Several Woody Allen's ago we began a very short lived series called "Familiar Faces" in which I surveyed repeat usages of the same actors in a director's ouevre. The series was short lived because my god do you know how long each post took? Nevertheless, I'd love to revive it if I've ever afforded the budget or time and I thought with Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's 43rd complete directorial feature, rocking it at the box office the time was ripe to revisit and republish with a few minor adjustments. If you see a half point trust that it's from Play It Again Sam which Woody wrote and starred in but did not direct or New York Stories which he directed only one segment of. One of the key factors in why I don't think Woody Allen films are as strong as they used to be is his weird shift from loyal employer to fickle star-gazer. Nowadways its rare for an actor to return to his filmography.
Take Blue Jasmine for example. The only performers with a previous Woody under his belt are Alec Baldwin who had the "pleasure" of playing an ill-defined role in To Rome With Love and (a long time ago) a small role in Alice and Ginger herself Sally Hawkins who previously appeared in Cassandra's Dream
Herewith my findings... from Mia through the Dian(n)es and on to the Scarletts
01 WOODY ALLEN 28 FILMS
Before Woody was regularly casting male stars in the Woodyesque lead roles, he was playing them himself for himself (and usually doing a better job of it than his later proxies). The first of his films in which he did not appear in was Interiors (1978), a landmark moment artistically since it was his first attempt at sober drama and surely the catalyst picture for the "I liked your early work best" fickleness from the public. He most recently acted for himself again in To Rome With Love (2012) but maybe he's caught the acting bug again since he's stepping outside of his own filmography for John Turturro's comedy Fading Gigolo (2013)
02 MIA FARROW 13 FILMS
Still the Queen of Woody's filmography and she'll undoubtedly remain so since her former lover is getting on in years and has yet to settle on a post Mia muse though he did famously try Scarlett Johansson on for size / style from 2005 through 2008. Remarkably and horrifically, despite the plentiful acting nominations earned by Woody Allen films, Mia was herself never nominated for an Oscar. The actress won two BAFTA and three Golden Globe nominations for her roles in Woody Allen films as well as the NBR best actress prize for Alice (1990)... but Oscar never bit. So stingy!
03 (TIE) DIANE KEATON & JULIE KAVNER 7 and ½ FILMS
Annie Hall won Keaton one of the Academy's most deserved lead acting statues in its 80+ year history and remains her signature role despite numerous strong characterizations in other films. After regular annual stints as his leading lady in the 1970s she returned to the Woody fold rather blissfully twice, the first time in the nostalgia soaked Radio Days (1987) and finally as the chatty adventure-loving wife in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) the first film to be made in Woody's Post-Mia years (rebound security blanket?) and in the latter they proved that they hadn't lost an ounce of their chemistry.
It's a pity that they haven't gone for an 8th film together. (Her half point is for Play it Again, Sam which Woody did not direct).
Kavner's association with Woody is less noted by movie buffs both due to Kavner's limited fame outside of that Marge Simpson voice and to the fact that she mostly had small roles in his films. She's hard to miss though as the Mrs in Don't Drink the Water (½ point for Woody's only full length TV movie) or as his trusted sounding board co-worker in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).
05 FRED MELAMED 7 FILMS
Readers might best recognize Melamed as huggy doomed Sy Ableman from the Coen Bros A Serious Man (2009) but he's all over the place in the Woody filmography albeit in very small roles, the first of which was Woody's doctor in Hannah and Her Sisters and the most recent of which was Hollywood Ending (2002).
06 (TIE) MAURICE SONNENBERG and PETER CATELLOTI 6 MOVIES
These two have roles like "Movie Theater Patron" in Anything Else or "Sound Recordist" in Celebrity. But since they're in six movies each, one assumes they're either spectacular extras or friends with Woody or Juliet Taylor his casting director.
08 (TIE) JUDY DAVIS, DIANNE WIEST, WALLACE SHAWN, and DAVID OGDEN STIERS 5 FILMS
Davis is the newest member of this 5 time club having been the sole bright spot in To Rome With Love last year though her best performance in Husbands and Wives (1992) was a semi-surprise loss on Oscar night. She's obviously game for whatever Woody throws at her and one wishes they'd work together more often.
