Woody Allen

Woody Allen Biography

Screenwriter, Director (1935–)
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Woody Allen is an American comedian, filmmaker and writer who directed and starred in two of his most famous films, 'Annie Hall' and 'Manhattan.'

Who Is Woody Allen?

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 1, 1935, Woody Allen is an American film director, screenwriter, actor and author who is best known for his romantic comedy films containing elements of parody and slapstick. He is also known for writing strong and well-defined characters for his female stars. Allen directed and starred in two of his most famous films, Annie Hall and Manhattan. Among his featured performers were Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow, both of whom he was romantically involved with. Allen later came under fire for his relationship with Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn and the alleged sexual assault of another adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, though his career continued to flourish.

Wife Soon-Yi Previn

Allen made tabloid headlines in 1992 by dating and eventually marrying then-girlfriend Mia Farrow's adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn — marking the start of a contentious two-year custody battle. Farrow eventually won sole custody of their children, and Allen was ordered to pay $3 million to Farrow. "What was the scandal?" Allen told Reuters in an interview. "I fell in love with this girl, married her ... but people refer to it all the time as a scandal, and I kind of like that in a way because when I go I would like to say I had one real juicy scandal in my life."

Allen and Soon-Yi, who married in 1997, adopted two daughters: Bechet and Manzie Tio. In a 2015 interview with NPR, Allen said of his relationship with Soon-Yi, "I've been married now for 20 years, and it's been good." In reference to the age difference between he and his wife, he said it "worked in [their] favor, in part because she "responded to someone paternal."

Woody Allen Movies

'What's Up, Tiger Lily?'

A prolific writer and director, Allen often appeared in his own plays and films, including What's New, Pussycat? in 1965 and his first play, Don't Drink the Water, on Broadway the following year. He made his directorial debut in 1966 with What's Up, Tiger Lily?, his career really beginning to soar by 1969 with Take the Money and Run.

'Bananas,' 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex'

Allen followed with Bananas (1971), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972), Play It Again, Sam (1972) and Sleeper (1973). The filmmaker also wrote humorous short prose pieces, many of which were originally published in The New Yorker magazine.

'Annie Hall,' 'Manhattan'

Allen's career breakthrough came in 1977 with Annie Hall, starring Diane Keaton, with whom Allen became romantically involved. He starred, directed and co-wrote the movie (with Marshall Brickman), and it went on to win four Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Manhattan, released in 1979, was his homage to his beloved New York City, a setting for many of his future films.

'A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy,' 'Hannah and Her Sisters'

Over the next two decades, Allen produced mostly hits and some misses, and a combination of comedies and drama, including 1982's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy — the first of Allen's films to star his new love, Mia Farrow. In 1986, Hannah and Her Sisters earned Allen his second Oscar (Best Original Screenplay) and broke box-office records, taking in $18 million. He and Farrow maintained a relationship during this period, but never married. They did have one biological child together, a son named Satchel (now Ronan) in 1987, and adopted two other children, a daughter named Dylan and a son named Moses.

'Husbands and Wives,' 'Bullets Over Broadway'

By the 1990s, Allen was ignoring Hollywood for the most part, producing low-budget films that included Husbands and Wives (1992), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Mighty Aphrodite (1995) and Sweet and Lowdown (1999).

'Vicky Cristina Barcelona,' 'Midnight in Paris,' 'Blue Jasmine'

Allen began the new millennium with a string of comedies and mixed reviews, including Match Point in 2005, Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2008 and the romantic comedy Midnight in Paris in 2011, for which he won the 2012 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. To Rome with Love, a 2012 episodic comedy that featured an international cast, marked his first on-screen role in six years. Two years later, Allen was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Original Screenplay for the film Blue Jasmine (2013).

'Magic in the Moonlight,' 'Irrational Man'

In 2014, Allen released the romantic comedy Magic in the Moonlight, which starred Colin Firth. In 2015, he turned back to drama with the release of his film Irrational Man, which brought together Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone in the starring roles. Allen followed with two period pieces: Café Society, about 1930s Hollywood, and Wonder Wheel, set in 1950s Coney Island.

'A Rainy Day in New York'

A Rainy Day in New York, starring Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez and Jude Law, marked a return to familiar romantic comedy territory for the director. After original distributor Amazon Studios refused to release the film, A Rainy Day in New York finally appeared in theaters in Europe in summer 2019.

