Mia Farrow may be known for her delicate beauty, but it’s her steely strength that has kept her on screen. From iconic roles in her early career to her scandalous relationship with Woody Allen, Farrow has seen the best and the worst that fame has to offer. Here are 50 little-known facts about Mia Farrow.
Mia Farrow Facts
1. In Her DNA
Mia Farrow was born on February 9, 1945, straight into Hollywood pedigree. Her parents were film director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan. With such famous parents, her godparents had to meet the gold standard, too. Her godfather was famed director George Cukor, and her godmother the first film columnist, Louella Parsons.
2. Crowded House
Farrow grew up in a strict Roman Catholic household with six siblings. She loved to perform for them, their parents, and any sightseers driving by on celebrity tour buses. Farrow was a happy child, but a dark period was looming on the horizon.
When Farrow was just nine years old, she was struck by polio during a huge outbreak in Los Angeles County. Some records claim that up to 500 people were hospitalized at the time. The young Farrow was kept in quarantine, all alone, for three excruciating weeks. It was a lot for such a young girl to take, and she later said that the period marked “the end of [her] childhood.”
4. Start ‘Em Young
Farrow has over 50 film credits to her name, and she didn’t get them by waiting around. When she was two years old, she appeared in a short documentary, and then, when she was 13, she appeared in her father’s film John Paul Jones.
5. The Sound of Rejection
However, Farrow didn’t always get the parts she wanted. When she was 20, she auditioned for the role of Liesel in The Sound of Music, but lost out to Charmian Carr, who was 21 when the movie was filmed. Both actresses were quite a few years off from “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” but no one in production seemed to care.
6. I’ve Got Friends in High Places
Few people know that Mia Farrow was close personal friends with the iconic musician John Lennon. He even wrote the song “Dear Prudence” for her younger sister, Prudence Farrow. However, on a more tragic note, Mia’s apartment building is next door to the Dakota, infamously known as the place where Lennon was brutally assassinated.
7. If These Walls Could Talk
The Dakota was also the setting for what is probably Farrow’s most iconic film, Rosemary’s Baby. It was called the Bramford in the film, and only used for exterior shots, as no filming was allowed inside.
8. Daddy Doesn’t Know Best
It would be an understatement to say that Mia Farrow had a fraught relationship with her father. In reality, father and daughter were deeply unhappy. After the tragic death of Mia’s oldest brother Michael in 1958, John Farrow began drinking heavily and had violent fights with his wife. When Farrow was just 17 years old, he passed away after suffering a heart attack.
9. Everybody Pitch In
The Farrow family hadn’t been in great financial shape even before Michael’s passing, so when he died, things only got harder. Farrow’s mother had been appearing in Broadway productions in New York City to keep the family afloat. After Michael passed away, Mia Farrow was ready to do her part to contribute to the family’s finances. Making good on her slim figure and beautiful face, Farrow turned to modelling.
10. The Big Break
In 1964, a year after her father’s death, Farrow got her big break when she was cast in the primetime soap opera Peyton Place. She played Allison MacKenzie, an innocent teen girl, for over 250 episodes. Her love interest in the show was portrayed by then-heartthrob Ryan O’Neal. Looking back, this is darkly ironic: O’Neal is now known for his controversial relationship with his daughter, in similar vein to one of Farrow’s famous exes. More on that later…
11. Pick One
When she was just 21 years old, Farrow fell madly in love with a significantly older man: the iconic Frank Sinatra, then 50 years old. But little did young Farrow know, the couple was doomed to a brutal end. Sinatra was very controlling of his young bride, demanding she give up her career. Farrow agreed, shocking the nation by leaving Peyton Place at the height of her rising star.
12. From Soap Opera to A List
At this point in her career, Farrow was known more for her high-profile marriage and her time on a soap opera than her mettle as a serious actress. However, an incredibly opportunity was about to come knocking. Farrow was offered the prestigious leading role in the classic horror film Rosemary’s Baby—but little did she know, it would come at a great cost.
