Friday, March 27, 2009

Woody Allen Still Searching For New Muse

By now you've heard that Nicole Kidman will appear in Woody Allen's next untitled film (they're always untitled for a good while) due in 2010. It'll be his fourth film set in London and the cast currently includes Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Freida Pinto, Naomi Watts, and Antonio Banderas.

While the Kidman/Allen match might prove fascinating -- she loves real auteurs / he loves actresses with neurotic edge -- it also might be a big news item signifying nothing. Think of Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore starring in Everyone Says I Love You back in 1996. What's that, you say? You'd forgotten they were in that one. You're forgiven. See, they were major gets in the mid-90s but they proved to be far from the highlights of that film (Goldie Hawn easily won 'best in show' honors there). The media has a tendency to see every female casting decision made by Woody Allen as a sign of a new "muse". It's silly but understandable. The pull of the collaborative director/actor mystique is powerful.

Wilder had Jack Lemmon. Ford had John Wayne and Henry Fonda. Kurosawa had Mifune. Bergman had Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow. Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski drove each other mad. Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich are forever intertwined. Wong Kar Wai has Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Scorsese had DeNiro and then DiCaprio. And then there's Woody...

Cinema's most beloved/hated intellectual neurotic New York Jew is as regular as fiber, churning out approximately one film per calendar year since nearly the very beginning of his career. He's been in the muse business a long while. First came Louise Lasser in the 1960s (she was his second wife). Girlfriend Diane Keaton took over for a classic run in the 1970s. His longest lasting collaboration came with girlfriend Mia Farrow in the 1980s. She made her first Woody film in 1982 (A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy) and appeared in every one of his films thereafter until the last one in 1992 (Husbands and Wives) which was filmed during their brutal breakup.

Woody's actresses and the number of his films they appeared in, from top left: Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Julie Kavner, Dianne Wiest, Louise Lasser, Judy Davis, Scarlett Johansson (there are a few other actresses who've been in three of his films and a whole bunch have made 2. Here's a full list. Will Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts or Frieda Pinto get follow up films?

The rest is scandalous history and cinematic meandering. Their very public very nasty split and Woody's subsequent marriage to Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn arguably coincided with a downward spiral in the quality of Woody's films with only Bullets Over Broadway (1994) generating the type of critical and specialized audience hosannas that Woody's films had previously enjoyed. But things have been on the upswing for him since Match Point (2005) his first collaboration with Scarlett Johansson. That thriller won surprisingly strong notices and the best box office he'd seen in many years. Scarlett got a lot of press for being his new muse but three films isn't much to go on... and was she the best thing in any of them? No.

If you ask me I'd say he hasn't yet found (or stuck with) the actress he needs for a truly inspired resurgence. The actresses that bring out the best in Woody's writing are the more mature, complicated, brainy and/or very funny ones. Patricia Clarkson is on her second feature with Woody (this summer's Whatever Works) and I hope he gives her more to do this time around. Why he stopped working with Dianne Wiest, Tracey Ullman or Judy Davis... (valuable Woody players all) is beyond me.

If Woody wants to continue working with the 20something set (and his last several films imply that he does) I humbly request a collaboration with either Ari Graynor (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist), Jess Weixler (Teeth), Kirsten Dunst or even Amanda Seyfried who have all exhibited comic flair in one project or another... or at least more than Scarlett herself who tends to be strongest in lower key dramas with or without comic elements (Ghost World, Lost in Translation, etcetera).

I'm excited to see Kidman, one of the best actors in the business, under his directorial hand but I don't hold out much hope that he'll start writing with her in mind. It's been awhile since he was writing regularly for older women. If he'll write something for a 30something woman again (more likely) I think Charlize Theron, who was very good in both of her very bad Woody Allen pictures (Celebrity and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion), deserves a lead role in one of his films. I really do.

Wouldn't she be worth musing over?

Recent Related Post: Whatever Works (Woody's 2009 movie)
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47 comments:

Ed Howard said...

I don't agree with the general line on Woody's supposed downward spiral, and I think he's made lots of great films throughout the 90s and 00s (including Celebrity, Deconstructing Harry, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Anything Else, etc.).

That said, I TOTALLY agree that Woody should center a film around Charlize Theron. She was great in Celebrity, and very nearly the *only* enjoyable part about Jade Scorpion. She's proved to me that she really gets Woody's humor and dialogue, and I'd be thrilled to see her getting a more substantial part in one of his films.

adam k. said...

Woody and Charlize Theron sounds like a very good idea. She needs someone to bring out her inner comedic actress.

Pablete said...

Why do people still see a woman in her early forties as an "older woman"? I still find Nicole Kidman highly attractive.

MrW said...

I was surprised when I first realized he made only 2 films with Anjelica Huston, it somehow felt like a more fruitful collaboration (Anjelica would win Best Supporting Actress honors from me in both 1989 and 1993).

But as she is sort of Wes Anderson's muse now (or is that Bill Murray?) and probably a tad bit beyond Woody's preferred age for muses, she's not really a likely option...

vince said...

