Like many auteurs in the film industry, Woody Allen
has a knack for finding a muse
. Woody seems to often cast his significant others from his offsceen life in his films.
This little tradition started with Louise Lasser, Woody's wife of three years (1966 to 1969). She appeared in Woody's first film "What's New, Pussycat?" which only starred Woody and was based on his screenplay, one of his few screenplays he didn’t direct. She appeared in a good amount of Woody's madcap comedy films. Including "What's Up Tiger Lily?", "Take The Money and Run", "Bananas" and her last film as Woody's leading lady was "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask." She had a small role as Sandy Bates' Secretary in "Stardust Memories." Lasser has enjoyed mixed success after being Woody's leading lady, yet has had a good amount of success as of late. Having strong performances in Todd Solondz's Happiness and Darren Aronofsky's absolutely terrifying Requiem for a Dream.
Diane Keaton was Woody's next leading lady. Often regarded as his finest leading lady, or at least she got to act in a lot of his great films. Allen and Keaton never married, but dated for years and years. Woody's first film involving a romance with Keaton was "Play It Again, Sam," which was based on his hit Broadway play and brought many classic Woody themes into his films for the first time. Among these, infidelity, getting advice from an otherworldly being and above all, one of cinema's finest on-screen pairings. Keaton appeared in a couple more of Allen's madcap films, "Sleeper" and "Love and Death." Then, in 1977, Keaton and Allen both became legends with "Annie Hall." Which won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay for Woody, and Best Actress for Keaton at the 1978 Academy Awards. She would then go on to play a supporting role in Allen's first attempt at serious drama, "Interiors" and then become his romantic muse again in "Manhattan." Keaton and Allen spent a good amount of time apart, although her cameo as a New Year's Singer in "Radio Days" led to talk of a reunion between the two. Their final on-screen appearance together was in 1993, with Allen's "Manhattan Murder Mystery." Keaton is still regarded as a fine actress, although she's appeared in a good number of pure stinkers, she had Academy Award nominated performances in Reds in 1981, Marvin's Room in 1996 and Somethings Gotta Give in 2003.
Yet although everyone considers Keaton the greatest, Mia Farrow actually appears as the leading lady in more Woody Allen films than any of the other women. Woody dated Mia for quite some time, and they had a couple children together. Their messy breakup was one of the most covered stories by greedy tabloids in the early 1990s. Woody's "Mia Phase" began in 1982 with "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy." From there he made the landmark mockumentary "Zelig,", "Broadway Danny Rose", "The Purple Rose of Cairo", which Woody has said was his favorite film to make and "Hannah and Her Sisters," which is up there with "Annie Hall" on what most people consider their favorite Woody Allen film. He then made the light-hearted look back at when radio ruled the nation with "Radio Days." From then on, he began to make very serious dramas with Mia starring. "September", "Another Woman", "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and "Alice" all leaned towards Allen's tragic side more than his comedic side. Things lightened up a bit with "Alice" and the overlooked "Shadows and Fog." Yet his final film with Mia Farrow was the haunting "Husbands and Wives," which the plot of began to take form off-screen as Mia and Woody had the aforementioned ugly breakup. Mia had also appeared in Woody's segment of "New York Stories" titled "Oedipus Wrecks," which was also directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Mia has only appeared in a handful of films after her breakup with Woody. In 1997 she published an autobiography titled What Falls Away that was a national bestseller. So far in the 21st Century she has accomplished more as an activist than as an actress. She has spoke to the United Nations about Polio and became very active in UNICEF.
While these are the real three "biggies", they are some others that Woody never was linked with romantically and didn't use as often.
Judy Davis became a Woody regular after her turn in "Alice" and went on to appear in "Husbands and Wives", "Deconstructing Harry" and "Celebrity." Her role in “Husbands and Wives” gained her an Academy Award nomination.
Julie Kavner, best known as the voice of Marge Simpson on The Simpsons made an impression on Woody after "Hannah and Her Sisters" and went on to appear in "Radio Days", his segment in "New York Stories", "Alice" and "Deconstructing Harry."
Dianne Wiest first appeared in "The Purple Rose of Cairo" was nominated for an Academy Award after "Hannah and Her Sisters" then went on to do "Radio Days", "September" and in her last film with Woody, "Bullets Over Broadway" she won her only Academy Award.
Most of Woody's more recent women only appear in one of his films, yet some have turned in notable performances in their lone works with Woody. Uma Thurman was fantastic in "Sweet and Lowdown." As was Samantha Morton, who despite not reciting a word the entire film, recieved an Academy Award nomination. Tracey Ullman may have had her finest cinema performance in "Small Time Crooks", a career was born with Mira Sorvino’s turn in “Mighty Aphrodite” and Christina Ricci channels old Diane Keaton performances in Woody's most recent film "Anything Else."
Oddly enough, Woody's wife of the last six years, Soon-Yi Previn, has never appeared as Woody's leading lady, although they do appear on-screen together often in the 1997 documentary on Allen's jazz band touring Europe, Wild Man Blues.