13. Surprise, We’re Over
After marrying Sinatra and putting her career on hold in 1966, Farrow spent two long years playing housewife while he continued to work. Bored of her bland, domestic lifestyle, she agreed to play the role of Rosemary Woodhouse in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. As the movie’s shooting schedule ran over time, Farrow received a heartbreaking letter. Sinatra served her with divorce papers.
14. Oscar Bait
Farrow actually considered dropping out of the film because of the strain it placed on her marriage, but allegedly, a studio exec told her that she’d win an Oscar if she did it. Famously, Farrow was nominated for multiple awards for Rosemary’s Baby, but no Academy Award—a move now seen as one of the most legendary snubs in Oscar history.
15. Work-Life Imbalance
Although Sinatra urged Farrow to quit acting when they wed, he actually planned to cast her in one movie: his passion project The Detective. And so, when filming for Rosemary’s Baby took longer than anticipated, Sinatra was extremely furious. He recast Jacqueline Bisset in his wife’s role, and cruelly divorced Farrow.
16. Me Without You
Despite Sinatra’s callous behavior during the dissolution of their marriage, Farrow later admitted that when she was with Sinatra, she acted like an immature teenager, which contributed to the strain on their relationship. After their divorce, they managed to put the past in the past, with the pair even staying close friends until the legendary crooner’s death in 1998.
17. Stay the Course
With Rosemary’s Baby, Farrow finally found respectability and critical acclaim as an actress, and she was determined to continue on that path. She appeared in films opposite megastars like Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Mitchum, and other up-and-comers like Dustin Hoffman—but soon enough, she’d make history all on her own.
18. First Place
In 1971, Mia Farrow became the very first American actress to join the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company. She would go on to act in numerous critically-acclaimed stage productions in London throughout the 70s.
19. Dip Your Toes in the Water
Despite her strict upbringing and faith, Farrow also studied transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. Unbelievably, she was there at the same time as all four of the Beatles, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, the singer Donovan, and Farrow’s own sister Prudence. Talk about a super group, right?
20. Moving On
After Farrow’s dramatic divorce from Frank Sinatra, the young actress decided to give love another try, setting her sights on the acclaimed composer Andre Previn. Unfortunately for Farrow and Previn, their relationship had a disturbing dark side. When they first started seeing each other, Previn was still married to his second wife, Dory.
21. A Busy Year
When Farrow became pregnant in 1969, Previn knew that things had to change. He left his wife before Farrow gave birth to twin boys in February. Farrow and Previn were wed on September 10, 1970, just a few months after his divorce from Dory Previn was finalized. As though that wasn’t dramatic enough, when Farrow and Previn walked down the aisle, she was 25 to his 41.
22. Beware of Young Girls
After Andre Previn left his ex-wife Dory Previn for Mia Farrow, Dory wrote an absolutely brutal song titled “Beware of Young Girls.” It excoriates Farrow, claiming that the pair had been friends, but that Farrow had “a dark and different plan.”
23. The Previn Bunch
In the time Farrow and Previn were married, they had three biological children: twins Matthew and Sascha, and son Fletcher. They also adopted three children together, Lark Song and Summer Song, both from Vietnam, and Soon-Yi, from Korea. While all Farrow’s children would change her life, Soon-Yi would have an especially troubling impact.
24. One Thoughtless Day
In the final verse of Dory Previn’s song “Beware of Young Girls,” she concludes with a brutal line. She predicts that “She will leave him one thoughtless day, she’ll just leave him and go away.” Whether or not that’s exactly what came to pass, Farrow and Previn did divorce. After nine years of marriage, the duo went their separate ways in 1979.
25. Unlucky 13
It was shortly after her divorce from Previn that Farrow began her most infamous relationship of all, with director Woody Allen. While they never married, their relationship would last an unlucky 13 years.