I don't know about the muse thing, but the collaboration holds so much potential. I love it. I hate Kidman, but I love, love, love Kidman too. She's full of surprises.

At the bottom, there are three pictures of Kidman, is the one on the right from a film? If so, which one?

vince said...

Haha, I just saw your Chad Linsey post. Guess what Nathaniel ... I went to Madonn's "Drowned World" tour back in 2001 with none another than him when he was living in L.A. Haha! I also slept on his couch.

NATHANIEL R said...

pablete I don't feel that way (Kidman is still scrumptious) but I know that many people are now feeling that way about her. and the point stands about Woody. He doesn't really write for 40somsething female leads anymore ... or, when he does... they're bad pictures (Hollywood Ending / Curse of Jade Scorpion).

Paul Outlaw said...

People tend to overlook character actress Caroline Aaron, a four-timer (Alice, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Deconstructing Harry, Husbands and Wives). Not a muse, of course, but a solid team player.

Milk or how to cook in pantys said...

If he'd only write another Helen Sinclair...

Pablete said...

Thank you, Nathaniel! It is just that there is a lot of pressure on women to be always beautiful, even when they always are no matter what. Beautify seems to be related to youth as well, which sometimes is a mistake as well.

A couple in my family got married when she was 40 and he was 24, and they were a terrific couple indeed! I could see everlasting love in that very couple. She died during Christmas time, and it was truly devastating. He now lives through their memories together, waiting to be reunited with the love of his life.

NATHANIEL R said...

Paul thanks.

i shall add her to the old chart cuz i want to know all this definitively ;)

adelutza said...

Well Naomi Watts is 40 as well and she's in this movie too.It might be after all a movie about "older women" ha ha

Erik L. said...

RE: Charlize.

"Yeah, but I EXERCISE to it."

The best line from a bad movie.

Pablete said...

Nathaniel, what are your impressions on "Rope"? Do you feel it could be described as Hitchcock's "Brokeback Mountain"? I am sorry to move into another topic; we just saw it in class.

Dave said...

Ari Graynor! But then she'd be fantastic in anything.

I know this is a rare view but I actually did think Scarlett was the best thing in Scoop. The film was hardly amazing or anything but I think my expectations had been lowered so much by the time I saw (only a couple of months ago since they never released it here so I had to wait for its TV debut) that I enjoyed it more than I expected. And I thought Scarlett had rather good comic timing.

NATHANIEL R said...

Pablete... I have a whole article about ROPE right here

Pablete said...

Thank you very much, Nathaniel!

John T said...

Nathaniel, this is totally off-subject, but your ten favorite actor/director muse matchups would be SUCH a fun Tuesday Top 10, I thought I would mention it. :)

Floj said...

Elaine May was wonderful in Small Time Crooks.

Anonymous said...

ugh...leave it to Nat to rain on this parade! C'mon Nikki and Woody together working together? what's not to love? and concerning your argument about julia and drew....they're julia and drew!! no where near as good as Nicole.

NATHANIEL R said...

sorry for my cynicism. It's just that for all we know she could have a walk on or a big attention but small screentime role (like Leo in Celebrity).

I refuse to hype myself up too much until i know how big her part is ;)

Iggy said...

This cast looks as if competing with Nine's, which makes me wonder if Kidman and Banderas would couple in the movie they way they could have, had Banderas been in Nine.

I'd give Rebecca Hall a second chance with Woody. I liked her in VCB and she's got that younger Keaton kind of look.

But, above all I'd like to see some recognition for Juliet Taylor. If there was some recognition for casting directors, she should probably be THE casting director.

Sally Belle said...

Patricia Clarkson will be Oscar nominated for Whatever Works. Read my lips.

I thought Scarlett Johannson was appallingly bad in Scoop. Serviceable in Match Point and VCB. I also found Rebecca Hall oddly bland in VCB as well.

Where are the wonderful actors of the past? Huston, Wiest, Keaton and Farrow? Is it the never ending public obsession with celebrity that is robbing us of true actors? Fame over art?

It isn't about the age of the actress, imo, but, we've seen Watts and Kidman so many times now...can we really expect some unexpected charm to peek through? We're gonna get what we've gotten before.

Woody Allen doesn't direct the actors, he expects them to come in and act. Hope they are ready for that.

I also think you are selling Evan Wood short by not even mentioning her in this post about Woody Allen movies. She's only the star of Whatever Works.

I agree that Kirsten Dunst would be good for Woody. Kirsten isn't shy, and she knows her shit.
Woody is so painfully shy, he needs an outgoing girl to open him up. Kirsten could fill the bill easily.

crazycris said...

As long as he stays away from Scarlet Johansson PLEASE!!!! I really can't stand her! She was ok in Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but there was so much else going around you could kind of let her annoyingness slide, but in Scoop... *shudder*

cal roth said...

I think people should see Celebrity again. Fascinating movie.

Wayne B. said...

Maybe Woody Allen should consider finding a male muse. It's so disappointing that his collaborative relationship with Christina Ricci never went further than one movie.

alex said...

Nat,

"Celebrity" isn't a bad movie.

