Woody Allens Oscar-winning women: how did his direction affect them?

In the wake of ongoing allegations, how do we process Allens reputation for writing award worthy roles for women?

Wonder Wheel are most likely be the last Woody Allen movie to get a major release. Allegations of sexual assault by his daughter, Dylan( which Allen has denied ), have dismantled his reputation in some quarters, and many actors- including Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page and Rebecca Hall– have said they will never work with him again. Even actors in Wonder Wheel are expressing regrets.

At odds with this is the inescapable fact that Allen has given girls better roles than pretty much any film-maker of the modern epoch. Allen’s Oscar record speaks for itself: two best actress wins( Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine ); four best supporting actresses; and six more nominations for women , not to mention ripen, female-centred films such as Hannah and Her Sisters and Interior. You can see why, until recently, females considered it a great honour to be cast in Allen’s movies. This apparent contradiction takes some unpicking. Allen’s female characters increasingly conform to a very limited palette: the brassy, neurotic broad( Kate Winslet is another one in Wonder Wheel ); the hooker with a heart of gold( Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite, say ); and, in some cases, the youthful female drawn to an older, Allen-like figure – the latter a trope that chimes disturbingly with his real life, including his current matrimony to his ex-partner’s adopted daughter( 35 years his junior ).

But there is another facet to Allen’s record with women: he is the laziest director in township. Allen’s one-movie-a-year run rate is oftens praised as heroic, but in order to maintain it, he scarcely directs his movies at all these days. This was revealed, perhaps unwittingly, by the recent volume Start to Finish: Woody Allen and the Art of Moviemaking, in which long-time Allen chronicler Eric Lax shadowed him through the attaining of 2015′ s Irrational Man. Allen doesn’t rehearse or prepare. He does the minimum number of takes and camera setup, never does reshoots, and likes to be finished by six every evening. What’s more, he scarcely devotes his actors any instructions at all. No wonder big stars blithely work with him: compared to other directors, it’s a holiday.

Knowing Allen’s hands-off approach, his cinemas become a litmus test of acting ability. Some actors sink: Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell in Cassandra’s Dream, for example; or Justin Timberlake in Wonder Wheel. Others swim magnificently. Either way, Allen is like the disinterested pond attendant over in the corner. Hayley Atwell said on working with him:” I didn’t feel directed by him at all. I didn’t have any kind of relationship with him .” And Cate Blanchett on Blue Jasmine:” First day,[ Allen] said,’ It’s awful. You’re nasty .'” But Blanchett took matters into her own hands, researched the role and put in the Oscar-winning performance, despite rather than because of the director. That’s what good actors do. We can’t take out all of Allen’s credit as a novelist or director, but we should give a lot more to the actors themselves. Often they have been what has held his movies together.

Wonder Wheel is in cinema from 9 March

* This article was revised on 26 February to clarify that, as Allen
and Mia Farrow were not married, he married his former partner’s
adopted daughter rather than his former wife’s stepdaughter.

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