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Woody Allen

"To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition"

Woody Allen is a film director, writer, actor and comedian. His work and cerebral style have made him one of the most widely respected and prolific filmmakers in the modern era.

Woody Allen has never been shy about his atheism and often alludes to it in his work. It's hard to think of a symbolic flourish more moving than Sam Waterston's kind-hearted rabbi going blind during the film, Crimes and Misdemeanors. Allen's Husbands and Wives began with a TV philosopher announcing, "God does not play dice with the universe," to which Allen who was in the film, quipped, "No, he just plays hide-and-seek," before abruptly changing the channel.

For inspiration in his writing, Allen draws heavily on philosophy and psychology, and, most importantly, New York City, where he was born and in which he has lived all his life.

Woody Allen's on-screen persona is well known: a comical and brainy New Yorker in nerdy black glasses, nervous about sex, death and modern times. Allen came into his own in the 1970s as writer, actor and director in movie comedies like Bananas and Sleeper. He won a Best Picture Oscar for his ode to modern love in New York, Annie Hall. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he averaged one movie a year, including serious films like Crimes and Misdemeanors and Husbands and Wives and lighthearted tales like Zelig and Bullets Over Broadway. Allen is an accomplished Dixieland jazz clarinettist.

Our Expert Says...
Professor David Crystal

Any 21st-century list of quotations has got to include at least one item from the world of cinema. It is a world in which we are spoilt for choice, because everyone has a set of linguistic memories deriving from their favourite films. I have chosen this remark of Woody Allen from the other film nominations received, first because it is humorous - a property which is conspicuously absent from most quotations which tend to be very serious in tone. At the same time, it is not humour for humour's sake. There is a level of meaning behind the joke which can make us reflect. And in its rhythm, balanced structure, and vocabulary counterpoint, it is an excellent illustration of what makes a quotation memorable.

Woody Allen

Film Database on Woody Allen

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