Why he keeps making them isn’t a hard question to answer. He keeps making them because he has things he wants to say and stories he wants to tell, and because he enjoys making films.
As for why big stars are willing to appear in his films… well, Woody has never had a huge audience, but he’s always enjoyed critical acclaim and has a small number of ardent admirers. In some cases, those admirers include prominent actors, and those actors are eager to work with him. In other cases, actors who’ve already had commercial success, but who’ve never had critical acclaim, work with Woody in hopes of gaining critical respectability.
(It’s not just Woody, you know. People like Julia Roberts, who could earn $20 million for a mainstream film, will work for far less on an off-beat Robert Altman film, simply to win respect as “serious” actors.)
A tougher question is, how does Woody get financing for his films? I mean, even in his prime, he never made blockbusters, but his films USED to do respectably at the box office in the U.S, and VERY well overseas. Not lately, though! He hasn’t had even a modest hit in about 15 years.
Perhaps that’s why he’s no longer as reclusive as he used to be. The Woody of old would NEVER have appeared at the Oscars, but he does it now! The Woody of old shunned the press, but he courts them now. Perhaps he finally realizes that he needs to appeal to someone besides film critics. Indeed, even the film critics aren’t as worshipful and fawning as they used to be! For a long time, EVERY review of EVERY Woody Allen film said “this is his best film ever.” But it’s been quite some time since I saw a critic say that about any of Woody’s films.
His films don’t seem to make a lot of money (grosses) - Jade Scorpion made $7,500,000 in the USA, although they are relatively cheap to make. I guess he has a certain ready-made audience (probably mainly in New York and France).
He is a good director when he tries (although some of his projects are bizarre), but some of his starring roles are excrutiating; luckily he seems to be doing less acting and less kissing 20 year old actresses these days.
Easy. His movies are cheap to make. Big name actors working for scale. Lots of dialogue but no action setpieces or CGI work. Probably one of the biggest expenses (proportionally speaking) is music licensing, since he always uses a lot of different music (mostly jazz standards, some classical). They also do fairly well in American arthouse circuits, and have very strong followings in countries like France and Argentina.
You’ll never see him on the show again. That’s a certainty. The only reason he did it was as a specific tribute to NYC in the wake of 9/11. He didn’t present an award or have any other part in the competitive aspect of the ceremony. He just delivered some funny lines and introduced the montage.
I recall hearing an interview with Marshall Brickman a few years ago. He said that (I guess at least up to that time) no Woody Allen film had ever lost money. They weren’t huge money makers, but they were profitable. So I guess Allen’s films are a safe investment that can bring some critical notice to a studio.
Think about the income possibilities of today’s movies. There is the percentage of the original showing’s theater grosses. Then you add on the pay-per-view money, the cable pay movie sales, and the free cable/network tv sales. Then you have the DVD/Video sales and rentals. Then you have the foreign showings, the foreign tv rights and the foreign DVD/video sales and rentals. Then you do a director’s cut, a special edition, and a special boxed edition with your other last three movies.
Woody Allen claims to take a million dollar fee for each of his films. That’s a good income. Add to that a share of the revenue stream for each of the above, multiply it by 30 movies, and you have a comfortable lifetime annuity for you, your producers, your distributors, your agent, and the IRS.
The other reason is, of course, that he’s still quite good at it. While Hollywood Ending was pretty poor, in the ten years prior he’d made Husbands & Wives, Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite, Deconstructing Harry, and Sweet and Lowdown, all of which were excellent, and several other films that were very good. How many other directors have made that many excellent films in their entire career, not to mention just in the last decade?
This man’s presence in the movie industry is a mystery to me. I have a good sense of humor, and some of his lines are amusing, but his movies are a complete bust for me. I seem to be in the minority, however.
Nah, I’m with you, Chefguy, which is pretty much the origin of the OP. I loved Annie Hall when it came out (though I think it has cited regularly her in “films that don’t hold up” threads), thought Manhattan was okay, fell asleep in Zelig, and totally lost interest when he started taking himself seriously. I have some curiosity about Everybody Says I Love You (as a lifelong aficianado of the movie musical) – but am reluctant to borrow it from the library, for free, no money out of my pocket, for fear that it will piss me off.
I’ve never cared for his sex-themed movies & find his neurotic personna a bit wearing after a while, but I think The Purple Rose of Cairo and Bullets Over Broadway are absolutely hands-down brilliant. When he steps away from his own issues the results can be amazing.
He’s had some commercial hits, like Annie Hall and Manhattan. You might not remember it now, but those were friggin huge when they came out! More recent movies, like Shadows and Fog and Crimes and Misdemeanors, are absolute gems of filmmaking. Like the better Marx Brothers movies, Allen’s films may wither at the box office… but future generations who mainly know it from television will think they’re the funniest damn things ever committed to celluloid.
Any objectionable thing you can say about Woody Allen is trumped by the undeniable contribution he makes to the culture, which is more substantial than that of any other living director (and most dead ones).
Nah, it’s really a fun movie. Allen’s persona isn’t that annoying in the movie, and he even sings a little (which is not as bad as you might think). Plus it’s got Drew Barrymore, Ed Norton, Gaby Hoffman, Lukas Haas, and Goldie Hawn. What a cool cast.
Twenty years later since the first post in this thread and Woody just attended the Venice Film Festival with his 50th movie:
I found it very odd that he made a French language movie–when he doesn’t understand French. His explanation:
“I was going to make this film with two Americans living in Paris and I thought to myself it’s my 50th film and I love Paris so much that I’ll make it in French. I don’t speak French but that didn’t bother me because all the actors spoke English… I had a wonderful time and then felt I was a genuine European filmmaker.”
Allen said he had not found it difficult to direct a cast speaking a language that he did not understand.
“If you watch a Japanese film, you can tell if the acting is good, realistic and natural or if it’s dramatic and silly, or too exaggerated. The same thing here, I could tell by the body language and the emotion of the actors without understanding the language, when they were being realistic, and they weren’t.
The biggest markets for Allen’s movies (in terms of how many U.S. dollars or the equivalent in their currency) are the U.S., France, and Argentina, according to some sources. Allen no longer cares about the U.S. market. If someone wants to distribute them in the U.S., he’s O.K. with it, but he can live without that source of money. Some people think that it’s universally assumed that what he did was so bad that nearly everybody thinks that he should be hung, drawn, and quartered for it. On the contrary, most of his fans (particularly outside the U.S.) think that all he did was start a relationship with a woman who was already an adult who was the adopted daughter of his previous girlfriend and has been claimed to have done something terrible with another adopted daughter of that previous girlfriend when she was a child. They mostly think that the second claim is simply made up. There are enough such fans to allow him to continue to make films. Please note that I am making no claim that I know any more than any random person about the truth of such accusations. I’ve watched nearly all his films and read a lot about him, but I’m not one of the people who did an acceptable legal investigation of what he did or didn’t do.