Woody Allen Pens Rare Open Letter to Hollywood (Guest Column)

7:30 AM PST 10/31/2013 by Woody Allen
Courtesy Everett Collection
From left: Wiest, Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Allen on the set of 1986's "Hannah and Her Sisters."

The filmmaker writes to The Hollywood Reporter in support of his "Blue Jasmine" colleague, Juliet Taylor, as a new doc, opening Friday, calls for the Oscars to recognize those who find the needles in headshot haystacks.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Tom Donahue's documentary Casting By, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2012, uses the careers of casting directors such as Marion Dougherty, Lynn Stalmaster and Juliet Taylor -- between them responsible for the ensembles of such films as Midnight Cowboy, Manhattan, Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate -- to lament that casting is the only "single-card" opening credit that isn't recognized by the Academy Awards. With Casting By opening in New York on Nov. 1 and a week later in Los Angeles, Woody Allen wrote to THR to support the recognition of casting directors by championing his own:

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In my case certainly, the casting director plays a vital part in the making of the movie. My history shows that my films are full of wonderful performances by actors and actresses I had never heard of and were not only introduced to me by my casting director, Juliet Taylor, but, in any number of cases, pushed on me against my own resistance. People like Jeff Daniels, Mary Beth Hurt, Patricia Clarkson and others who are people I was unfamiliar with. A number of discoveries and careers have been launched by the energies and resourcefulness of my casting director. Not only did I use Meryl Streep for a small part in Manhattan when she was a relative unknown, but at the best my casting director helped start the film career of Mariel Hemingway and Dianne Wiest, a stage actress completely unknown to me but known by Juliet Taylor. I’m particularly difficult in the casting area because the whole process bores and embarrasses me. If it were up to me we would use the same half dozen people in all my pictures, whether they fit or not. Despite my recalcitrance, Juliet has forced me to meet and to watch the work of many new people and to hire people on nothing more then her strong recommendation. Because my films are not special effects films and are about human beings, proper casting is absolutely essential. I owe a big part of the success of my films to this scrupulous casting process which I must say if left to my own devices would never have happened. I might add also, anecdotally, that despite my firm conviction that I could never persuade luminaries like Saul Bellow, Marshall McLuhan, Susan Sontag, Mayor Koch and others to work in my films, the confidence and insistence of my casting director proved more accurate and I wound up getting these unlikely notables.

Sincerely,
Woody Allen

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