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Woody Writes Women

April 8, 2011

Woody Allen may not understand women, but he sure knows how to write for them.

For over 40 years, Allen has made movies chronicling his anxieties, obsessions and frustrations vis-à-vis the opposite sex. So it’s ironic, then, that Allen has written more Oscar-winning roles for women than any other screenwriter in history.

Four actresses on five occasions have won Oscars for films that Allen wrote: Diane Keaton, Best Actress for Annie Hall (1977); Dianne Wiest, Best Supporting Actress for Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and again for Bullets Over Broadway (1994); Mira Sorvino, Best Supporting Actress for Mighty Aphrodite (1995), and Penelope Cruz, Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008).

In addition to writing these movies, Allen also directed them. However, William Wyler holds the record for directing the most women to Oscar victories: 7 in total.

If not for Allen’s tumultuous personal life, a fifth actress probably would’ve made it onto the Allen Oscar Roster: Judy Davis, for her phenomenal turn as a neurotic housewife in Husbands & Wives (1992).

When the film initially came out, Davis was the early front-runner for Best Supporting Actress. However, later that same year, Allen announced that he was leaving his then long-term partner Mia Farrow to be with Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. The nastiness surrounding the split—and the details that became public regarding Allen’s vastly inappropriate if technically-not-illegal behavior—certainly didn’t help Davis’s Oscar chances. Davis was nominated, but in the end lost to Marisa Tomei for her hilarious performance in My Cousin Vinny.

So no, Allen may not understand women—and his affair with his adopted daughter-by-marriage may be the definition of the word “icky”—but he clearly understands how to write compelling, funny, occasionally nutty female characters that Oscar voters seem to love. He’s not only one of the giants of America cinema, he’s also an actress’s dream…provided that actress isn’t Mia Farrow. 

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