LOS ANGELES—Woody Allen has written so many great parts for women in the last three decades that it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear him say that there was a time in his career that he was known as a scribe who didn’t know how to write for women.
The man whose scripts won Oscars for Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest (twice), and Mira Sorvino, and nominations for Judy Davis, Samantha Morton, and Jennifer Tilly, says it was Keaton who first inspired him.
“When I started out, I wrote a cabaret act and TV sketches and I always wrote from the male point of view,” he says in an L.A. hotel room. “This went on for quite a while, and people commented on it. Then I wrote Play it Again, Sam for Keaton on-stage, and we started dating and living together and got close.
"Through some kind of Socratic osmosis, I began to write for her and eventually I found that I could write for women. Then I only wrote for women and I wrote for them all the time.
"I enjoy their company. I get a big kick out of them and for some reason I find them interesting to write about. Men, occasionally, but my heart is more in it when I am writing for women. The bonus is that if you write a role for a woman, there is always a woman who can fill that role.
"If you can’t get the one or two guys that you want, it’s not so easy because there is a paucity of guys on that level. There are so many gifted women who are waiting for opportunities to work.”
The latest Allen film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, sees Javier Bardem costarring with Penélope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, and Rebecca Hall in the story of American tourists who come between a Spanish artist and his volatile ex-wife. (It opens next Friday [August 15] in Vancouver.)
It is the third Allen film in which Johansson costars, allowing her to follow in the footsteps of Keaton and Allen’s ex-wife Mia Farrow, both of whom had roles in several of Allen’s films. He says that finding her was just dumb luck.
“I had Kate Winslet for Match Point, and then she said she had spent no time with her child and could I forgive her if she left the cast. I thought that since Scarlett was 19, she was probably too young for the part, but I also knew she was a great actress. I didn’t know if she was what I had written, but after I hired her, I became totally captivated by her and thought she could do anything.
"She was not only beautiful but she was bright and amusing and charming and gifted. I am very happy to work with her whenever there is a part that fits her. I will always call her and see if she is available as I did with Keaton and Mia, who was another wonderful actress who never let me down.”