Not a great one either, but still enjoyable (and yes Theron steals the show)

vicarhelmet said...

I'm not sure it's entirely accurate to discuss Allen's work in terms of "muses," at least not since the Farrow split. It's pretty clear that he wrote several roles for her, and for Keaton, but ever since it seems like he's content writing what comes to mind and then trying to find the best actors for the roles. I think he sticks with actors like Johansson out of habit more than inspiration.

As long as he continues expanding on the quality in "Match Point" and "VCB" (I still haven't caught "Cassandra's Dream") I'll be happy.

Anonymous said...

Nat, I'm having trouble reconciling the idea of being so excited to see a film that you'd be willing to give up a full year of your life based upon a trailer (WTWTA) versus showing restraint for a Kidman-Allen pairing? Please elaborate.

par3182 said...

oh nathaniel, you should be kiki's agent/manager/publicist/acting coach...

Edward Copeland said...

I think Woody's problem has less to do with his lacking a muse than with his scripts. He has shaken things up a bit by leaving Manhattan, but he's still had mixed results. I think he should try to either adapt a book or to film someone's else's screenplay just to reinvigorate the process.

NATHANIEL R said...

anon 7:55 the WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE post was during my day off (JA wrote that)

but i stand by my hesitation. It's not that I don't love KIDMAN. Y'all know I do. But honestly: She could have a walk on! We know nothing about this movie. And plenty of name actors have taken teensy parts in his movies.

Billyboy said...

Nat has a point; she could very well have a small role. But my instinct tells me she isn't. I think she's playing sisters with Naomi Watts. They actually could pass as sisters.

If anyone has a small role in this I'm betting on Hopkins and Pinto.

And I agree on you on the Muse thing. I'm still hoping for a Keaton-Wiest-Davis comeback... Those three are my favorites.

Anonymous said...

i think that if this part was just a walk on it wouldn't have been announced in the press

NATHANIEL R said...

every thing Nicole does gets announced in the press ;)

Daniel said...

I haven't seen either of Allen's collaborations with Messing, but she seems totally perfect for Woody Allen's films. Maybe I just have a total bias towards her because of Will & Grace, but I think she has excellent comedic chops, and she nailed the whiny/neurotic thing.

I have high hopes for Kidman though. I wouldn't have thought this were down her alley, but she pulled off Margot at the Wedding so brilliantly.

Also, am I the only who'd love to see a Woody Allen Reunion picture? Keaton, Farrow, Wiest all show up and play a group of neurotic, aging New York writers who fall in love with the same, irresistible man (Allen, duh). Supporting parts filled in by Tony Roberts and Alan Alda. Could be great...

Citizen said...

Woody never had a comeback because he never left. Melinda and Melinda was awesome but you didn't mention it. Match Point got noticed, that's all.

I thought Celebrity was right on the money. Sweet and Lowdown was great too.

Oh and Match Point is a 2005 film.

Wayne B. said...

Now that I thought about it, it'd be pretty interesting to see what Woody Allen would do with Hope Davis. She's so enjoyable in "The Matador" and "American Splendor"; love her cursing in Matador.

Paul Outlaw said...

@ Billyboy:

If Mia Farrow ever stars in a Woody Allen film again, it will likely be the highest-grossing film (in the US) for both of their careers. Right now it happens to be Hannah for both of them.

@ Wayne B.:

A big thumbs up to Hope Davis. She and Allen both appeared in Stanley Tucci's The Impostors, so there's already a connection.

And this from a 1998 New York Times article: "As a child, however, Ms. Davis's close friend was the actress Mira Sorvino, who lived across the street. The two wrote and performed their own play, The Dutch Doll, when they were 10. Ms. Sorvino played a girl who had a doll, played by Ms. Davis, whom she believed to be real until adults told her otherwise. Ms. Sorvino moved away several years later, and the two did not meet again until they ran into each by chance in Woody Allen's office a few years ago."

Hope Davis as "Mighty Aphrodite"? Hmm...

Chris Na Taraja said...

When is Woody going to come out as a sex addict?!

Chris Na Taraja said...

OK, just saw Vicki Christina Barcelona and I think Woody is also a hopeless Misogynist.

Penelope cruz was amazing though. if i had seen it before the Oscars, i would have chose her.

O' hindsight.

Jamesofa1000Days said...

I was wondering if maybe Rosemarie Dewitt would maybe a good one for Woody Allen. Seems that she would be good for these films maybe.

YH said...

I think/hope that Woody will bring out greatness from Nicole. This could be a match made in heaven. Let's hope.

Wayne B. said...

I'm still not convinced that their (Kidman and Allen) comedic styles will mesh well. Something tells me this might be an over-sized bit part or cameo role ala Marshall McLuhan's in "Annie Hall". "You know nothing of my work.", who hasn't wanted to do that?

Anonymous said...

and what about Cate Blanchett. She can eb a muse :))

Sean said...

And what about Cate Blanchett? She can be a muse :))

vg21 said...

I can't believe Naomi Watts is 41, just can't believe it. Now 40-ish women really shouldn't be seen as old in Hollywood.