Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Familiar Faces: The Woody Allen Hierarchy.

Woody Allen's newest feature You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger opens today in movie theaters. It's currently confusing me with its Curse of The Jade Scorpion or The Purple Rose of Cairo -like silhouette poster. With this move the marketing department has made me recall both the worst and the best from Woody Allen's filmography simultaneously. It's very schizo... maybe this means the new feature will be right smack dab in the middle, neither essential nor embarrassing?

American Poster (left), a European treatment (right)

Why couldn't they have gone with the European poster treatment? European posters are always better. It's a law of Hollywood's nature.

To celebrate its release -- I haven't had time to see it yet -- I wanted to revamp an old list I started years ago. When Vicky Cristina Barcelona was cast in 2007, numerous media outlets were making ridiculously inaccurate claims about Scarlett Johansson being Woody's third most consistent muse (talk about A list tunnel vision!). Those inaccuracies of reporting died down as soon as Scarlett missed a movie. But this list I found interesting in the creation nonetheless and I hope you will in the reading. I've attempted a comprehensive list of collaborations but there are bound to be a few mistakes -- particularly in the area of tiny character actor roles so do note any omissions should you spot them in the comments.

For this ranking, I'm counting only the feature films he directed (plus his third of New York Stories and his one telefilm Don't Drink the Water). The actors, male and female, who've logged the most time with the prolific writer/director are...

Woody Players ... Quantitatively Speaking

01 26 Times. Woody Allen himself. Well you do have to direct yourself if you're also acting. It's 27 if you count a film he didn't direct but wrote & starred in: Play it Again, Sam.

13 Times. Mia Farrow is the queen. Remarkably and horrifically, despite the plentiful acting nominations earned by Woody Allen films, she's still never been nominated for an Oscar.

Keaton in Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, Interiors, Manhattan,
Radio Days
and Manhattan Murder Mystery

03 7 and 7.5 Times. Diane Keaton is the runner up woman. Her most famous appearance was for her Oscar win as Annie Hall but she returned to the fold rather blissfully as his wife in Manhattan Murder Mystery and proved that the two of them hadn't lost an ounce of their chemistry. One wonders why they haven't tried an eighth time... (or ninth time if you could Play it Again, Sam which Woody did not direct so we gave her a half point there). Fred Melamed, who so recently nailed his supporting role in the Coen Bros' A Serious Man as huggy Sy Ableman, probably looked familiar to you. That's because he's all over the place in the Woody filmography albeit in small roles. And finally, there's Julie Kavner. Her most memorable part was as Woody's co-worker in Hannah and Her Sisters. Yes that's "Marge Simpson" we're talking about.

04 6 Times. Maurice Sonnenberg and Peter Catellotti have roles like "Movie Theater Patron" in Anything Else or "Sound Recordist" in Celebrity. But since they're in six movies each, one assumes they're either spectacular extras or friends with Woody or the casting director.

Stiers in Jade Scorpion; Wiest in Bullets; Shawn in Radio Days

5 Times. Dianne Wiest Wiest won both of her very deserved Oscars for Allen pictures (Hannah and Her Sisters & Bullets Over Broadway). If you've ever wondered why actors are so obviously desperate to work with him, consider this: He's guided thespians to 15 nominations with 6 wins among them - one of the best records of all time.) The instantly recognizable Wallace Shawn has also been in a whole handful of Woody film albeit in smaller roles. You may remember him as The Masked Avenger in Radio Days. David Ogden Stiers (of TV's MASH fame) was another regular.

4.5 Times. Louise Lasser has appeared in 4 films but she also does voice work in his first film What's Up Tiger Lily (1966) so let's allow for that with this special designation. Same goes for Tony Roberts, who appeared most famously in Annie Hall. His count would be 5 if you allowed for Play it Again, Sam but Woody only wrote that film and didn't direct it, so we'll give him a half credit there.

[clockwise from top left: Lasser in Bananas; Roberts in Annie Hall;
Waterston in September; Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives

07 4 Films.
Judy Davis nearly won an Oscar for Husbands and Wives. Sam Waterston also appears in four films. His most significant role is, if I'm remembering correctly, in September but this was notoriously not a happy film, having been reshot and delayed and not causing much of a stir when it opened despite Woody's semi-popularity at the time.

08 3 Films. Scarlett Johansson has the leading role in three of his films, winning the most mileage from their first outing, Match Point. Alan Alda has also worked three characters in the Woody gallery, most notably in Crimes and Misdemeanors. The following actors have also been in three Woodys: Danny Aiello,
Philip Bosco (a familiar TV face last seen on Damages), Frances Conroy (all of her roles predate the Six Feet Under career peak), Blythe Danner (Gwynnie's mom!) Julie Halston, Annie Joe Edwards and Camille Saviola and Jack Warden.

