NEW YORK – The Woody Allen-Jean Doumanian court clash turned from comedy to drama yesterday as Doumanian's lawyer tried to play the Soon-Yi card, agitating the famed funnyman.
The 66-year-old Hannah and her Sisters director was on the stand for a second day in the suit he filed against Doumanian, his former best friend and producer, charging that she and her longtime love Jacqui Safra bilked him out of more than $14 million in movie profits.
The testimony got heated when Doumanian lawyer Peter Parcher started grilling him about the circumstances of his signing on with Doumanian and Safra in 1993.
Allen had said earlier he went to work with them because his then-studio, Tri-Star, had asked him to slow down the pace of his movie-making.
He made no mention, however, of his ugly split from Mia Farrow, which was happening at the same time. The couple parted ways because of Allen's romance with her adopted daughter and his now-wife, Soon-Yi Previn.
The scandalous publicity from that case was threatening to end his movie career when he made the deal with Doumanian.
"Didn't you have problems in the world at that time?" Parcher asked Allen.
"That was absolutely not a factor" in making the deal, Allen snapped. "Was there anything else going on in your life?" Parcher pressed.
"I stated all the factors," Allen answered before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman ordered Parcher to move on.
Doumanian, meanwhile, looked weepy as Allen testified about a letter he wrote to her in which he said he thought she'd find his lawsuit against her "amusing."
"She found it amusing? Look at her face," Parcher told the director, as his client began to wipe away tears.
Allen told Parcher he found the suit amusing — until he started getting financial information back and found out "what the real story was," which included Doumanian paying herself $250,000 more per movie than she was supposed to, and Safra billing Allen for several leisure trips she took with Doumanian on Safra's plane.
Under questioning from his own lawyer, Alyson Weiss, Allen described the lengths to which he went to avoid taking his friends to court.
He said he knew they owed him millions, but he didn't press them for the cash "because they were friends."
"I felt it was very, very safe in their hands — as safe as any bank," he said. But when Allen finally did ask for it, Doumanian told him the "bank" was empty because Safra was having financial problems. When he asked the couple for an accounting of the money, they repeatedly blew him off — and then claimed they didn't owe him anything.
Allen offered to sit down with a third party to work out their differences, and even suggested they go to a rabbi to help settle the dispute, but the couple continued to ignore him.
"The unthinkable was starting to become reality. I was on a collision course with friends of mine," he said, adding the millions his accountants told him he was owed was "too much money to walk away from."
Parcher mocked Allen's contention that he repeatedly warned Doumanian when they'd go out to dinner that he might have to take legal action against her.
"Was it something like, ‘By the way, Jean, if I don't get $14 to $20 million from you, I'm going to take you to court. What kind of wine would you like?'" Parcher asked, getting a big laugh from those in the courtroom.
Taking in the spectacle in the audience was TV personality Dick Cavett, whom Allen once got to hire Doumanian to work for him.
Cavett said watching his pals duke it out has "a dream quality . . . In my mind, we're all friends."
Allen refused to comment on the case afterward, but the Knick fanatic did weigh in on the NBA Finals. He said he was rooting for "the Nets, of course!"