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Woody Allen’s Career Is Over, But Why Did It Take So Long? — Opinion

Is this really the end? IndieWire's staff debates the latest developments.

Woody AllenUntitled Woody Allen project on set filming, New York, USA - 11 Sep 2017

Woody Allen

Ca/ACE Pictures/REX/Shutterstock

This week, “Call Me By Your Name” star Timothée Chalamet became the latest actor from Woody Allen’s upcoming “A Rainy Day in New York” to donate his salary to several organizations in response to backlash to collaborating with the filmmaker. The mounting discomfort over Allen’s ability to continue producing films with name actors has led many to speculate that the filmmaker’s career is over. Here, several IndieWire writers shared thoughts about that possibility. 

DAVID EHRLICH: Woody Allen’s career is over, “A Rainy Day in New York” will be his last film, and most filmgoers will only notice he’s stopped working due to the newsworthy circumstances of his forced retirement. For many of the men involved in the recent wave of sexual assault allegations, the end came quickly, falling down on them like the blade of a guillotine. For Woody, the process was considerably longer and more complicated, with the court of public opinion locked in a stalemate for several decades. Under other circumstances, perhaps he could have continued to churn out a film every year until he was ready to step away on his own terms. But once Harvey Weinstein was exposed for his crimes and the reckoning began, it was only a matter of time before the industry as a whole began to reject Woody’s presence. A lot of people effectively cancelled this guy a long time ago, but now that the rest of the world is collectively coming to terms with how fraught (and how futile) it can be to separate the art from the artist, the cognitive dissonance that would result from publicly supporting Allen’s work is simply too much to bear.

At this point, its hard to imagine how anyone would be willing to finance, or star in, or even buy a ticket for whatever Allen might hope to make next. Griffin Newman, who deserves all the credit in the world for listening to his conscience while candidly expressing how difficult that can be, couldn’t stomach the idea of profiting from his participation in “A Rainy Day in New York.” Others have followed suit.

Selena Gomez, Timothee Chalamet'Untitled Woody Allen Project' on set filming, New York, USA - 11 Sep 2017 Woody Allen film set in Manhattan

Selena Gomez and Timothee Chalamet on the set of “A Rainy Day in New York”

Broadimage/REX/Shutterstock

For many actors, public pressure might play a more central role in their decision-making process. Either way, the result is the same, and Amazon’s only play is to announce (as soon as possible) that they’ll be donating 100% of the film’s gross to the appropriate charities. That way, people might be permitted to see the film, the countless hours of work involved won’t be completely lost, and some kind of restitution might be made. Beyond that, the bad will has been building since the ‘90s, if not before, and at 82 years old it’s probably time for Woody Allen to just take the loss.

KATE ERBLAND: The recent developments are all the more dramatic when you consider the timeline. In 2014, Dylan Farrow used an open letter in the New York Times to publicly call out longtime Allen stars and partners like Diane Keaton, Cate Blanchett, Emma Stone, and Scarlett Johansson, writing: “What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?”

The letter — an emotional, raw accounting of her allegations made against her father when she was just a child — caused a stir around the world, but many of the stars Farrow named remained silent. Three years later, Farrow turned to the Los Angeles Times for a new op-ed, one that again named various Hollywood heavy hitters, this time picking out those who had spoken out against Harvey Weinstein, yet remained silent on Allen — including Greta Gerwig. She has since distanced herself from the filmmaker, and other Allen stars like Kate Winslet and Blake Lively.

The difference in receptions and reactions to those pieces has been remarkable. Over the past few weeks, scores of Allen stars have not only said that they can no longer work with the filmmaker, but also announced that they were planning to donate their salaries from their work on his films to organizations like TimesUp and RAINN, organizations dedicated to protecting those who have been victims of sexual assault and molestation. You don’t even need to read between the lines on this one. By now, it seems clear that Allen’s career is likely over — the buzz around his “A Rainy Day in New York” is now mostly dedicated to tracking which of his stars have cut ties with him before this thing has even released a poster. It’s done.

WOODY ALLENOSCARS / ACADEMY AWARDS AT THE KODAK THEATRE, LOS ANGELES, AMERICA - 24 MAR 2002

Woody Allen at the 2002 Oscar ceremony

Peter Brooker/REX/Shutterstock

JUDE DRY: As Hollywood titans topple like dominoes, Allen has remained relatively unscathed by the #MeToo movement until now. Perhaps because it’s because he already had his reckoning, and nobody seemed to care. Or rather, some people cared and many others didn’t. As the winds have finally shifted in favor of believing women, even the most stalwart Allen defenders are finding it harder and harder to pull the wool over their eyes. However, he has weathered the storm this long, and there are no new accusations against him. Doing an Allen film has yet to hurt an actor’s career, but for the first time that fear exists. It is telling that the only actors to voice regrets about working with Allen are all under 40, and the momentum behind these expressions of regret has been slow to build. There is a whole generation still unfazed by Allen’s behavior, and they have had years to get used to the idea that he isn’t going away anytime soon. Barring any new allegations, Allen will always have friends willing to fund his movies, and people willing to watch them. But it’s unlikely that any fresh-faced young stars will appear in them.

ERIC KOHN: Allen’s movies have been weirdly solipsistic enterprises, usually colored by a nostalgia for old worlds, and the fantasies they sustain. From “Manhattan” to “Wonder Wheel,” the Allen oeuvre has thumbed its nose at an evolving society and looked backward with a wistful gaze. So it comes as no surprise that he was able to skirt along in an ivory tower of his own making for so long — Allen created his own universe divorced from real concerns, which made it easier to ignore how they might apply to him.

Jude makes a great point: It takes a new generation to determine the symbolic outcome of working with Allen for the tides to turn. The decisions by the cast in his new movie and the comments made by his recent collaborators are so dramatic it’s impossible to imagine Allen’s career recovering with the same consistency it has maintained in the past.

“Annie Hall”

At the same time, Allen has remained a semi-pariah for a long time. He thrives in solitude, as anyone who has seen “Woody Allen: A Documentary” knows, scribbling tiny ideas on a piece of paper next to his bed and cranking out movies from them, one after another. It’s just what he does. The culture may turn on Allen, but Allen seems unlikely to cave to the culture. My bet: This guy will keep working, even if he has to take money from seedy overseas enterprises and make movies with no-name actors. But if Allen continues to be prolific and no one bothers to watch, his career is over for most of us anyway.

We’re witnessing an important cultural shift take place, one in which the industry has realized it can be empowered to take action rather than being held hostage by career opportunities. My hope: There is obviously value in actors finally abandoning Allen, but that doesn’t mean the timeline of his career should vanish, too. “Annie Hall” remains a seminal romantic comedy, released before any allegations against and universally beloved for reasons that have nothing to do with his personal life. There are countless other Allen movies offering unique riffs on neurotic people stumbling through confused urban lives. He invented that game, and provided a template for comedians expanding their storytelling skills that remains even more relevant to this day. The best possible outcome for our progressive world is to acknowledge these past achievements while separating them from the question of whether Allen should be celebrated today for his continuing output. Our society may not take easily to nuanced distinctions, but this is one occasion where it will matter in the history books.

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