Theron in Celebrity; Daniels in Purple Rose; Hemingway in Manhattan; Huston
in Manhattan Murder Mystery; Balaban in Deconstructing Harry; Ullman in
Small Time Crooks; Clarkson in Whatever Works

09 2 Films. I'm sure to forget someone here but well over a dozen actors have done double duty including: Bob Balaban, Ewen Bremner (yes, that's "Spud" from Trainspotting), Josh Brolin, Patricia Clarkson, Lynn Cohen, Jeff Daniels (who deserved an Oscar nomination for The Purple Rose of Cairo), Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gregg Edelman, director Nora Ephron (only cameos), Stephanie Farrow, Rupert Frazer, Joanna Gleason, Jessica Harper, Mariel Hemingway (Oscar nominated for Manhattan), Anjelica Huston, Erica Leerhsen, Debra Messing, Gretchen Mol, Zak Orth, Michael Rapaport, Deborah Rush, Marian Seldes, Tina Sloan, Charlize Theron, Michael Tucker, Loretta Tupper and Tracey Ullman.

10 1.5 Films. Christopher Evan Welch, pictured left, Vicky Cristina Barcelona's omniscient narrator, actually appears physically in Whatever Works. (He can currently be seen as "Grant Test" on AMC's new series Rubicon.) Great speaking voice, eh?

1 Film. Everyone with a SAG card... or thereabouts. Though when you look at people who made very strong impressions in their sole appearance, you do wonder why there wasn't another film. I'm thinking of Martin Landau (Crimes and Misdemeanors - Oscar nom), Elaine May (Small Time Crooks -NSFC Best Supporting Actress) and Goldie Hawn (Everyone Says I Love You) in particular, who all seemed like natural fits in the Woody-verse. Most of the members of the You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger ensemble are newbies save for Brolin and Bremner making their second films. Midnight in Paris, which recently completed shooting, is entirely Allen virgins but for Kathy Bates who was last seen as a prostitute in his experimental black and white picture Shadows and Fog (1991).

Who do you wish he would work with again?


Anonymous said...

Jonathan Rhys Meyers -- the best thing about Matchpoint, which is my favorite Woody film.

Simon said...

I'm pretty sure Winona Ryder was in at least two...Celebrity and something else...

cal roth said...

I'd say Keaton again, but Allen will giver a comedy and I really want Keaton to have big dramatic role before she retires. Keep comedies away from her!

Then, Judy Davis, because she deserves her own Oscar, but Allen is not the same his characters nowadays are not what we're used to see in movies like Husbands and Wives or Celebrity (she was fantastic in this one, too).

So, I say Julia Roberts. Or Jennifer Connelly, a giftes actress that really should try comedy. I can't stand her tears anymore.

Leo said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Woody made a film with Diane Wiest, Judy Davis and Diane Keaton as leads? Something like the First Wives Club but actually funny and with some dramatic subtext? This is probably too good to be true. Plus, as of late he prefers to work with the Rachel Macadams and Frida Pintos of the world.

Anonymous said...

His work with Mia is his best. Sometimes I have daydreams of them working together in August Osage County the Movie. Sigh. Even if I was the Queen of England I couldn't put those two within a 2 block radius.

Anonymous said...

P.s. cal roth - Jennifer Connelly is doing comedy, alright. In the worst way imaginable.

Oh, another suggestion - Isabella Rosselini (sp?). I'm surprised this hasn't happened yet.

Fernando Moss said...

Goldie Hawn, Drew Barrymore and Emily Mortimer should all work again with him... Or at least I want them too...

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I'm really amazed that it took so long for Clarkson to get in an Allen film. I hope they work together again, along with Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Winona Ryder, Stanley Tucci and Dianne Wiest (of course). I always like to think Melinda & Melinda would've been better if the insurance company was willing to back Winona. Maybe too wishful on my part?

Anonymous said...

Completely forgot that Helen Hunt , aka - The Shrew, sullied one of Woody's films. It is a wonder that the film reel didn't combust.


walter -- hmmm i don't really think the problem with Melinda & Melinda was Radha but that the concept hadn't been totally worked out. i.e. the comedy should have been really funny and the drama really tragic and not such different stories. it felt like SUCH a brilliant concept that then wasn't at all adhered to our fleshed out.

leo -- yes. it's too bad he doesn't have another Interiors, Another Woman in him with rich parts for older ladies.

i'd peronsally also love to see TRACEY ULMAN back for more.

