-Released wide on November 20, 1998

-Budget: $12 Million [1], Gross: $5 Million [3]

-Runtime: 113 min (Allen's longest film)

-Production Co: Sweetland Films

-Distributor: Miramax Films

-Aspect Ratio: 1.66 : 1

Woody Allen: "It has always seemed to me that the culture we live in celebrates the oddest people. Whether it's a member of the clergy or a plastic surgeon or the prostitute as played by Bebe Neuwirth, someone rises to the status of celebrity in their area and becomes the specialist doctor you must go to or the priest you see on TV or the famous actor as played by Leonardo. All this seems interesting and amusing to me--all the attention we've given to people like Joey Buttafucco, who now has his own TV show." [4]

 

Woody Allen: "The importance placed on celebrity is an amazing thing in our culture, and it says something about our society--although I'm not sure what as I'm not sharp enough to discern it. You need someone like Norman Mailer to combine all the social insights into one meaningful insight. What I do know is that there's this odd, mixed feeling toward celebrity. There's enormous reverence toward celebrities, enormous drawbacks and enormous perks to being a celebrity, and the oddest people get catapulted into celebrity." [4]

 

-At the core of Celebrity is an idea too good to screw up: revisit Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, set it in the contemporary world of show-business, and replace Fellini’s stoic, handsome stand-in (Marcello Mastroianni) with a Woody Allen-esque goofball. Not only is the concept of Woody Allen lost in a world of beautiful, superficial people intrinsically funny, but in holding up the the elegant world of 1960s Italian bohemians alongside the artificiality of 1990s American celebrities, the satire basically writes itself. [2]

 

-Like La Dolce Vita, Celebrity doesn’t have a pointed narrative, it’s more of a series of episodes and vignettes connected by one or two common characters. The two movies also share a surreal, dream-like quality. Neither seem to take place in a real world, but in spin-off, slightly tweaked universes. In Fellini’s world, consequences are non-existent, and the characters all seem to treat life as a bit of a joke. In Allen’s world, everyone is vapid, but gravely serious. It’s the voice behind it (Allen’s) that’s amused. [2]

 

-Miramax Films elected to market Celebrity as an all-star vehicle. In ads, Woody’s name appeared in small type, as if the Weinsteins wanted the public not to be aware of his participation. Woody expressed wry amusement. “They’re probably ashamed of me.”  [8]

"Celebrity" Screening Companion

Becoming Woody

 

-Kenneth Branagh: "I think it's the role which he would have given himself in the film had he been younger and if he still liked acting in his own films--which I'm not sure he does. To have someone else play the role is a way of putting a distance between what he writes and what he is, to avoid the overly direct connections which people make between him and his character. What is more, he wanted Celebrity to have a certain melancholy to it, a certain emotion which he does not feel he is able to embody himself because he is automatically associated with comic characters. He has the face and body of a clown and feels trapped in that. Even in comedy scenes, it's difficult for an actor to detach himself from the character of "Allenian neuroticism." It's 25 films by now... and even if he never stops repeating that the character is not him - and that's true - he has become a part of him, of his identity as a film-maker. I felt my mission was to take on the character by simply giving him a different physical appearance." [6]

 

-KB: "Woody and I asked ourselves whether I should wear glasses like him - like John Cusack did in Bullets Over Broadway. But in that film, his role as an agitated author was undoubtedly the young Woody Allen, whereas mine, the failed novelist-journalist, is farther away. I didn't try to get close to the original, just to play what was written as sincerely as possible. I was, however, influenced by him because I have loved his films since forever. But I told myself that if I ever started to do a bad version of Woody Allen he would stop me." [6]

 

-KB: From a professional point of view, I had never worked with someone I admire so much. And then I was very nervous. You know, Woody has a reputation for firing actors he is not satisfied with. In The Purple Rose of Cairo Michael Keaton was supposed to play the main male role. He filmed for two weeks and it ended there. In the end, it was Jeff Daniels who made the film. So my first desire was to survive. I also didn't expect to be doing a job which would reveal things about myself to me. I knew that Woody doesn't particularly like talking with actors about their characters. He's more likely to answer suggestions you make with a yes or a no. Nonetheless, I realised that I wanted him to teach me things, that I wanted to ask him questions. I tried... But I didn't want to seem like some sort of adolescent fan. [6]

 

