Oral History: Barbara Hershey and the Woody Allen Style of Filmmaking

by Jack Tewksbury January 2, 2020
Actress Barbara Hershey, Golden Globe winner

hfpa archives

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actresses, actors and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items - is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library. Actress Barbara Hershey was nominated three times for a Golden Globe, winning in 1991 for her performance in the TV movie A Killing in a Small Town. Five years earlier she met the HFPA to talk about her work in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters.

“Directors are very different from each other. Woody (Allen) is more so. I’ve never worked quite in the fashion that he works.  For one thing, at least in this film (Hannah and Her Sisters), and I’ve noticed in most of his films, he’ll shoot often everything in one shot. He doesn’t come in for closeups, so you move in and out of shots for closeups, or the camera will be on one character for a while and follow another character. 

So you have the benefit as an actor doing the scene from beginning, middle and end like you would in a play. You don’t have closeups. Something off technically, they can’t just use a little section of it, you have to reshoot the whole thing. You work and work and work. You will shoot all the day on one shot until that one shot is perfect, and that’s the scene.  I’d say maybe we had two closeups the whole film, and that’s entirely unique. Usually, they do over-the-shoulders and closeups and if a little section works, they can use it.

Another thing Woody does is, he’ll look at dailies. He’ll look at the rushes of the film, and if he doesn’t like what he saw, he’ll reshoot it.  So they have that figured into the initial schedule.  No one in America does this. You know, they have to  wrangle to reshoot something, but he has that as  a normal course  of  events.”