"We were blessed on the film with actor availability," Allen continued. "When Tracey's name came up, Juliet and I figured, 'Yeah, she'd be funny as my wife. She's a great actress, but she has a tricky schedule.' But she was available. The same thing happened when Hugh Grant's name came up: We thought, 'Yeah, we should be so lucky.' I needed a villain who was sharp and smooth and charming and likeable, and also had a sense of humor. I didn't want a real villain; I wanted a guy who had wit. We said, 'Hugh Grant, absolutely. But now we have to get Hugh Grant.' And he was available. I was lucky in the other parts, too. Jon Lovitz was available, and Michael Rapaport--he's one of my favorite actors. And Tony Darrow, who I've used in a number of movies." Theater fans will also be pleased to see Elaine Stritch in a significant supporting role.
Of course, the one person his fans most want to see in any Woody Allen movie is Woody Allen. But he's a tough actor to cast: just ask him. "I have an odd, tiny range," Allen said self-deprecatingly. "There are two things I can play. One thing is a literate person, because I look literate; I have the glasses. And I sound literate. The other thing that I can play is a low-life. I have no range in between. But I can play Broadway Danny Rose, I can play the character in Take the Money and Run, and I can play this kind of character [Ray]. If you were a producer, you could cast me if you needed a cheap agent or a low bookmaker or a petty thief; I could do it for you. Or if you needed a college professor or a shrink, I could do that, too. In the middle, I don't know--you need Dustin Hoffman."
It's considered a badge of honor among actors to be in a Woody Allen movie, so we wondered how often he doesn't get the particular actor who might be his first choice for a role. "It's about a 50/50 breakdown," he said, surprising us. Allen acknowledged that "Actors and actresses want to be in my films, but they have to be between jobs, because we don't pay them anything. People who get $10 or $20 million on another film, we give $50,000 for the whole shoot. They don't get any percentage of the picture. That's it. It's a low paying job, so they have to want to do it."
Lest anyone think he's taking advantage of his actors, Allen was quick to add, "I don't get much money myself. I've not gotten rich doing films. There have been any number of times I've gone over budget and still needed two more weeks of shooting to make the film work, so I gave my entire salary back to the film company." He said that, nearly a dozen times in his life, he has "worked a whole year on a film--wrote it, directed it, edited it--and did it for no money at all."
Though the filmmaker grudgingly accepts that he has a devoted audience, he thinks his influence upon other directors has been virtually nil: "I feel, and I'm not saying this self-denigratingly at all, that I've influenced nobody. When I say nobody, sure, you can find one or two people. But if you look at all the movies that are out, you can see Marty's [Scorsese] influence everywhere. I've seen Altman's influence. I've seen Francis Coppola's influence. But me? I don't see it. Once in a while, someone will come along who says 'He influenced me,' but it's a very rare experience."
Maybe Allen should get out more. If he saw Stanley Tucci's movies, particularly Big Night and Joe Gould's Secret, he'd see just how influential he is. And consider a remark by Jon Lovitz, who provides a zany comic turn in a supporting role in Small Time Crooks: "I saw Take the Money and Run when I was 13. That's when I decided to become a comedian."