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Ronan Farrow: The Youngest Old Guy in the Room

“Wow, he’s handsome,” one dinner guest said, peering over a throng of photographers. “He’s going to be our president in, like, 30 years,” another gushed. The event, last Monday at the American Museum of Natural History, was a benefit for the Blue Card, which aids Holocaust survivors, and the object of the room’s collective kvelling was Ronan Farrow, the 25-year-old lawyer, diplomat, author, boy genius, offspring of two celebrities (though which two is an open question), possessor of alabaster good looks and, as of this month, the latest talent to join MSNBC, where he will host a weekday show starting in January. Like a styled valedictorian, Mr. Farrow worked his way through the well wishers, his corn-colored hair lightly tousled. Though he already has the résumé of someone twice his age, in the last year Mr. Farrow has come into his own as a public figure, appearing on Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list and applying his spiky Twitter commentary to everything from politics (“Leadership in America just turned into a pumpkin”) to pop culture (“Miley Cyrus is basically our generation’s Simone de Beauvoir”). Mr. Farrow was there to receive an award for his humanitarian efforts, along with his mother, the actress Mia Farrow, who observed the hoopla from a corner, illuminated by the glow of the Hayden Planetarium. “I’m very proud of him,” Ms. Farrow said, cradling a glass of red wine. Dressed in dark-blue velvet, she was talking with Kati Marton, the widow of the ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, an early mentor of Mr. Farrow. “Richard and I met Ronan when he was a scrawny 15-year-old,” Ms. Marton said. “He used to sit at a huge desk outside Richard’s office, and people would come in and say, ‘Who’s that kid?’ ” Good question. Mr. Farrow is the only biological son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. Or at least he used to be. In Vanity Fair this month, Ms. Farrow made the head-spinning admission that her son’s father is “possibly” her ex-husband Frank Sinatra. Since then, Mr. Farrow’s paternity has become tabloid fodder, upstaging his announcements: that he would join MSNBC and that he is writing a book, “Pandora’s Box,” which its publisher said will expose the “surprising dark side” of American foreign policy. Mr. Farrow, for his part, responded to the speculation with coy humor, tweeting to his nearly 140,000 followers: “Listen, we’re all *possibly* Frank Sinatra’s son.” (The comment has been retweeted almost 10,000 times.) Nevertheless, the issue persisted, even from his new MSNBC colleague Chris Matthews, who teased him at a book party a week ago by calling him “Young blue eyes.” For Mr. Farrow, the Sinatra question is part of a lifelong quandary: how to make a name based on your accomplishments when your family history is so relentlessly interesting. Perhaps driven by a desire to outpace his parental saga, Mr. Farrow has barreled through life at least five years ahead of schedule, reading Kafka in elementary school (“The Metamorphosis,” his mother said at the benefit) and becoming, at 11, the youngest student to enroll in Simon’s Rock, Bard College’s program for gifted high schoolers in Great Barrington, Mass. At 15, he received a college degree from Bard, and at 16 was accepted to Yale Law School. At 21, he joined Mr. Holbrooke at the State Department, where he later became Hillary Rodham Clinton’s special adviser for global youth issues. Feel bad about yourself yet? There’s more. In 2011, he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, for which he studied international relations at Oxford University. The scholarship marked the beginning of his drift back into the public eye, decades after his parents’ well-documented breakup. Though he had been hiding in plain sight, the world seemed stunned to discover that Woody Allen’s son had somehow turned into a fair-haired Übermensch, like the WASP rival in one of his father’s movies.


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