No matter what you think of Woody Allen personally, it’s undeniable that he has changed American cinema for the better. With an impressive range of films under his belt, this writer-director-actor is an undeniable creative genius.
Allen is making the news again, for positive reasons this time! The 80 year old has recently announced that he will finally be bringing his genius to the small screen, with an as-of-yet untitled comedy set in the ’60’s due to start filming soon.
In honor and anticipation of that, we revisited our favorite Woody Allen film, Annie Hall, about a neurotic New York comedian who falls for the WASPy, slightly scatterbrained Annie Hall. Read on for our favorite fun facts, bits of trivia, and behind-the-scene photos from this iconic film!
Which classic moment was unscripted?
Woody Allen sneezing into the cocaine is entirely accidental. It was an unscripted moment that test audiences loved, so he left it in.
He actually had to write extra material to compensate for the fact that audiences would likely miss the next few jokes from laughing too much.
What was the original title supposed to be?
The movie had several titles before Annie Hall was settled on. The most well-known is Anhedonia, a psychological term for being unable to enjoy things everyone else can. It did terribly with focus groups, so other names were floated – Anxiety and Alvy and Me.
In a book written by Ralph Rosenblum, “When the Shooting Stops”, co-writer Marshall Brickman joked that other possible names included “It Had To Be Jew,” “A Rollercoaster Named Desire” and “Me And My Goy.”
What was the original concept of the movie?
Aside from the title itself, this award-winning romantic comedy went through many more changes in the process of being made. Originally conceptualized as an exploration of Alvy, the main character’s life, psyche, and fantasies, it was meant to be filled with many romantic and mysterious subplots. Instead, we got this masterpiece full of fantasies, subtitled sequences, and even animation.
Where did Annie’s iconic style come from?
Annie Hall’s style is iconic – which movie buff hasn’t rummaged around a closet and come up with a last-minute Halloween costume by throwing on a white shirt, bowler hat, and vest?
In fact, Diane Keaton, who played Annie Hall, fought for that look, as it was the way she generally dressed. Costume designer Ruth Morley fought her on it, calling the look “crazy”, but ultimately lost out. We can’t imagine the quirky Annie in anything but her loose menswear!
How else did Diane Keaton influence the movie?
Speaking of Diane Keaton’s influence on the film, it goes even farther than the clothes. The actress’s original last name is Hall, and although some places have reported her nickname was Annie, that’s false (see the interview at the end where she clears that myth up). The main character and title of the film is named after Diane Keaton. Who knew!
A lot was cut from the original concept of the movie. What happened to the unused scenes?
The movie was originally conceptualized as a murder mystery, with a romantic subplot. During rewrites, Allen dropped the murder mystery aspect, but saved the concept for a future film – Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993).
Fittingly, it also stars Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.
What are some famous cameos in the movie?
The scene where Alvy and Annie are in the park making up stories about the people passing by is inspired by the famous Simon & Garfunkel song, “America”. A line in the song goes “Laughing on the bus/playing games with the faces/She says the man in the gabardine suit is a spy/I say be careful, his bowtie is really a camera.”
In fact, Paul Simon (of Simon & Garfunkel) appears in the movie as Tony Lacy.
There’s another cool uncredited cameo In that same scene, Woody Allen says, “Oh, there goes the winner of the Truman Capote Look-Alike Contest.” In fact, it is Truman Capote (author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s) in an uncredited cameo.
What’s interesting about the way the movie is shot?
All the shots in Annie Hall are about twice as long, on average, as the average shot length for films in 1977. Generally speaking, the longer a shot, the more time there is to convey a complex message, and this film about a neurotic love affair is no exception. With about 14 seconds on average (most films of the time have shots of about 4-7 seconds) this film allows for a lot of complexity!
How was the ending dreamed up?
The iconic “we need the eggs” final scene was almost not there. Woody Allen and co-writer Marshall Brickman had changed the concept so many times that there as no clear ending.
