Woody Allen, the 86-year-old director, writer, actor, and stand-up comic behind well-received films like Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Midnight in Paris, told the Spanish news outlet La Vanguardia that his current production, Wasp 22, will be his final film.
He said that his plan “in principle” is to not make any more movies, and focus the rest of his energy on writing, probably a novel. While best known for writing screenplays that he usually directs himself, Allen has, over a career that spans eight decades, published five collections of humor short stories, a memoir, and 10 works for theater of varying length.
News of hanging up the director’s megaphone is not particularly surprising. Resurgent allegations of sexual abuse against his adopted daughter in 1992, for which he was never charged and which he has denied, have effectively ended his ability to work in the United States or find mainstream distribution here. His last two movies, A Rainy Day in New York and Rifkin’s Festival were essentially ignored, although Rainy Day ended up being a worldwide box office champ in May 2020 due to a fluke of early pandemic scheduling.
Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing, was originally set to be published by Hachette, but they canceled its release in 2020 when employees, and Hachette author Ronan Farrow, voiced complaint. (Farrow, of course, is the investigative journalist whose work was instrumental in the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, and is also Woody Allen’s son.) Apropos of Nothing was published by the small press Arcade, who also released this summer’s collection of short humor stories, Zero Gravity.
While promoting the newest book, Allen was interviewed via Instagram by Alec Baldwin. Despite plenty of technical issues (which led to Baldwin shouting off camera in Spanish), Allen suggested that retirement was imminent. “A lot of the thrill is gone,” he said. “When I used to do a film, it’d go into a movie house all across the country. Now you do a movie and you get a couple of weeks in a movie house. Maybe six weeks or four weeks, and then it goes right to streaming or pay-per-view.” He continued, “it was a nice feeling to know that 500 people were seeing it once… I don’t know how I feel about making movies. I’m going to make another one, and I’ll see how it feels.”
Allen’s writing career began in the early 1950s, when he was a 16-year-old, mailing in, as he put it in Apropos of Nothing, “mother-in-law jokes, parking space jokes, [and] income tax jokes” to newspaper columnists. Nick Kenny of the Daily Mirror was first to buy one of his gags, slipping in an “Allan Konigsberg says …” He soon legally changed his name to Heywood Allen, became a television writer (most notably for Sid Caesar), a stand-up comedian in New York’s Greenwich Village, and eventually made his way to feature films. He has won four Academy Awards off of 24 nominations (winning Best Screenplay for Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Midnight in Paris, and Best Director for Annie Hall), and Diane Keaton, Michael Caine, Mira Sorvino, Penélope Cruz, Cate Blanchett, and Dianne Wiest (twice) have all won Oscars from appearing in Allen’s films.
His first movie in the traditional sense as a director was the mock documentary Take The Money and Run in 1969. Depending on how you count these things (he’s created many works for television over the years, and also acted in movie adaptations of his plays which he did not direct) Wasp 22 will be his 50th film. Allen has described it as “a poisonous romantic thriller” similar to his 2005 hit Match Point, and it will be shot in French. The cast has yet to be announced, though IMDb does list Dr. Kenneth Edelson, a New York dermatologist who has appeared in 30 Woody Allen movies, beginning with Alice in 1990, usually credited as Party Guest.