July 17, 2013
Among the more unexpected screen combinations that result from Woody Allen’s new movie, “Blue Jasmine,” are the sights of Cate Blanchett facing off with the risqué standup comedian Andrew Dice Clay as a man who has been laid low by her character’s deceptions; and the British actress Sally Hawkins pairing up with the comic and television star Louis C.K. as a potential suitor who becomes (in his words) “one of those awful stories that women carry around.”
The appearance of these two prominent comedians in “Blue Jasmine” is also a reminder of how Mr. Allen got his start as a performer of self-deprecating but intellectual standup comedy, long before he was writing and directing films and producing Marshall McLuhan from just off-camera. Mr. Allen spoke recently to The New York Times for an Arts & Leisure article about the creation of “Blue Jasmine” and the evolving tradition of female characters in his movies. In these edited outtakes from that conversation, he explained how the comics came to be cast in the film, and how recent experiences got him thinking about revisiting his old nightclub act.
Were you specifically looking at standup comedians for the roles in “Blue Jasmine”?
No, I wasn’t at all. We had a hard time finding someone to play the Andrew Dice Clay role. One person was too old, one person was a little too mafia, one person had something else wrong. We couldn’t find anybody. Years ago I had seen Andrew Dice Clay do his standup act on television for a few minutes, and I thought, this guy would be a very good character for a movie. It’s a good bet that comedians can act. The other way around doesn’t work so much. If you see Marlon Brando or the greatest dramatic actors, they can’t always do comedy. But I thought he would be great. Andrew Dice Clay was more sympathetic than I imagined writing the husband. When it got into his hands, there’s something about him – your heart goes out to him.
Did you know Louis C.K.’s work before you cast him in this movie?
I didn’t know Louis C.K. at all. But someone showed me a tape of Bobby Cannavale – it was to see Bobby Cannavale, and he was in a skit with Louis C.K. Cannavale, I thought, yes, he’s great and right for this part. And I said but who’s that guy with him? He’s wonderful. So we had him in originally for the Andrew Dice Clay part. And he read it, and he read it very well. We thought, he’s so likeable. He’s clearly such a sweet guy. I was dying to use him in something, so we used him to play the sweeter guy. I’d love to do a movie with him and me, a comedy. I’m looking for some idea that would work, for the two of us to do. Of course I hope that people aren’t disappointed that I don’t act with him [in "Blue Jasmine"], and he doesn’t have a commensurately comic part with his talent. But some day, I will get something that we could do together, because I do think it would be fun. I’m such a great fan of his.
What prevented this team-up from happening?
When I finished this picture, I went into my room and thought, What would be a fun picture? My first thought for a while was, Can I come up with something at the moment that I could do with Louis C.K.? But I wasn’t able to get the right idea, and time was starting to move. And I thought, well, here’s an idea that would make a very fun movie, so I started writing it, and I finished it, and I thought, this is a perfect movie for Colin Firth and Emma Stone, so that’s what I did.
Does working with comedians ever inspire you to revisit your own career as a standup?
I was inspired the other night – in the other room here where I play [the Cafe Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel], I saw Mort Sahl. He flew in from San Francisco, and he worked three late shows and he was wonderful. He’s slowed up a little now because he’s 85. He’s not as rapid as he was when was he was 35. But all the stuff is still there. Watching him, I had the same feeling now, in 2013, as I had when I saw him in 1950-something. Of, “Hey, I’d like to get back onstage and do standup again.” He inspired me then to be a standup comic, and all these years later, I thought of it again because of him. He makes that phenomenon so enticing.
Could you fit a standup tour into your schedule when you’re making a new movie every year?
I was thinking of it. Since I saw him, I’ve just been toying with the idea. I would love to see if I could. Just getting together an hour of stuff to talk about would be a lot of work.
I would think you’ve had an experience or two to draw from since your days at N.Y.U.
Yes, yes, I’ve had some things to talk about. Learned nothing.