Woody and the Women


“Does Woody Allen have a woman problem?”

IndieWIRE’s Ryan Lattanzio asks that question in a blog post this week titled “The 9 Women You Meet in Woody Allen Movies”, an article tied to Allen’s upcoming 2015 release, Irrational Man.

Leading with Irrational Man’s Emma Stone, Lattanzio writes:


Lattanzio then goes on to a rather reductive take on the 9 types of women that he says populate Woody Allen’s film oeuvre.

Honestly, it would seem that if you take any filmmaker and look at his or her characters—male or female—and try to archetype them, you might be hard-pressed to come up with nine distinct types! Are Martin Scorsese’s antiheroes so different from one film to the next? Or how about Wes Anderson’s quirky ensembles? Or Sophia Coppola? I mean, how different, really, was Bill Murray’s aging burnt-out movie star in Lost in Translation from Stephen Dorff’s young burnt-out movie start in Somewhere?

When it comes to Woody Allen, though, it has always been fashionable (if not incredibly lazy) to ask, “Does Woody Allen have a woman problem?”

If he does, then it is a problem that almost every actress in Hollywood over the past forty years has wanted to be a part of. Any why not? Perhaps actresses are so eager to work with Allen because of the phenomenal success women have historically had starring in his films.

Despite Allen’s apparently horrible failings at writing female characters, an astounding 12 actresses have been nominated for 13 Oscars for appearing in Woody Allen films, and 6 times they have walked away as winners.

A quick summary:

Diane Keaton was nominated for and won Best Actress for Annie Hall in 1977.


Maureen Stapleton and Geraldine Page were BOTH nominated—Supporting Actress and Actress, respectively—for 1978’s Interiors.


Mariel Hemingway was nominated for her supporting turn in Allen’s masterpiece, Manhattan, in 1978.

Manhattan (1979)

Dianne Wiest was nominated for and won Best Supporting Actress in 1986 for Hannah and Her Sisters. (No good females roles in that one, right?)


Judy Davis gave a volcanic performance, earning a Supporting Actress nomination, for 1992’s Husbands and Wives.


Dianne Wiest and Jennifer Tilly both earned nominations for Supporting Actress, with Wiest claiming her second Allen Oscar win, for Bullets Over Broadway in 1994.

wiestM8DBUOV EC002

Mira Sorvino earned an improbable Supporting Actress win for 1995’s Mighty Aphrodite.


Samantha Morton earned a Supporting Actress nomination for Sweet and Low Down in 1999.


Penelope Cruz smoldered and erupted her way to a Supporting Actress win in 2008 for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.


Sally Hawkins and Cate Blanchett were both nominated—Supporting Actress and Actress, respectively—with Blanchett the runaway Oscar winner for 2013’s Blue Jasmine.


Woody Allen writes such weak and obvious female characters that three times multiple actresses have been Oscar-nominated for his films?

And those are just the Oscar winners!

Don’t forget about Diane Keaton’s brilliant turn in Manhattan. Or the phenomenal ensemble work done not only by Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters, but also Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, and even Maureen O’Sullivan in a small role. Anjelica Houston’s shattered other woman in Crimes and Misdemeanors? Scarlett Johansson’s scintillating seductress in Match Point? Heck, even the minor, mostly-dismissed You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger featured strong, vibrant work from Gemma Jones and Naomi Watts.

To be sure, Allen has worked with some of the best actresses in the business, and the credit for their performances go first and foremost to them. But it is no coincidence that great actresses climb over each other to try to appear in Woody Allen movies, despite the fact that there haven’t exactly been a lot of hits in his filmography since the early ‘80’s.

Clearly, they must see something in his female characters that they want to play, and something in the director that will allow them to do their best work.

Does Woody Allen have a woman problem?

Only in that even in churning out a movie every single year, there still aren’t enough parts for all the actresses who want to play them.


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