Even at the first preview of the movie, the ending was an emotionally unfulfilling, awkward encounter between Annie and Alvy. But during a cab ride to one of those preview screenings, Allen had an epiphany, scribbled some notes, and the charming ending we have today was created.
How did they shoot those great scenes?
Annie Hall is a cinematographic delight, particularly because of the way its actors disregard standard movie rules. The fourth wall (where an actor speaks directly to the camera) is frequently breached, and its use of fantasy is charming and unexpected.
It was also lauded for its utilization of a split screen, but in reality, cinematographer Gordon Willis had just set up a thin wall between two different sets to shoot both halves of the divided scene at the same time.
Which amazing fantasies got left out?
As much as this movie feels like an exploration of Alvy’s fantasies, many of them were scrapped. Some of the fantasy scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor include a bit about the French Resistance, Nazi German, parodies of the films Angel on My Shoulder and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a guided tour of hell (featuring Richard Nixon), a visit to the Garden of Eden, and, the one I wish I could have seen, a basketball game between the New York Knicks and philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard.
What ended up in the East River?
Allen doesn’t love this movie, despite it being incredibly well-received. He feld that a lof of the original message was ruined in the editing process.
In fact, he hated one scene so much (a fantasy in which a traffic light convinces him to fly to LA and win Annie back) that he threw the footage into the East River. He was allegedly not a fan of the overwhelming cuteness of that scene, but we would have loved to have seen it.
What role was Fellini supposed to play?
In one of the first scenes where Alvy and Annie are waiting in line to see a movie and a man is pontificating loudly behind them, one of Alvy’s fantasies leads to him producing media scholar Marshall McLuhan from behind a sign.
He settles the debate in Alvy’s favor but wasn’t Allen’s first choice. His first choice for the scene was Italian director Federico Fellini, who was uninterested in flying to the US for such a short scene.
What awards has the movie won?
This film has won a LOT of awards, including: the Academy Award for Best Picture (1978), Academy Award for Best Actress (1978), Academy Award for Best Director (1978), and many, many more, 31 in total.
Others include the BAFTA for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Direction and Best Editing; the Golden Globe for Best Actress, and the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film.
Why do some think this movie is Allen’s best?
One of the reasons that Annie Hall has become so iconic is because of the way it seems to encapsulate who Woody Allen is as a writer and director. According to film critic Tim Dirks, the movie
[…] capitalized on many of the ingredients that had been the content of his earlier films—the subjects of anti-Semitism, life, romantic angst, drugs and death, his obsessive love of New York, his dislike of California (mostly L.A.) fads and intellectual pomposity, his introspective neuroses and pessimism, his requisite jokes and psychosexual frustration about sex, numerous put-downs of his own appearance and personality, and distorted memories of his childhood.
Add that to a brilliantly witty script, relatable characters, and cinematographic quirks and you’ve got the makings of a masterpiece.
What other aspects led to its success?
It was also called the sixth best screenplay of all time by the Writers Guild of America. Film critic Roger Ebert discusses how it trades in ideas and dialogue – the characters are constantly talking to each other in a process of discovering more about each other. It feels very relatable, which is perhaps why it is so popular.
What’s the story with Keaton and Allen, anyway?
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton had a long history together, which might explain their on-screen chemistry. Aside from acting together on previous projects, they had also famously dated. In fact, the movie is loosely based on their relationship.
There wasn’t any tension given their previous relationship – in fact, they often had problems keeping a straight face while filming – the lobster scene being a famous example of that.
What’s odd about the length of this movie?
The film is famously short. At only 93 minutes long, it is the second-shortest movie to win an Oscar – the shortest movie clocking in at 91 minutes.
It was originally over two hours long, and most of that footage was discarded.
Notice something interesting about the photos in Annie’s apartment?
In the lobster cooking scene, Annie runs to get her camera to document the experience. Later, you can see the photos she took on her wall when Alvy runs to her apartment to kill the spider (which is the size of a Buick, in his words.)
Listen to Diane Keaton talk about the experience in this next interview!
Finally, check out this interview with Diane Keaton where she discusses working with Woody Allen and her experience filming this movie!
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