Although America loves nothing better than a good comeback, Oscar isn’t particularly prone to them. There have only been a few big ones in the Academy’s 78-year history.
For example, after years in exile, Ingrid Bergman most famously scored a sentimental comeback with her win for “Anastasia” in 1957. More recently, Roman Polanski was definitely not on hand to pick up his surprise Oscar, two years ago, for helming “The Pianist.”
Woody Allen is another example of tabloid fodder-turned-possible favored son, thanks to his upcoming release, “Match Point.” Not that he has been shunned by Oscar in the past. He has won thrice (“Annie Hall,” “Hannah and Her Sisters”) and brought down an amazing 20 noms, the last time as screenwriter for “Deconstructing Harry” in 1998.
It has been seven years since Oscar last called him, the longest span without Allen’s being honored since his double “Annie Hall” win, for director and picture, in 1978.
Allen made his current “Match Point” in England, and like Bergman and Polanski before him, he has been working in exile, even if it is of his own choosing, as the director explains. “I did the film in England because in the United States I’ve been making films for decades and it’s become increasingly more difficult,” Allen says. “I can get financing, but it’s become more and more prevalent in the U.S. for the studios and the people who give financing to want to participate in the project. They don’t want to be thought of just as a bank. They want to feel that they have something to say about the casting. They’d like to read the script. They like to occasionally come to dailies, and I have never worked that way in my life and couldn’t work that way. I don’t let people read the script and I don’t let them talk to me about casting or suggest people or see anything. I want the money in a brown paper bag and let them see my film a few months later and that’s it. And in London the financing was such that I could work exactly that way. I didn’t have to go through any kind of rigmarole with American people who wanted to participate. So I made it in London.”
In another departure for Allen, he worked with a primarily English cast on “Match Point.” “In London, part of the rules for the tax money are that you have to work with practically all English people,” he recalls. “So we thought that we had to have an all-English cast and an all-English crew and we obeyed that very, very strongly. So originally I had cast an English girl in Scarlett Johansson’s part because I thought that everyone had to be British. I didn’t think that I had any option to cast an American. But then we found that a certain percentage, and we had more than met that percentage, was British and so we had enough left over that we could use an American. So Scarlett happened to be available and willing to work for the very, very small money that we can afford to pay people. It’s a very democratic kind of way that I work. Everyone gets nothing. Everyone is billed in alphabetical order. So however big a star that he or she may be depends on the letter of your name. The entire film was permeated with luck, good luck that it came through in London, good luck that the weather was good. Every time I needed something I got lucky. I got lucky with the actors and actresses in the film. The film came out pretty well I thought, and I’m usually a harsh critic of my films. This one I felt positive about.”