-KB: Woody never has any actors rehearse and only gave the complete script to Judy Davis and me. I was curious to see how that would turn out because, on the contrary, when I film a scene, I have a rehearsal, share all the information, talk it over with the actors... Woody leaves the actors completely alone. The results are excellent, even though the working conditions are uncomfortable for the actors, who need to be reassured. He feels that it's not his job to reassure them, and that if they are nervous or worried that is something that can be used in the scene to be filmed. Of course you don't see anyone breaking down or starting to cry, but you feel unbalanced all the time. At the same time, I expected to have to do lots of improvisation. In fact he expects a certain degree of naturalness from his actors but it is limited to expressions like "Hey, how's it going? - Yeah, great!". And then you stick to the script, and at the end of the scene, the same thing, two conventional comments in conclusion. [6]

 

-KB: We filmed a scene in a restaurant during which he asked us to improvise while at the same time including a certain number of fixed expressions. That's hard! There are six of you around the table, you haven't rehearsed even once and you have to improvise a restaurant conversation without leaving out the important expressions. That gives you six petrified people! What is more, you are not sure that you'll have the right to a more than one take, to warm up. If he's happy after two takes he moves on to the next part. The actors have to be very alive, very alert and very prepared for this type of exercise in order to make a film with Woody. [6]

Trivia

 

-This the last film Woody has shot in Black and White to date. When asked if it's easier to shoot in black and white, Woody replied, "No. In fact, it's much more difficult because the labs are not geared up for it, so it's a big pain in the neck. Invariably I regret it when I'm deep into it and I say I'll never do it again. And I don't do it for four or five films, and then I do it again." [4]

 

-This was Woody Allen’s last movie with both editor Susan E. Morse and cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Nykvist, as I mentioned, worked on Another Woman, and he also shot Crimes and Misdemeanors and the short Oedipus Wrecks (part of New York Stories). Morse has edited all of Allen’s films since Manhattan in 1979. [2]

 

-Actors in this movie were only given the pages of the script that concerned their own scenes. Only Kenneth Branagh and 'Judy Davis' were privy to the complete script. [1]

 

-Leonardo DiCaprio is onscreen for exactly 10 minutes and 20 seconds. [1]

 

-Celebrity was the first movie Leonardo DiCaprio made after Titanic. [2]

 

-Allen wanted to hire Kenneth Branagh for the lead role but was unsure whether he could pull off an American accent. As Branagh was filming The Gingerbread Man at the time, Robert Altman screened most of the film for him, and Branagh got the part. [1]

 

-According to Hugh Grant on "Inside the Actor's Studio", he was originally given the part, but lost it later to Kenneth Branagh.  [1]

The role of actress/waitress Nola was intended for Drew Barrymore but she had to decline owing to a previous commitment to Ever After: A Cinderella Story. [1]

 

-In the movie, Lee Simon is an alumnus of Glenwood High School. Author Woody Allen's alma mater is Midwood High School (class of 1953) on Glenwood Avenue. [1]

 

-In the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio and Kenneth Branagh are watching a boxing match, magician David Blaine can be seen sitting behind them. Blaine was on the set visiting DiCaprio that day and they put him in at the last minute. [1]

 

-Kate Winslet was considered for the role of Nola.  [1]

 

- Charlize Theron - who had been a model before becoming an actress - had publicly vowed never to play a model onscreen. Woody Allen was aware of this and wrote her a letter specifically asking her to change her mind about that so that she could appear in his film. [1]

 

- Woody Allen ended up removing an entire subplot featuring Vanessa Redgrave in the end film. [1]

 

-When asked if he used Fellini's La Dolce Vita as a model for this film, Woody replied,

"No, but I love that film. It's a great movie. No, the impetus for "Celebrity" was that I was trying to think of the emotional story of two people who divorce and go their separate ways, and one lucks out and one doesn't. And I wanted to tell the story with an emphasis on celebrity." [4]

 

-Kenneth Branagh said in a Premiere Magazine interview half of the film was re-shot. [6]

Critical Reception

 

-Celebrity plays oddly like the loose ends and unused inspirations of other Woody Allen movies; it's sort of a revue format in which a lot of famous people appear onscreen, perform in the sketch Woody devises for them and disappear. Some of the moments are very funny. More are only smile material, and a few don't work at all. Like all of Allen's films, it's smart and quirky enough that we're not bored, but we're not much delighted, either. - Roger Ebert

 

-It has a nice, crisp look, and the B&W places the emphasis on the body language and dialogue, instead of allowing too much of incidental atmosphere in. But the screenplay isn't as sharp as the movie's visuals. As the movie careens from one of Simon's quarries to the next, Allen pauses on most scenes only long enough to extract the joke, and the film begins to seem as desperately promiscuous as its hero. The words "The End" no longer appear at the ends of most films, but Celebrity ends (and begins) on a note that seems about right: an airplane skywriting the word "HELP!" - Roger Ebert