The instantly recognizable Shawn (an immortal face thanks to Clueless and The Princess Bride), has also been in a whole handful of Woody film albeit in smaller roles. You may remember him as "The Masked Avenger" in Radio Days (1988). David Ogden Stiers (of TV's "M*A*S*H" fame) was another regular.
Finally, Dianne Wiest won both of her very deserved Oscars for Allen pictures (Hannah and Her Sisters & Bullets Over Broadway) and I'd argue that her two wins demonstrate the most range of any actor's two Oscar wins... yes, even Meryl kids. If you've ever wondered why actors are so obviously desperate to work with him, consider this: He's guided thespians to 15 nominations with 6 wins among them - making him one of the ten best directors of actors... at least according to Oscar stats.
12 (TIE) LOUISE LASSER & TONY ROBERTS 4 and a ½ or thereabouts
Lasser is often forgotten when people are listing Woody's muses only because she was the first before his legend really took hold and before, and this is the key point, he was in full control as writer, star AND director. They worked together on non official Woody films and shorts like What's New Pussycat and "The Laughmakers" and she did voice work for his comic dubbing experiment What's Up Tiger Lily (1966) before starring with him in his first three traditional features Take the Money and Run (1969), Bananas (1971) and Everything You Always Wanted to Ask About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask (1972).
Roberts, who first worked with Woody the actor in Play it Again, Sam (1972) won the most attention for his philandering friend role in Annie Hall. and exited the Woody filmography through an uncredited role as "Mickey's Former Partner" in Hannah and Her Sisters
14 (TIE) SAM WATERSON & CAROLINE AARON 4 FILMS
Waterston's most significant role is, if I'm remembering correctly, in September (1987) opposite Dianne Wiest, but this was notoriously not a happy set having been reshot, recast and delayed and not causing much of a stir when it opened despite Woody's renewed popularity at the time fresh off of Hannah. Aaron, also in small roles, first joined Woody's filmography for Crimes and Misdemeanors.
16 (TIE) ALEC BALDWIN, SCARLETT JOHANSSON, ALAN ALDA , DANNY AIELLO, PHILIP BOSCO, FRANCES CONROY (all her appearances predate her fame on Six Feet Under), BLYTHE DANNER, JULIE HALSTON, ANNIE JOE EDWARDS and CAMILLE SAVIOLA and JACK WARDEN. 3 FILMS
This 10 person club is about to have a new member: ERICA LEERSHEN who was previously seen in small roles in Hollywood Ending and Anything Else and is currently filming Woody's as yet untitled follow up to Blue Jasmine to arrive like clockwork in summer 2014.
25 (TIE) 2 FILMS
There are well over a dozen actors who have pulled double Woody duty over the years. The most recent inductees to the two timer club are: KATHY BATES (Shadows and Fog, Midnight in Paris), PENELOPE CRUZ (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, To Rome With Love) LARRY DAVID (Radio Days, Whatever Works, PATRICIA CLARKSON (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Whatever Works), JOSH BROLIN (Melinda and Melinda, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) and EWEN BREMNER (yes, that's "Spud" from Trainspotting who appeared in Match Point and You Will Meet...). Previous familiar faces who've shown up twice in Woody pictures include: Bob Balaban, Lynn Cohen, Jeff Daniels, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gregg Edelman, director Nora Ephron (only cameos), Stephanie Farrow, Rupert Frazer, Joanna Gleason, Jessica Harper, Mariel Hemingway, Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Gretchen Mol, Zak Orth, Alison Pill, Michael Rapaport, Deborah Rush, Marian Seldes, Tina Sloan, Charlize Theron, Michael Tucker,Loretta Tupper and Tracey Ullman.
AND THAT'S A WRAP. Everyone with a SAG card has appeared in at least 1 Woody Allen picture though it's a mystery as to why Woody doesn't reuse Christopher Evan Welch who did such great work narrating Vicky Cristina Barcelona and appeared physically in Whatever Works, Martin Landau (Crimes and Misdemeanors - Oscar nom), Elaine May (Small Time Crooks -NSFC Best Supporting Actress) and Goldie Hawn (so delightful with Woody in Everyone Says I Love You) in particular.
Which actor would you love Woody to invite back?