NEW YORK — Woody Allen has parted from Jean Doumanian’s Sweetland Films, ending one of the most prolific pairings on the specialty film circuit. Sweetland financed his last seven features, including “Small Time Crooks,” which is completed and will be distributed by DreamWorks.
Allen left TriStar in 1993 to work with Doumanian, who has been one of his closest friends since they met while Allen was on the standup circuit in Chicago almost 40 years ago. While they remain friendly — after they hit a negotiating stalemate, they went to Madison Square Garden to watch Allen’s beloved New York Knicks beat the San Antonio Spurs — the partnership is history. Allen and his William Morris agents John Burnham and Cassian Elwes are now in the process of figuring out what to do next. An overall multi-picture deal at a studio is one possibility.
Over the course of their relationship, Sweetland financed and Doumanian produced “Sweet and Lowdown,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Mighty Aphrodite,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “Celebrity” and “Everyone Says I Love You.” They are also in business on a performance of two one-act plays that Allen will direct and which will open in London in spring 2001. They wrap their feature arrangement with “Small Town Crooks,” a comedy starring Hugh Grant, Tracey Ullman and Allen. “Crooks,” which DreamWorks will open in May, is said to hark back to the madcap comedies of Allen’s early resume.
Separately, Allen has gotten busy as an actor for hire, having recently completed the lead role in the quirky Alfonso Arau-directed indie “Picking Up the Pieces,” in which he plays a butcher who plies his trade on his philandering wife (Sharon Stone) only to lose her hand while transporting the body and watching it become a religious artifact when a blind woman trips over it and gains sight.
Allen will likely find a receptive audience for his next film, which will traditionally start filming in the fall. While he has long had complete creative control of his films, he makes them for reasonable budgets. And while recent films haven’t done huge domestic business, they have all been profitable on a worldwide basis, according to sources close to both parties. They also have been magnets for top talent and Oscar nominations, as evidenced by the “Sweet and Lowdown” acting noms for Sean Penn and Samantha Morton.