 

-Stanley Kauffmann imagined Woody switching on his word processor and pecking along “hoping that the tapping would lead somewhere. It didn’t, but he discovered that he had enough pages for a film anyway.” [8]

 

-Like every other review I have to discuss the elephant in the room which is the casting of Kenneth Branagh. Now I’ll discuss this in more general terms and move specifically to Branagh himself. In general I’m reminded of a time I saw American Idol (like ten years ago) and one week they did covers of the Bee Gees. Immediately I knew that no matter how talented these singers were, there was going to be some butchery with these songs. Because like him or hate him, there was only one person who could do the shrill womany shrieks of Barry Gibb and that was Barry Gibb. He was unique, and no wannabe karoke singer could ever do that voice justice. Or to put it in acting terms, no one can ever do Christopher Walken (a serious version anyway). The guy is a unique character and no one can do a Walken performance justice. I will also put Woody Allen in the same category. Yes, many people have been cast in the Woody Allen nebbish persona.  Somae have done it better and some have done it worse, but no one could or should honestly try it. Really, Allen should have known better. [7]

 

-Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle stated, "Branagh stammers, bobs his head and runs the gamut of other established Woody tics and mannerisms - delivering nervous shtick where a performance would have sufficed. His novelty act belongs in the same bin with his hammy histrionics in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein . . . The irony of Celebrity is that so much of it is admirably acted, written and directed. Despite his one-note obsessions, Allen is a fine director whose stories clip along, whose dialogue sparkles and whose actors look grateful for the luxury of his words."

 

Todd McCarthy of Variety called the film "a once-over-lightly rehash of mostly stale Allen themes and motifs" and added, "The spectacle of Kenneth Branagh and Judy Davis doing over-the-top Woody Allen impersonations creates a neurotic  energy meltdown . . . Branagh is simply embarrassing as he flails, stammers and gesticulates in a manner that suggests a direct imitation of Allen himself . . . For her part, Davis was brilliant in Husbands and Wives and has appeared effectively in other Allen films, but she not only overdoes the neurotic posturing this time but is essentially miscast . . . Annoyingly mannered in performance as well as tiresomely familiar in the way it trots out its angst-ridden urban characters' problems, [the picture] has a hastily conceived, patchwork feel that is occasionally leavened by some lively supporting turns and the presence of so many attractive people onscreen."

 

-All of this leads to what I’m sure is a very unpopular opinion, which is that I preferred Celebrity to Deconstructing Harry. Deconstructing Harry had a similar structure, although it felt disjointed, and many of the asides seemed pointless. Celebrity, on the other hand, has a consistent tone, and a unifying caustic sense of humor. Every detour seems like a piece of a puzzle, even if they’re put down in random order. [2]

 

-I liked Celebrity. A lot. I wouldn't say I loved it, not in the way you can love, say, some of those early movies. (I couldn't resist.) So, while this is a "rave" maybe it's not exactly a "rave review." But the movie has so much to say, and is packed so densely, that to shrug it off as simple, or worse, as sour sex grapes, would be a catty cop-out. Yes, a lot of it is "grown-up" and "not pretty". Much of growing up, and seeing who we are, what we do, and what we value is not pretty.

 

Sometimes films are meant to affect us, darkly, and tell a truthful tale about the things we chase after, and the things we throw away. Sometimes, a film is meant to shake us up--and since Maureen has her knickers in a twist, I'd say that Woody's film has worked perfectly for her--although she'd be the last to realize it. [5]

 

-41% Rotten Tomatoes rating. As of 1998, Celebrity and Shadows and Fog are Allen’s only two movies to have a “rotten” score. [2]

[1] - imdb.com

[2] - www.EveryWoodyAllenMovie.com

[3] - Wikipedia

[4] - THE DAILY TELEGIRAFFE by Iain Blair - http://dailytelegiraffe.tripod.com/celebritywoodyinterview.html

[5] -THE DAILY TELEGIRAFFE - http://dailytelegiraffe.tripod.com/celebrityreview.html

[6] - By Gilles Verdiani for Premiere Magazine - http://dailytelegiraffe.tripod.com/celebrityinterviewfrenchpremiere.html

[7] - http://moviemoses.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/celebrity-1998-woody-allen/

[8] -The Unruly Life of Woody Allen by Marion Meade