four years into the relationship, she said Allen told her he wanted to introduce her to his new “girlfriend,” Farrow. Initially upset because she thought she was Allen’s girlfriend, she grew to like the Rosemary’s Baby star during a “handful” of alleged threesοmes with Allen.

Engelhardt, who is also a psychic reader, said she and Farrow would smoke joints in Allen’s penthouse and talk about astrology and animals while Allen would be “forced to listen.” In her manuscript, she wrote, “There were times the three of us were together, and it was actually great fun. We enjoyed each other when we were in the moment. She was beautiful and sweet, he was charming and alluring, and I was sexy and becoming more and more sophisticated in this game. It wasn’t until after it was done when I really had time to think of how twisted it was when we were together … and how I was little more than a plaything.” She also felt Farrow was just “doing this because he wanted it.”

Allen and Farrow, of course, went on to have a long relationship that didn’t end well. He began a sexual relationship with her adoptive daughter from another marriage, Soon-Yi Previn, whom he later married. According to allegations made later by Dylan Farrow, a daughter adopted by Allen and Farrow, it was around the same time, in the early 90s, that Allen sexually assaulted her. Since Dylan spoke out — and in the era of #MeToo — there has been a backlash against Allen, with actors who worked with him distancing themselves from him.

Engelhardt says after she moved on from Allen, she had a colorful life. She met and worked with Fellini in his later years, which she said Allen was excited to hear. (“He said, ‘You’re with Fellini — you left me for Fellini?! That’s so cool!'” she recalled.) She also told THR that she partied with model Iman, dined with Stephen King, and was a personal assistant to Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier who was accused of sexually abusing teen girls but arranged a lenient plea deal. While she was acting, Engelhardt was an extra on Allen’s 1980 film, Stardust Memories, without telling him. “My dream was that he’d have seen me and pulled me out from the crowd,” she said. “But I showed up with the crowd and left with the crowd.” (She said that when they were together, he told her he couldn’t help her with her acting career.)

Engelhardt, now a divorced mom of two adult children, said she last heard from Allen in January 2001, when he sent her a letter thanking her for sending him a copy of a documentary about Fellini she’d appeared in — and she added that she thought he had maybe hinted at a threesοme with Previn. “I already had children then,” she said. “I was like — not that I’ve gone square, but my priorities were different. I just wanted to stay away from that.”

Engelhardt also talked about rewatching Manhattan. She acknowledged there may have been other people who inspired Hemingway’s character — actress Stacey Nelkin, who allegedly dated Allen as a 17-year-old high school student, has said she was his muse — but Engelhardt isn’t sold on it. “When I heard her say that, I was like, ‘Whatever,'” she told THR. Hemingway said in 2015 that Allen tried to seduce her as a teen.

Allen and Farrow didn’t comment to THR for the story. Yahoo Entertainment reached out as well, but did not yet receive a response.

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