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Woody Allen seeks to block Farrow's NYC testimony

ACTOR-DIRECTOR Woody Allen asked a judge yesterday to stop a clothing company from putting his former longtime companion Mia Farrow and his wife - Farrow's adopted daughter - on the witness stand as it defends itself against his claims it used his image on billboards without permission.

In papers filed in US District Court in Manhattan, Allen said Los Angeles-based American Apparel Inc.'s requests to summon Farrow, her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn and others including his sister and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt are a "brutish attempt to smear and intimidate" him.

Allen sued American Apparel for US$10 million after it used his image on its billboards in Hollywood and New York and on a Web site. Allen, who does not endorse products in the United States, said he had not authorized the displays, which the company said were up for a week. Jury selection in the civil trial is set for May 18.

American Apparel lawyer Stuart Slotnick has said the company will make Allen's relationships with Farrow and Previn a focus of the trial to show that Allen's image is no longer worth the US$10 million he believes his billboard appearance merits. Slotnick did not immediately return messages seeking comment yesterday.

Farrow, an actress, starred in several of Allen's movies, including "Crimes and Misdemeanors," during a relationship that ended in 1992, when she discovered he was having an affair with Previn, then 22.

During a custody fight, Farrow accused Allen of sexually abusing their adopted daughter Dylan, then 7. Allen was exonerated of the abuse charges, but Farrow won sole custody.

Allen, who married Previn in 1997, said in the court papers Monday the clothing company had shown it intends to use unproven allegations from the custody dispute "in a most lurid manner, to incite the jury's emotions and poison the jury" against him. He said it was an attempt to divert the jury's attention from the misconduct of the company, which is known for its provocative ads of scantily dressed models in tight-fitting and sometimes see-through garments.

Allen, 73, also argued that the company's failure to disclose plans to call the witnesses at the outset of the case should cause them to be precluded. He said the events surrounding his 1992 child custody dispute with Farrow and the personal lives of him and his family have nothing to do with whether the company unlawfully used his image and thus were "irrelevant and inadmissible."

He testified at a December deposition that he considered the company's advertising to be "sleazy" and "infantile" and said he didn't want to be associated with it.

One of the company's billboards featured a frame from "Annie Hall," a film that won Allen a best-director Oscar. The image showed Allen dressed as a Hasidic Jew with a long beard and black hat and Yiddish text. The words "American Apparel" were on the billboard.

Slotnick, American Apparel's lawyer, said last month the company's belief was that "after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America's desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is."

He said then he couldn't discuss whether there were any settlement talks under way, but he hinted the company might be open to avoiding a trial, saying it had apologized for using Allen's image.


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