26. Expanding the Brood
In the early years of her relationship with Allen, Farrow adopted two more children as a single mother: Moses Farrow, a Korean boy with cerebral palsy; and Dylan, who Farrow adopted at just two weeks old. They would later go on to be co-adopted by Woody Allen. The couple also had a son together, named Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow. He now goes by the name Ronan, which is understandable.
27. Playing Favorites
Farrow’s relationship with Allen was incredibly fruitful for her career as an actress. She frequently appeared in her partner’s films, beginning with A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy in 1982. The role was originally written for Allen’s ex-girlfriend (and frequent collaborator) Diane Keaton. Allen is now notorious for repeatedly casting certain actresses, sometimes called his muses, in his films.
28. Mia Blue Eyes
In Allen’s 1984 film Broadway Danny Rose, Farrow went to extreme lengths to play against type. In order to portray a woman who gets mixed up with the mob, Farrow gained weight and spoke in a heavy Italian accent, with many saying she was “unrecognizable.” Farrow’s impressive performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
29. Unlucky 13 Part II
In total, Farrow and Allen collaborated on a total of 13 movies during their relationship. Their final project, Husbands and Wives, was released in 1992, shortly after their highly public and scandalous separation. Ironically enough, Allen and Farrow play a married couple in the film, and, surprise surprise, Allen’s character has an extramarital affair.
In January 1992, Mia Farrow made an utterly disturbing discovery that would change the course of her life forever. Farrow and Allen had famously always kept separate homes across Central Park throughout their relationship. While visiting Allen’s home, Farrow found naked pictures of her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi.
31. Beware of Young Girls Part II
When Farrow confronted Allen, he told her that he and Soon-Yi had begun a physical relationship two weeks prior to her discovery of the photos. She ended their relationship then, although both Allen and Soon-Yi later claimed that Allen and Farrow had already been broken up by that time. In any case, when Allen and Soon-Yi began their relationship, Soon-Yi was just 21 years old.
32. Bad News Comes in Avalanches
Knowing that their controversial relationship would raise eyebrows, both Soon-Yi and Allen claimed that he hadn’t had a paternal role in her life. During a later court battle, it was found that the two had rarely interacted prior to 1990. Their relationship wasn’t made public until later in 1992—and the news emerged side-by-side with another horrific scandal involving Farrow and Allen.
33. She Said, He Said, She Said
Farrow and Allen had been separated for months by August 1992, but he still visited with the children he shared with Farrow: Dylan, Moses, and Satchel. After an unsupervised visit with Dylan, then seven years old, little Dylan told Farrow that Allen had touched her inappropriately. Farrow informed the authorities, while Allen found out about the allegations from the family’s therapist.
Allen’s response to the allegations was astonishing. While Farrow and Allen had previously been close to reaching an agreement about the custody of the three children they shared, after the accusation, he sued for full custody of Dylan, Moses, and Satchel. He also released a public statement confirming his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn.
Allen also said that Dylan and Mia Farrow’s allegations against him were false, and that Mia had manipulated Dylan into making them as an act of vengeance.
35. See You In Court
A series of lengthy, heart-wrenching court battles quickly ensued. Allen’s petition for sole custody was ultimately rejected; a criminal inquiry against Allen was not pursued by authorities in order to prevent any further trauma to Dylan; and Farrow’s petition to revoke Allen’s adoption of Dylan and Moses was also rejected.
36. The Neverending Story
In the years since the court battles came to a close, both Mia and Dylan Farrow have maintained their allegations of abuse against Allen, with Ronan Farrow backing them up. Allen continues to deny the allegations.
37. That’s a Lot of Laundry
During the final months of her relationship with Allen and in the years afterward, Farrow adopted five more children: Tam, Kaeli-Shea (later known as Quincy Maureen), Frankie-Minh, Isaiah Justus, and Gabriel Wilk (later known as Thaddeus Wilk). If you lost count, that makes 14 children in total for Farrow: four biological, 10 adopted.
