Not unlike celebrity divorces or the widening gap between rich and poor, the news that Emma Stone has been tapped star in Woody Allen’s next as yet untitled film arrived with a sense of déjà vu, as if it were confirmation of information we’d known all along and destiny was simply following the agenda. Really, was there ever any doubt that Allen, a lifelong sucker for quick-witted, quirky beauties, would leave this Stone unturned? Not a chance.
Stone, reportedly a lifelong Woody worshipper who named her dog Alvy after Annie Hall’s besotted neurotic protagonist, has spent the past few years assembling a collection of ineffably charming characters capable of cracking wise and upstaging any love interest who enters her orbit. In 2011’s underrated “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” she prevailed over such towering talents as Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling and walked away with the film’s biggest laugh and most quoted line: “Seriously? It’s like you’re photoshopped,” she gasped upon seeing Gosling shirtless for the first time. The directors of that film aptly described her as the screwball romantic comedienne Hollywood hasn’t produced since Katharine Hepburn and Carole Lombard. “There’s been nobody like her for so long,” Glenn Ficarra told me in an interview for Film Comment. “Men like her, women like her. It’s not like Julia Roberts, who they don’t relate to.”
Though Roberts did, in fact, star in one of Allen’s lesser efforts, “Everyone Says I Love You,” Stone has the potential to be the kind of indelible leading lady we haven’t seen in any of his films, arguably since Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, Diane Wiest, and Judy Davis were his go-to gals. During the decade plus between “Bullets Over Broadway” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” (with the possible exception of “Sweet and Lowdown”), Allen shuffled through an eclectic array of actresses, from the famous (Demi Moore, Drew Barrymore) and otherwise (Elizabeth Berkeley, Winona Ryder) in search of a comic heroine worthy of playing some of the most complex and captivating female characters written for the screen. While he came close in recent years with Scarlet Johansson, in the end, she lacked the grit necessary to provide a worthy foil to Allen’s battery of well-meaning egoists, shysters, and self-loathers and deluded romantics.
Casting Cate Blanchett as the lead in his recently completed “Blue Jasmine” is certainly a step in the right direction. But for all Blanchett’s infinite talent, it’s hard to see her as more than a dabbler in Allen’s specific brand of comedy. Stone, on the other hand, has what it takes to go the distance. She naturally exudes the sagacious pluck and idiosyncratic vulnerability of many of Allen’s most memorable characters. In fact, we’ll go on record now to predict that Allen’s first collaboration with Stone won’t be his last.
Weigh in below with a few of your favorite actresses and/or female characters to have graced Woody Allen’s oeuvre.