Paul Outlaw said...

No one ever wants to talk about the amazing Caroline Aaron (Deconstructing Harry, Crimes and Misdemeanors,
Alice and Husbands and Wives)...

Anonymous said...

I think Juliette Lewis and Woody Allen were a match made in heaven in Husbands and Wives. I remember reading an interview book with Woody in which he says he would love to work with her again. Also, Judy Davis should inspire Allen to write a great female role again. When did he last do that? I would say Dianne Wiest In Bullets Over Broadway...
I would love to see Jennifer Jason Leigh and Illeana Douglas take on a big role in one of his movies, too. Also, Emily Watson.

Billy Held An Oscar said...

Paul Outlaw -- I agree with you 110%. Caroline Aaron is one of my favs.

Philip said...

Drew Barrymore! She needs to do something stunning in film within the next few years before she loses the Grey Garden high so she can possibly get in the Oscar game.

Gustavo said...

I watched SPETEMBER about two weeks ago and I'm still baffled as to why Dianne Wiest wasn't nominated for that too. Maybe nobody watched it.

It'd be a hoot if Woody teamed up with her and Diane again.

Andrew R. said...

Wiest. When you win and deserve two Oscars, you are awesome. (Streep did it too.)

And Farrow's lack of Oscar nomination becomes really annoying when you consider her best Woody Allen performances (Purple Rose of Cairo is number one) and of course Rosemary's Baby.

You'd think she'd receive an Oscar nomination, considering it was why she signed up in the first place and she got divorced because of it. But no.

(Prediction: YWMATDS will be slightly below average. I originally thought pretty good, but no longer.)

cal roth said...

If Allen goes drama again, I hope he gives a juicy role to Gena Rowlands!

Alex said...

@whoever above desperately wanted Woody and Mia reteamed: He really wanted her to play the Helena Bonham Carter role (his wife) in Mighty Aphrodite but the studio refused to let him offer it to her (like she would accept it anyway)

MrW said...

He definitely needs to make another film with Anjelica Huston. She was simply stellar in both films she did with him.

Spencer said...

ummmm..... MERYL!?!

7Bis said...

Woody definitely needs to work with Judy Davis again. I also adored Rebecca Hall as an Allen muse. Can you tell I rate his uptight, neurotic women the highest?! Patricia Clarkson too. I've always liked the idea of a Parker Posey vehicle, but apparently she clicked her knuckles at a meeting with the Woodmeister and he vowed never to cast her. Somebody needs to show Parker some love these days...

Anonymous said...

I want Diane Keaton and Dianne Wiest back. Please Woody please. Also a leading part for Patricia Clarkson in another film.

/3rtfu11 said...

Woody Allen is in his final years. He should work with new people but not necessarily young.

Michelle Pfeiffer
Nicole Kidman
Cate Blanchett
Sigourney Weaver
Holly Hunter
Kate Winslet
Susan Sarandon
Kim Basinger
Tilda Swinton
Jessica Lange
Marisa Tomei
Alfre Woodard
S Epatha Merkerson
Taraji P Henson
Judi Dench
Laura Linney
Cynthia Nixon
Mary-Louise Parker
Samantha Morton
Martha Plimpton
Oprah Winfrey


/3rtfull -- depends on your definition of final. :) I mean de Oliviera is still churning them out at 101 years young over in Portugal and Eastwood is as prolific as Allen these days (and older).

we'll see. All that I ask for is that he makes just one more minor classic on the level of Bullets Over Broadway. a major one on the level of Purple Rose or Manhattan is too much to ask. I'm not that greedy.

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

The person Woody needs to work with and it would NEVER happen is, ready? Barbra Streisand. Seriously. I'd even watch the filming outakes.

Woody doesn't like to direct/talk to people, so Barbra can go ahead and direct herself all she wants. Plus, Barbra would give Woody the energy his movies sometimes need. Let's face it.

But if he has to go back to his list of women he's worked with before, I would love to see him take on Judy Davis again. I think she does brittle brainy Manhattanite even better than Diane.

And speaking of Diane & Woody? Anytime, anywhere - I'm there.

Beatrice said...


Check what this Canadian collective did with Woody Allen, it's pretty accurate!
Do you recognize them all???


chemi said...

Elaine May who was so outstanding in Small Time Crooks!! Of course my dream would be that he would do a movie with Dianne Wiest, Diane Keaton, Judy Davis, Julie Kavner and Tracey Ullman together...Anjelica Huston, Gena Rowlands, Michael Caine, Samantha Morton, Sean Penn, Lily Tomlin, John Malkovich, John Cusack...all of them are people who I wish he would work with them again...