Published: October 6, 2013
Mia Farrow, In a rambling farmhouse called Frog Hollow, among the baked-earth fields of rural Connecticut, lives a single mother of 13 children. Though her brood are now grown up, she shares her cottage with two cows, five cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds, lizards and tropical fish.
She, a porcelain-skinned, spindly limbed, wispy haired woman of 68, keeps mostly to herself. She is friendly to her neighbours, and spends her time reading in her cavernous library, playing with her grandchildren (she has nine) and developing photographs in her darkroom. Around her neck she wears an opaque amulet, given to her by a villager from Darfur for protection against evil spirits and bad luck.
If anyone needs it, it’s her, Mia Farrow, the actress who once dated Woody Allen and married Frank Sinatra. Her solitary, Earth Motherly existence contrasts starkly with her glamorous heyday, when Farrow’s star shone as brightly as Rita Hayworth’s and Ava Gardner’s.
This week, she is back in the public eye after a long absence, having revealed in an interview with Vanity Fair that her son Ronan, her only biological child with Allen, may, in fact, be the son of Sinatra. Despite divorcing in 1968, she says the pair “never really split up”, and Ronan, now 25, may have been fathered by Ol’ Blue Eyes when he was 72.
The bombshell is the latest in the tangled saga of twisted relationships and public controversies that make up Farrow’s life. Born into Hollywood royalty — her father was John Farrow, the Australian director, and her mother Maureen O’Sullivan, the Irish actress — it is said that her silver spoon was tarnished by tragedies that befell her from a young age.
At nine, she contracted polio and spent three weeks in an isolation unit in Los Angeles, an episode that she said “marked the end of my childhood”. At 13, her brother Michael died in a plane crash. When she was 17, her father died of a heart attack — his final act was to telephone his beloved daughter, who was deliberately ignoring his calls.
Yet, as her mother once professed, there was nothing fragile about Farrow — nor was there anything conventional. She possesses an extraordinary magnetism, which goes some way to explaining the complex path her life has taken.