The One Where We Prove Woody Allen Wrong

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Jeffrey Wells recently quoted Woody Allen — who was talking to a reporter in London between shots of his latest film You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger — in a piece about aging directors:

When you first start out you’re always striving for greatness and perfection and then after some years reality sets in and you realize that you’re not going to get it.

Wells goes on to list a number of well-known directors who’ve declined as they’ve gotten older.

“I’ll take the young Scorsese (Mean Streets to Raging Bull) over the latter-day version any day of the week. Ditto young Coppola vs. old Coppola. Or young Bertolucci (Before The Revolution, The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris). Or young DePalma (The Phantom of the Paradise, Sisters, Greetings). Or young Jim Cameron (Piranha, Terminator, T2, Aliens) over the silver-haired Avatar techno-maestro he’s since become.”

Logical, but we think there are some directors who skirted the age dilemma. (On a related side note, Quentin Tarantino plans to avoid it altogether.) Below, three strivers who we hope inspire younger talents like the Coen Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, P.T. Anderson, Alexander Payne, Spike Jonze, and Todd Haynes to continue to up their game.

Clint Eastwood , the protagonist of so many Spaghetti Westerns and the iconic “Dirty” Harry Callahan series in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, has directed some award-winning films over the last few years: Unforgiven , Mystic River , Million Dollar Baby , Letters from Iwo Jima , and just recently Gran Torino . Remember his flicks from the ’70s, like Play Misty for Me or The Gauntlet ? Neither do we.

Alfred Hitchcock invented the suspense genre that still frightens us to this day. His most influential work happened almost fifty years after he started in the business: Vertigo , North by Northwest , Psycho, and The Birds were all made between 1958 and 1963. He started in the business in 1922.

Third on this list is the controversial director Roman Polanski. Sexually abusing a drugged up 13 year old aside, he also made a big splash when he wrote and directed Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby back in 1968. An Academy nomination followed, and so did one for directing Jack Nicholson in Chinatown , and for the libidinous Tess . He didn’t actually win an Oscar until over 20 years later for The Pianist , and not only did he nab best director, but the film won best picture as well. He couldn’t accept either award, obviously.