Sexual Assault Allegations by Dylan Farrow

Allen became the subject of another scandal regarding Dylan Farrow, his and Farrow's adopted daughter. Allen was charged with molesting Dylan when she was seven years old. The sexual assault allegedly happened during the custody suit between Allen and Mia after his affair with Previn, though charges were dropped after an investigation gave inconclusive results. In early 2014, nearly 20 years after the alleged assault, Dylan Farrow wrote on Nicholas Kristof's blog, detailing the assault and bringing it back to the media's attention. Allen has since vehemently denied the charges.

Farrow's first televised interview to discuss her claims aired on CBS This Morning on January 18, 2018. Meanwhile, several actors who had appeared in Allen's films over the years expressed their regret at doing so. Golden Globe winner Greta Gerwig said she would never collaborate with Allen again, while A Rainy Day in New York's Chalamet and Rebecca Hall announced they were donating their film salaries to charity. 

On the other hand, veteran actor Alec Baldwin came forward in defense of the embattled director. "Woody Allen was investigated forensically by two states (NY and CT) and no charges were filed. The renunciation of him and his work, no doubt, has some purpose," he tweeted. "But it’s unfair and sad to me. I worked w WA 3 times and it was one of the privileges of my career."

#MeToo and Amazon Lawsuit

In 2017, with the sexual misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men no longer shrouded in secrecy, Dylan Farrow revisited the topic of her father's alleged assault. In an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times titled "Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?" she wrote about how Allen's cover-up methods were similar to those employed by Weinstein, and noted the double standard from actors who excoriated the studio boss but attempted to defend her father.

During an interview with an Argentinian news program that aired in June 2018, Allen expressed dismay at being linked to accused predators like Weinstein and suggested he should be the poster boy for the #MeToo movement because of his support of women. "I've worked with hundreds of actresses and not a single one—big ones, famous ones, ones starting out—have ever, ever suggested any kind of impropriety at all," he said. "I've always had a wonderful record with them."

In February 2019, Allen filed a $68 million breach of contract lawsuit against Amazon Studios for shelving A Rainy Day in New York and backing out of a four-film deal. The studio defended its actions, arguing that Allen's comments about the #MeToo movement had "sabotaged" efforts to promote his movies. The two sides eventually agreed to a settlement in November 2019.

Memoir Controversy

In early March 2020, Hachette Book Group announced that it would publish Allen's memoir, Apropos of Nothing, the following month. However, those plans were scrapped after Hachette employees staged a walkout to protest the company's involvement with the director. 

Apropos of Nothing soon landed with Arcade Publishing, which released the memoir at the end of March. Addressing the controversy surrounding the author, Arcade co-founder Jeannette Seaver released a statement which read: "We find it critical to hear more than one side of a story and more importantly, not to squelch the writer's right to be heard."

Early Life

Born Allen Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York, actor, director and screenwriter Woody Allen legally changed his name to Heywood Allen when he was 17 years old. Coming from an often volatile and loud Jewish middle-class family in the Midwood section of Brooklyn gave Allen all the material he needed to start writing monologues and performing stand-up comedy while still in high school. His early life of turmoil in an overcrowded apartment would ultimately give him years of fodder for what would become a prolific and award-winning career in motion pictures and screenwriting. It would also give him an intense need for solitude later in life.

Allen's parents were second-generation Jewish immigrants. His father, Martin, worked as a salesman, jewelry engraver, taxi driver and bartender, and even found work as a pool hustler and bookmaker. Martin's need to bounce from one job to another was to some degree passed down to his son, who, though making a much better living than his father, would inherit the same wanderlust by jumping from one project to the next when he got bored. His mother, Nettie, had little patience with her red-headed son and, thusly, would frequently shout at and spank him. His sister, Letty, was born in 1943.

Early Career

Allen attended New York University in 1953, promptly failing a course in motion picture production. Discouraged, he dropped out of school and soon began writing for television, including Sid Caesar's popular Your Show of Shows. His work won him an Emmy Award nomination, but Allen grew bored and soon tried his hand at stand-up comedy, becoming popular on the New York City comedy club circuit. His comic persona was that of a long-suffering "nebbish" (a person who is pitifully timid) — a personality he held onto throughout the years.

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