What to Expect if Woody Allen Casts You for a Supporting Role
British actor Tom Hiddleston is known for his interest and ability to play in various genres thanks to his diligent prep work ahead. Asked which role he had the least amount of time to prepare for and that turned out for the best, he answered:
Here is what he said about the process of working on a Woody Allen’s film:
“I was cast very shortly before I was due to shoot and Woody Allen, in his unique, inimitable way, didn’t want me to read the whole script.
He only sent the whole script to Owen Wilson, every other actor in that film received little piece-meal stuff.
And I had to worked it out, it was very cryptic, I got these pages and the characters’ names were Scott, Zelda, and Ernest and Gil. And I thought “Is that a coincidence or is that Fitzgerald?”
It wasnt made explicit. I wasn’t quite sure, if I was being asked to play ‘the’ F. Scott Fitzgerald and I couldn’t get Woody on the phone, so I sort of just winged it.
I was in Paris about a week later, so I did as much homework as I could on his speaking voice and I went back and read some short stories, read some of Hemingway’s accounts of Fitzgerald.
And (Woody Allen) shoots a short day because he wants to play the clarinette and have dinner, and so really, I remember, Corey Stoll who plays Hemingway told me ‘You basically got two takes and you’re out.’ So yeah I remembered just not really being prepared, I felt, to play Fitzgerald, but it all turned out ok in the end.”
There are two elements that I find particularly interesting:
- On the filmmaker’s side, Allen gives himself multiple constraints that seem to go against each other: he is known for letting room for improvisation, and yet gives himself -and his actors just a couple of takes to let the magic happen. Of course, Allen is probably one of the most seasoned filmmaker in volume of output, so he knows what works and doesn’t work for him, but he also regularly changes actors he works with, and that does mean being in the unknown on how quickly the cast will absorb his work method (and how well they will or will not respond to it).
- On the actor’s side, I think Hiddleston feeling a few weeks of preparation, reading and traveling and seemingly doing a decent amount of research left him feel like he was unprepared, because he usually works so much more. I always love it when actors talk about their craft because it reminds us that it is indeed a craft, it needs work, and usually what will make the difference between two actors, is how much work one is willing to put against the other. It’s not enough to like acting and/or to be good looking, if you are not willing to put the work, you might never rise to the top, and if you do out of a stroke of luck, you might not stay there long.
You can watch the full conversation Hiddleston had during a BAFTA event, he talks in depths about some of his roles and his career’s evolution, which only reinforces the fact that this is one hard working-actor.