The once reclusive Woody Allen, perhaps the world’s most famous neurotic, is preparing to bare his soul in an autobiography.
But he has told publishers around the world that he will only write it if they make it worth his while and pay him enough money.
Agents for Allen, 67, are orchestrating auctions for his memoirs at the Frankfurt Book Fair and are hoping to come up with a package worth millions of dollars.
To tempt buyers, Allen has promised to tell his side of the scandal that shocked the world when he ditched Mia Farrow, his long-standing girlfriend, for her adopted 21-year-old daughter, Soon-Yi. In his proposal to publishers, Allen confesses that he has broken most of the taboos imaginable during his lifetime.
The book will fully cover his life and works and, given his obsession for baring his soul on screen, it is being pushed as one of the frankest memoirs likely to come out of the film industry.
But in a Woody Allen-ish twist, he is understood to have told buyers that he wants to see how big the package for the rights would be worldwide before he finally puts pen to paper.
Fierce bidding wars in Britain and the US are believed to have built the pot up to more than £2 million already.
In the past few days, HarperCollins beat off several other London publishers to secure the British rights. The firm would not disclose on Wednesday how much they offered but rumours swept Frankfurt that they have paid up to £1.5million.
American rights are believed to have gone to Random House for $1.25 million (£750,000).
“We are in an unusual situation here,” a HarperCollins source said. “Allen has said that he will need to take a year off to write his memoirs, so effectively, he wants to make sure that it is worth his while.
“But we are very confident that he will go ahead — and he has promised that it will be his full life. He has written a fantastic proposal for the book himself — it’s only dated September 3 — so we know he is taking it very seriously. “It’s not like the dirty old days of Hollywood when an agent would run around selling a star’s memoirs, see how much he could get and only then go to the star and say, ‘Hey, this is what I can get you if you write your autobiography’.”
Allen’s demands mean it is unlikely an announcement will be made at Frankfurt. “Everybody’s keeping the lid on this for a bit until it’s sewn up,” said the source.
Once almost obsessively private, Allen, whose long career has resulted in more than 30 films and 20-plus Oscar nominations, has become more relaxed about giving interviews. He has said that since marrying Soon-Yi, in 1997, he is happier than he has ever been.
The events of 1992, when Farrow discovered his affair with Soon-Yi, scandalised New York. Farrow adopted 14 children and found Polaroid photographs of Soon-Yi in Allen’s apartment.
The couple fought a bitter court case over the custody of their natural son, Satchel. Farrow accused Allen of behaving in an unhealthy way towards Dillon, then aged three, another of her adopted children.
Allen, who has since adopted two children with Soon-Yi, was sent to a psychiatrist “to modify inappropriate behaviours”.