Prolific filmmaker Woody Allen will be speaking on campus on Oct. 27 in an event hosted by Friends of Princeton University Library. His visit is the latest in an ongoing relationship with the University, to which he has been donating his personal papers since 1980.
Allen is an Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter, most recently directing the film “Blue Jasmine.” According to University manuscript curator Don Skemer, Allen’s gifts began with a suggestion from his friend Laurance Rockefeller ’32, a major philanthropist of the University. While Allen was visiting the Rockefeller family’s estate in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., Rockefeller suggested Allen donate his papers to the University, Skemer explained.
“Woody Allen said, ‘I don’t know what to do with my old scripts,’” he said. “And Laurance Rockefeller said, ‘Well, why don’t you give them to Princeton University?’ That was the story I heard.”
“I appreciate your interest in my papers,” Allen wrote to Richard Ludwig, a late rare books librarian at the University in a letter dated Jan. 14, 1980. “When the idea of donating them to a university came up, Princeton was immediately thought of because of very kind interest by the school and Mr. Laurance Rockefeller.”
Allen’s gifts to the University began in 1980, with a donation of several manuscripts and short stories. Since then, the series of gifts has grown to a collection of 48 boxes, including his drafts of the screenplay for “Midnight in Paris,” his 2011 film about a contemporary couple who are transported back to Paris of the 1920s and introduced to famous artists and writers of the time.
The scripts of “Midnight in Paris” are stored “a stone’s throw from Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Beach, and all kinds of people who were in Paris at the time,” Skemer said. “Can’t you imagine the conversations in the dark?”
As Allen works on each of his films, he sets up an office where he keeps the documents related to that film, Skemer explained. Once he finishes a film and moves to a different office he ships his papers to the University.
English professor Maria diBattista will be conducting a question-and-answer session with Allen in Richardson Auditorium during his visit. Allen’s visit to campus was arranged by Friends of PUL, which asked him to appear after learning of his gifts to the University. Tickets will be made available first to members of Friends of PUL, then to students, faculty, and staff, then to the general public.
The collection contains Allen’s original scripts for such films as “Annie Hall,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Radio Days,” “Sleeper,” “Zelig,” “Manhattan,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Match Point” and an early draft of what became “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Many of his original drafts are handwritten on yellow legal paper.
The collection contains mimeographed screenplays for Allen’s films “Bananas,” “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask),” “Don’t Drink the Water,” “Stardust Memories,” “Take the Money and Run” and “Play It Again, Sam.” It also contains typescript revisions for other films, such as “Deconstructing Harry” and “Sweet and Lowdown.”
Also included are galley proofs of several of his books, early drafts of his stage plays, and both completed and unfinished drafts of essays, short stories and even single jokes by Allen. In addition, the collection contains an original, un-produced script written in 1955, when Allen was 20.
The collection is open to the public, and readily accessible to any University student who walks in. Photocopies are not permitted, as the archive contains much unpublished material which Allen may someday wish to revisit or continue, Skemer said.