38. Torn Apart
Of those 14 children, Mia Farrow is estranged from two of them. Soon-Yi Previn went on to marry Woody Allen in 1997, and has no contact with her adopted mother. In 1992, after her relationship with Allen became public, her adopted father Andre Previn coldly said of Soon-Yi, “she does not exist.” Andre Previn died in 2019.
Moses Farrow, who was first adopted by Mia and later co-adopted by Woody Allen, made an utterly chilling allegation. According to Moses, Mia Farrow was actually the abusive parent. Moses claims that Mia coached Dylan to make the allegations against Allen.
39. Bad Luck Comes in Threes
After the conclusion of her court battle with Woody Allen, it should’ve been happily-ever-after for Mia Farrow and her brood, but sadly, tragedy lurked in the shadows. Since 2000, three of Farrow’s 10 adopted children have passed away. First, Tam Farrow died of heart failure in 2000. On Christmas Day 2008, Lark Previn passed away after battling an HIV-related illness. Then, in 2016, Thaddeus Farrow took his own life.
40. Cries and Whispers
In 2018, Mia Farrow’s estranged son Moses made a number of disturbing allegations about the death of his siblings on his personal blog. He claimed that Tam’s heart failure was related to an overdose and that Lark’s death also partly stemmed from substance abuse issues.
41. Success Story
On a brighter note, Mia Farrow and Woody Allen’s biological son Ronan Farrow is an accomplished journalist.
42. Not Just a Pretty Face
Mia Farrow is known for her volunteer work for humanitarian causes. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, advocates for the rights and health of African children, and has frequently traveled to Darfur to shine a light on the conflict there.
43. A Sad Legacy
One of the humanitarian causes that Farrow campaigns for is the fight against polio—perhaps because it’s one that hits frightfully close to home. Of course, there was her own battle against the disease at nine years old, but one of her adopted children, Thaddeus, also contracted polio and was paralyzed from the waist down as a result.
44. Gotta Have Faith
Mia Farrow went to Catholic school for most of her education, and has remained a devout Catholic for her entire life—despite those pesky divorces.
45. Win Some, Lose Some
One of Farrow’s most famous roles is her performance as the flighty heiress Daisy Buchanan in the luxe 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, opposite Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan and Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby. While the film wasn’t a huge hit with critics, it was a big financial success. The Great Gatsby made over $26 million at the box office on a $7 million budget.
46. Head in the Clouds
One of the criticisms of The Great Gatsby was the lack of chemistry between Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. Farrow actually attributed this to Redford’s fascination with the Watergate scandal, which was unfolding at the time. He would later play Watergate figure Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men to great acclaim.
47. First Things First
Mia Farrow was actually featured on the cover of the first-ever issue of the now-legendary People magazine.
48. Loss in the Chosen Family
Farrow was very close friends with fellow actress Sharon Tate in the 60s—after all, Farrow had been in Tate’s husband Roman Polanski’s biggest movie, Rosemary’s Baby. She was reportedly devastated after Tate’s passing, as both has gotten pregnant around the same time.
49. The Next Generation
Rosemary’s Baby was part of a wave of horror films in the 70s that used themes of Satanism to scare audiences, along with classics like The Exorcist and The Omen. But unlike its competitors, Rosemary’s Baby nearly killed its lead actress. The director, Roman Polanski, actually made Farrow walk into traffic. He assured her that no one would hit a pregnant woman. Luckily, he was right.
50. Young Blue Eyes
In 2013, Mia Farrow made a disturbing claim in a now-infamous interview. Farrow admitted that she always suspected that Ronan, her son with Woody Allen, could’ve actually been the product of a tryst with her ex, Frank Sinatra. Many were quick to point out Ronan’s resemblance to Sinatra. However, not everyone agrees.
Sinatra’s daughter Nancy was quick to refute the story, claiming that Mia Farrow was just joking and that her father had gotten a vasectomy prior to Ronan’s birth.