Woody Allen's Leading Ladies

Carla Bruni is Woody Allen’s latest muse in Midnight in Paris. From Diane Keaton to Scarlett Johansson to Penelope Cruz, view our gallery.

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Everett Collection

Louise Lasser

Woody Allen Movies:
What’s Up, Tiger Lily, 1966
Take the Money and Run, 1969
Bananas, 1971
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), 1972
Stardust Memories, 1980

Louise Lasser was married to the director for three years (from What’s Up, Tiger Lily in 1966 to Take the Money and Run, 1969). She starred in his crime mockumentary Take the Money and Run, the pure comedy Bananas, and the collection of shorts based on the book by the same name, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex. Lasser later went on to portray the title character in the television series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. After the cult series’ end, Lasser made cameos on TV shows, including Laverne and Shirley and Taxi, and recently appeared in Requiem for A Dream.

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Meryl Streep

Woody Allen Movies:
Manhattan, 1979

Early in her career, Meryl Streep took on an indelible role in 1979’s Manhattan. Streep co-starred as Jill, the ex-wife of Allen’s character, Isaac Davis, who left him for another woman and goes on to write a tell-all about their love life. The movie propelled Streep’s career to new heights, as she went on to receive an Oscar nod for her supporting role in The Deer Hunter in 1979, and won for Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980.

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Mia Farrow

Woody Allen Movies:
Zelig, 1983
Broadway Danny Rose, 1984
Purple Rose of Cairo, 1985
Hannah and her Sisters, 1986
September, 1987
Another Woman, 1988
Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989
Alice, 1990
Shadows and Fog 1991
Husbands and Wives 1992

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen began dating in 1980, and throughout their years together she appeared in ten of his movies—from Zelig in 1983 to Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986 to Husbands and Wives in 1992. The couple split in 1992, when Farrow discovered nude photos of her daughter Soon-Yi Previn, taken by Allen. He and Previn married five years later, but not before, as Farrow wrote in her autobiography, her ex-husband Frank Sinatra allegedly offered to have Allen’s legs broken.

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Anjelica Huston

Woody Allen Movies:
Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989

Making a brief appearance in Woody Allen’s pantheon, Anjelica Huston starred in Crimes and Misdemeanors. alongside Martin Landau. "When I started filming Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1988 I heard a story about an actress who worked on a Woody Allen film two years previously that hadn't liked her blazer and had been fired over it," Huston told The Daily Beast. "So when I arrived on set, of course I pretended I liked everything and they showed me this argyle sweater that was just horrible! It made me look like a total linebacker. Then they gave me this dizzy hair from the 1970s which looked like some kind of explosion. I was so entirely in character though it was impossible to fight, and so I committed to Dolores: argyle sweater and all."

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Tracey Ullman

Woody Allen Movies:
Bullets Over Broadway, 1994
Small Time Crooks, 2000

Tracey Ullman made her first appearance in a Woody Allen film as Eden Brent, a neurotic actress in Bullets Over Broadway. Six years later, she returned to work with the director again in Small Time Crooks, playing Frenchy, wife and partner of a con man Ray (Allen) who decides to rob a bank. “It helps that there are never endless amounts of takes or time spent on close-ups with Woody so there is no chance of losing the spontaneity,” Ullman told The Daily Beast of working with the director.

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Mira Sorvino

Woody Allen Movies:
Mighty Aphrodite, 1995

Mighty Aphrodite launched Mira Sorvino’s career. The film—which also starred Helena Bonham Carter and Allen himself—earned Sorvino Best Supporting Actress honors at the Oscars and Golden Globes. Sorvino played the role of a porn-star and prostitute who was woefully naïve and sounded amusingly daft. The actress went on to star as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (2000), and has remained a fixture on television, appearing in programs such as Will and Grace and House M.D—making a career of playing character blondes not unlike her role in Mighty Aphrodite.

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Christina Ricci

Woody Allen Movies:
Anything Else, 2003

Often considered one of Allen’s worst movies, Anything Else was another ensemble comedy with a cast that included Christina Ricci, Jason Biggs, Danny DeVito, Jimmy Fallon, and Adrian Grenier. The movie, like much of Allen’s work, focuses on a struggling comedy writer (Biggs) and his love-at-first-sight relationship with a woman (Ricci). Allen himself plays a love oracle who mentors Biggs.

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Scarlett Johansson

Woody Allen Movies:
Match Point¸ 2005
Scoop, 2006
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008

One of Allen’s more recent muses, Scarlett Johansson appeared in three of the director’s films over a span of three years. She began as the sultry Nola Rice in Match Point in 2005; went on to play Sondra Pransky, an American journalism student in London in Scoop in 2006, and then portrayed the spontaneous and romantic Cristina in Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2008. As Allen joked of Johansson in a humorous diary entry in The Guardian: “Said before she could accept, script must be approved by her agent, then by her mother, with whom she’s close. Following that, it must be approved by her agent’s mother. In middle of negotiation she changed agents—then changed mothers. She’s gifted but can be a handful.”

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Penelope Cruz

Woody Allen Movies:
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008

Already a muse to Pedro Almodovar, Penelope Cruz won an Oscar as the loony ex-wife of Javier Bardem’s Spanish painter in Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. “I’d seen Penelope in [Pedro] Almodovar’s films, and I knew she was wonderful,” Allen once said of working with her. Despite growing used to extensive rehearsals with Almodovar, Cruz was refreshed by the spontaneity that Allen inspires: “He expects you to get ready and come to the set with very specific proposals, and he knows very well what he needs from each actor.” Not to say that a Woody Allen film is all fun and games, for Cruz is quick to note that the director “gives you a huge amount of trust but if you did something he didn’t like, he will fight for what he wants. He has the whole movie mapped in his head.”

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Evan Rachel Wood

Woody Allen Movies:
Whatever Works, 2009

Starring as Larry David’s unlikely love interest in Whatever Works, Evan Rachel Wood was surprised that Allen “doesn’t give you any direction.” She says that the director told her that she can change any of the lines she doesn’t like, and he gave her so much free license that by the time shooting wrapped and Allen told her that he’d “work with [her] anytime,” Wood could only say, “Nice to meet you.”

Sony Pictures Classics

Naomi Watts

Woody Allen Movies:
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, 2010

Allen had been eager to cast Australian actress Naomi Watts for some time—and offered her parts in two films which she had to turn down because of scheduling—before he landed her for his upcoming film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which is set for release this fall. In the film, Watts plays the wife of Josh Brolin—and stars alongside Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, and Freida Pinto. As Allen’s casting director Juliet Taylor told The Daily Beast: "He loved working with Naomi and really thought she was pitch perfect. She is a fabulous actress and it really was a very successful collaboration."

Jason Merritt / Getty Images(1,3); James Veyse / Retna Ltd.

Rachel McAdams, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Marion Cotillard

Woody Allen Movies:
Midnight in Paris, 2011

Following rumors of a mysterious “Woody Allen Summer Project,” Allen’s camp has recently confirmed the details of his next movie. The film, which will be called Midnight in Paris, will star Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, and French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. The film will also star Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, and Owen Wilson, and centers around a family who travels to Paris on business. France’s First Lady, however, will not be Allen’s leading lady in the romantic comedy—she will likely have a small, supporting role.