A streetcar named Woody
Woody Allen and some actors are sitting down for a table read of his script outline for his new film. It’s still being formed, but he has decided to give what he has so far a trial run and call it Blue Jasmine. The potential cast, who are all sitting around a large conference table, include Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, and a number of typically Woody-esque character actors with wonderfully unique faces.
Woody: Um, thanks, uh, you know, for all of you to, um, join me to, well, walk through some ideas I have for, um, a new film. Um, I think you all, uh, know each other, right?
Bobby Cannvale: (Looking over at actress Sally Hawkins) Hey, there! Sally, Baby!
Sally Hawkins: (Flustered and a bit annoyed) Don’t holler at me like that.
Bobby: We gonna catch some great acting from ya in this here flick called Blue Jasmine?
Sally: (looking sheepishly and giddily over at Woody) Bobby! Why, are you gonna be in it?
Bobby: Yep, I’m gonna be your Brando-esque lug of a husband to be! Ain’t that a kick?!
Sally: Can I watch you act a bit first?
Bobby: Sure! Come on, let’s step into this other room and I’ll show you my chops!
(Bobby and Sally giggle and playfully leave out a side door)
Female Character Actor: (Looking over at actress Cate Blanchett) What’s the matter, honey? You seem lost in thought.
Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmie.
Photo by Sony Pictures Classics
Cate Blanchett: They told me to take this part as I might desire it, but then I’m not so sure I’m right for it.
Female Character Actor: But you’re here now.
Blanchett: At the script table read?
Female Character Actor: This here is the table read.
Blanchett: (darting looks around the room) They mustn’t have — understood — what movie I wanted…
Female Character Actor: What movie you lookin’ for?
Blanchett: Something called Blue Jasmine.
Female Character Actor: You don’t have to look no further.
Woody: (interjecting) Um, that’s right, I hope you stay a bit and consider this part. I, uh, know that a star of your, um, striking good looks and top billing has plenty of other lucrative acting offers. In, um, this film, you are Sally Hawkins’s sis, uh, that is you are adopted sisters, um, by that I mean you are not related but were both adopted by the same parents…ah, that is so that you can have widely different personalities and yet still be sisters…well, you know what I mean.
Blanchett: (again looking around the room with more import) So, I’m looking for my sister, Sally Hawkins. I mean — Mrs. Bobby Cannavale.
Female Character Actor: This is the party — you just keep sitting there and she’ll be right back.
Blanchett: (irritated and annoyed) This — can this be — the movie? I need a drink…
Female Character Actor: We’ve got someone bringing in some catering in a jiff.
Female Character Actor: You weren’t expecting this?
Blanchett: No. No, not exactly. I was expecting something with many more A-list recognizable actors. I’m not accustomed to playing off of unfamiliar extras. I have reached a level in my career where I have name recognition — I have a certain reputation and acclaim — and can certainly play opposite actors of equally high stature. You just wouldn’t understand.
Female Character Actor: (offended) Well, I’ll just be on my way then. (exits)
Blanchett: (sighing) I’ve got to keep hold of myself! Now where are my pills?
(Sally returns to the room, plunks herself back down at the table and sees Blanchett across the table frantically digging through her chic Louis Vuitton purse)
Blanchett: Sally, oh, Sally, Sally! Sally for Star! Now, then, let me look at you. But don’t you look at me, Sally, no, no, no, not till later, not till I’m in my elegant gowns and expensive designer couture for this part! Oh, my baby! Sally! Sally for Star! I thought you would never consider coming to America to make a movie! What am I saying? I didn’t mean to say that. I meant to be nice about it and say — Oh, what a convenient location and such — Ha-a-ha! Precious lamb! You haven’t said a word to me.
Sally: You haven’t given me a chance to, honey!
Blanchett: Well, no let’s not talk until after this table read! They must have some liquor in this place! Where is that damn caterer?!
Sally: (a bit exasperated) Blanchett, you take it easy and let me get the drinks. Maybe a coke’s in this mini-fridge.
Blanchett: No coke, honey, not with my nerves tonight! Where — where — where
Sally: Bobby? He’s out looking for some beer and burgers, or a pile of hot wings. He loves to eat…He’s having a — found some water! — eating contest…
Blanchett: Just vodka, baby, to chase down these pills! Now don’t get worried, your sister hasn’t turned into a hoity-toity actress, she’s just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty! You sit down, now, and explain this part to me! What are you doing in a movie like this?
Sally: (concerned about Blanchett’s jitteriness) You seem a little bit nervous or overwrought or something.
Blanchett: Will Bobby like acting with me, or will I be considered just an aloof character, Sally? I couldn’t stand that.
