By the numbers, he is one of the most successful filmmakers and entertainers of all time. Woody Allen has three Oscars and twenty-one nominations; another twenty-one nominations with ten prizes from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA); eleven Golden Globe nominations with one Golden Globe; and nineteen nominations and four awards from the Writers Guild of America. The litany of his honors begins in 1966, and he has nominations and prizes from each decade since that year.
Allen has scores of other accolades from institutions, domestic and foreign, and, interestingly, he couldn’t care less about them. In his 1991 biography of Allen, Eric Lax writes, “As everyone knows, despite however many nominations he has, Woody will not campaign for them, nor will he attend the ceremony—or any awards ceremony.”
Allen is prolific in his directing and writing, and the roll call of his films contains many monuments of the cinematic landscape. Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Deconstructing Harry are among his critically acclaimed works. The box office does not necessarily go the way of the critics, however. His films often play on his obsessions and fears—sex and death are two key themes in his work—and however founded or unfounded his neuroses, they serve his comedy well.
As a rule, Allen’s work is set in New York; a notable exception is his 2011 release, Midnight in Paris. He does not film in New York out of a desire to use a familiar setting, but out of an allegiance to his hometown (he was born and grew up in Brooklyn). Of the gestures made to the city after the attacks of September 11, 2001, perhaps Woody Allen’s was one of the most unusual. “I plead with you, please come make the films there; it [New York] remains a great, great city,” he said to the audience at the 2002 Academy Awards. Although he would not ascend the Oscar stage to accept any of the awards he had previously received, Allen did not hesitate to do the bidding of his hometown in its sad hour.
—Warren Perry, Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
Woody Allen / John Kascht / Watercolor, colored ink and graphite on pape, 1997 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, © John Kascht
Eric Lax, Woody Allen (New York: Knopf, 1991).