But We Need the Eggs
Henry L. Carrigan, Jr.
From early films like Sleeper and Take the Money and Run to the award-winning Annie Hall and closet dramas like Interiors and September to more recent Match Point and Scoop, Woody Allen’s cinematic genius has brilliantly and often hilariously explored questions of love, loss, death, despair, and hope.
In Conversations With Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies, and Moviemaking (Knopf; $30), Allen biographer Eric Lax uses interviews, dating from 1971 to 2006, wherein Allen candidly discusses how he goes about filmmaking, from finding ideas for a film to writing it and casting it to directing, editing, and scoring it. For example, Radio Days developed as a movie of scenes based on memories of songs from Allen’s childhood. On writing a film, Allen muses: “In the making of a film so much of what you planned doesn’t work the way you thought it would, and in the editing room you make new discoveries all the time . . . the experience of making a film happens when you make the film, it’s not in the writing of the film.”
Allen’s films are always full of brilliant actors who seem perfectly made for their parts. However, the interviews on casting reveal that he seldom has actors read for their parts, but often asks one question (like “How tall are you?”) to those aspiring to a role. On his own acting: “To me, [acting] is like falling off a log . . . That’s the beauty of having no talent. I stay within my small range. There’s absolutely no acting required. I’m not doing anything different now than when they turn the camera on.”
Allen sums up his career in his typical self-deprecating yet bitingly humorous way: “My objective feeling is that I haven’t achieved anything significant artistically . . . I’ve made no real contributions to cinema . . . Young directors are not running out imitating me and shooting films the way I shoot them . . . I’m a Brooklyn-Broadway wisecracker who’s been very lucky.”
Allen’s fans would certainly beg to differ; we’re the lucky ones.
Henry Carrigan dreamed of being a rock ‘n roll star with a life of coast-to-coast tours and wild parties with Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell among others. But books intervened, and instead he went to Emory University to major in Religion and Literature. Later, teaching humanities in college, he took up writing about books—this time to avoid reading students’ papers. Henry soon became Library Journal's religion columnist, then religion book editor for Publishers Weekly. While working as editor-in-chief for Northwestern University Press and editing classic books for Paraclete Press, he still continues to write for LJ and PW, as well as the Washington Post Book World, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Charlotte Observer, ForeWord magazine—and now, BiblioBuffet. And he still enjoys playing his guitar. Henry can be reached at