Sally: You’ll get along fine together, if you’ll just try not to — well — compare him with other actors that you have worked with. Like the slick posturing of Alec Baldwin, who plays your former husband that showered you with riches and spoiled you while you turned a conveniently blind-eye to his philandering and shady business dealings, which results in your leaving him so that you now have to fend for yourself in the harsh real world that you are not prepared for ending up on my ramshackle doorstep setting.
Blanchett: Is he so — different?
Stella: Yes. A different species. He plays a car mechanic with a goombah affect.
Blanchett: Oh, I’m not going to be hypocritical, I’m going to be honestly critical about it! Never, never, never in my worst dreams could I picture…
(Just then Bobby reenters the room and plunks himself down at the table near Blanchett and continues munching on a greasy burger while leering at her)
Blanchett: You must be Bobby. I’m Blanchett.
Bobby: Sally’s sister character?
Blanchett: (looking over at Sally) May I — improvise and — speak — plainly?
Sally: Yes, do. Go ahead. As improvised plainly as you want to.
Blanchett: Well — if you’ll forgive me — he’s a common actor!
Sally: Why, yes, I suppose he is.
Blanchett: Suppose! You just suppose that any part of a gentleman’s in the nature of his part! Not one particle, no! Oh, if he was just — over-acting! Just a plain part — but good and wholesome, but — no. There’s something downright — bestial — about his characterization! He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There’s even something — sub-human — something not quite to the stage of human yet! Yes, something — ape-like about him, like one of those movies I’ve seen in — the Planet of the Apes series! Bearing the raw meat prop to the set like a kill in the jungle! And you — you here — a character waiting for him! Maybe he’ll pretend to strike you or maybe method-act and grunt and kiss you! That is, if kisses have been written into his contract! Day-for-night falls and the other acting apes gather! There in the front of the camera, all grunting like him, and swilling and gnawing and hulking! Woody growls “action” — his oafish creature snatches at something — the bombastic posturing is on! God! Maybe we are a long way from being made in classic actors’ images, but Sally — my sister — there has been some progress since then! Such things as art — as poetry and music — such kinds of new light and computer-generated effects have come into the cinematic world since then! In some kinds of actors some tenderer feelings have had some little beginning! That we have got to make expressed! In this dark march toward whatever it is we’re performing in…. Don’t — don’t hang back with the brutes!
Sally: You know, Blanchett, now that you mention it I think you’re right. He is kinda brutishly acting! I think I’ll have a dalliance with this here actor, Louis C.K. He’s so much nicer and sorta acts like the British actors I’m more used to. Besides, he’s just a walk-on character.
Bobby: Sally? SALLY?! My actress wife-to-be has left me! (turns to the person sitting on the other side of him) Character actress? I want my baby! (waits for a response, nothing, so entreats again) Character actress? I’ll keep on askin’ until I talk with my baby!
Female Character Actress: Quit that scenery-chewing howling!
Bobby: I want my co-star with me as the script demands! (still no response, so he gets up and goes to the end of the conference table)
Sally: There are no lines here for me to express here, so just SHUT UP already!
(There is a long silence as everyone looks around awkwardly; Blanchett longingly looks around and catches the eye of actor Peter Sarsgaard, who has been reviewing other scripts the whole time; he clumsily realizes that this is his cue to speak up)
Peter Sarsgaard: Oh, um, I’ll date you, Blanchett, as I’m looking for someone of your refined acting tastes to be my trophy actress wife so you can stand there looking pretty during my scripted campaigns for political office.
Blanchett: Young man! Young man! Young, young, young man! Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Prince out of an Arabian Nights movie? Well, you do, honey lamb! Come here. I want to kiss you, just once, softly and sweetly on your mouth!
Andrew Dice Clay:(given the high sign by Woody to interject in his gruff New Jersey accent) Hey, I’m Sally’s former husband character here to tell you how much of a pompous jerk you are — Blanchett’s character — and to expose the raft of lies that she has been spinning about her so-called wholesome past — and I’m saying this to you right in front of Peter’s character here so he can know the true score and dump your sorry ass, and you can go back to guzzling pills and vodka and wander the streets in your designer dresses talking to yerself about how you should be nominated for an Academy Award or something for this portrayal. (pleased with his delivery, he adds) Ha! I’ll bet you all never thought you’d see me in some art-house production by Woody Allen! Show’s you! That award ought to be mine!
(Just then a person walks in and tells everyone that he is willing to finance this film)
Woody: (looking relieved and thankful) Whoever you are — I, um, have always depended on the, ah, kindness of financiers, fans, critics and any movie patron who, um, you know, forgives me for marrying my adopted daughter.
Doug Young is the award-winning film critic for The Colorado Statesman. He is also the senior policy analyst in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office.