Woody Allen Almost Made a Victorian Period Comedy Instead of Annie Hall

By
Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in Annie Hall. Photo: Bettmann

In honor of Annie Hall’s 40th anniversary, screenwriter Marshall Brickman looks back on the process by which Anhedonia, the complicated, surreal film he wrote with Woody Allen, was pared down to the more straightforward romantic comedy Annie Hall. Movie nerds are probably familiar with Allen’s original vision for the film, a drama that contained, among other elements, a murder mystery, a tour through hell, and a Knicks game against the famous philosophers of history. However, as Brickman explains to Vanity Fair, he and the Bananas star were simultaneously writing another screenplay at the time. “One was a standard comedy. I think it was a period piece, like a Victorian comedy with costumes,” he reveals. Anhedonia, meanwhile, “was this other odd idea that was Woody’s, a new form [for which] the structure would be based on associations the main character would have to the things in his life. A phrase or a word or an image would remind him of this and that.”

The pair initially labored over both concepts until Allen chose the screenplay that would, through extensive editing and rewriting, become one of his most beloved works. “We worked on that odd idea for a while, and then the [other] comedy,” recalls Brickman. “It was like being in the desert between two mirages. You walk toward one and it looks great from a distance, and then as you get closer it starts to disintegrate, so you start walking toward the other one. Finally, Woody said the thing that has a chance of getting a little notice is the thing that had never been done, the thing with the greater risk. So clearly that meant we would try to do the one that turned into Annie Hall. And he was right.” While Annie Hall was a box-office success that went on to garner Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Director, as well as a Best Actress Oscar for Diane Keaton, Brickman is still convinced that their forgotten Woody Allen Victorian period comedy “would have made much more money.”

Woody Allen Almost Made a Victorian Comedy Over Annie Hall