Heywood “Woody” Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg) is an American actor, writer, director, comedian and playwright, whose career spans more than 50 years.
He worked as a comedy writer in the 1950s, writing jokes and scripts for television and publishing several books of short humor pieces. In the early 1960s, Allen began performing as a stand-up comedian, emphasizing monologues rather than traditional jokes. As a comedian, he developed the persona of an insecure, intellectual, fretful nebbish, which he maintains is quite different from his real-life personality. In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Allen in fourth place on a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians, while a UK survey ranked Allen as the third greatest comedian.
Allen often stars in his films, typically in the persona he developed as a standup. Some best-known of his over 40 films are Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and Midnight in Paris (2011). Critic Roger Ebert described Allen as “a treasure of the cinema.”
Allen has been nominated 24 times and won four Academy Awards: three for Best Original Screenplay and one for Best Director (Annie Hall). He has more screenwriting Academy Award nominations than any other writer, and has won nine British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards. Allen performs regularly as a jazz clarinetist at small venues in Manhattan. In 2011, PBS televised the film biography, Woody Allen: A Documentary, on the American Masters TV series. On January 13, 2015, it was announced Allen will write and direct his first television series for Amazon Studios.
In the 90’s “Woody” returned to lighter movies like Bullets over Broadway (1994), which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, followed by a musical, Everyone Says I Love You (1996). The singing and dancing scenes in Everyone Says I Love You are similar to musicals starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The comedy Mighty Aphrodite (1995), in which Greek drama plays a large role, won an Academy Award for Mira Sorvino. Allen’s 1999 jazz-based comedy-drama Sweet and Lowdown was nominated for two Academy Awards for Sean Penn (Best Actor) and Samantha Morton (Best Supporting Actress). In contrast to these lighter movies, Allen veered into darker satire towards the end of the decade with Deconstructing Harry (1997) and Celebrity (1998).
Allen made one sitcom “appearance” to date (2009) via telephone on the show Just Shoot Me! in a 1997 episode, “My Dinner with Woody” which paid tribute to several of his films. Allen provided the lead voice in the 1998 animated film Antz, which featured many actors he had worked with and Allen’s character was similar to his earlier neurotic roles. Match Point (2005) was one of Allen’s most successful films of the decade, garnering positive reviews. Set in London, it starred Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson.
Midnight in Paris won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Blue Jasmine debuted in July 2013 receive the Academy Award for Best Actress. Allen co-stars with John Turturro in Fading Gigolo, written and directed by Turturro, which premiered in September 2013.
While best known for his films, Allen has enjoyed a successful career in theater, starting as early as 1960, when he wrote sketches for the revue From A to Z. His first great success was Don’t Drink the Water, which opened in 1968, and ran for 598 performances for almost two years on Broadway. His success continued with Play It Again, Sam, which opened in 1969, starring Allen and Diane Keaton. The show played for 453 performances and was nominated for three Tony Awards…
Allen is a passionate fan of jazz, featured prominently in the soundtracks to his films. He began playing the clarinet as a child and took his stage name from clarinetist Woody Herman. He has performed publicly at least since the late 1960s, notably with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the soundtrack of Sleeper.