Friday, June 19, 2009
[Originally published Wednesday, July 13, 2005]

Woody’s Sketches for His Next Four Pictures

Project One
Working Title: H & H
Old friends, both playwrights, sit in a Greenwich Village café and discuss their contrasting views of life—Wallace Shawn claims that life is essentially comic, while Tony Roberts sees life as overwhelmingly itchy. They challenge each other: who can write a single scene, set in Zabar’s, that contains the most references to Diane Arbus, Ingmar Bergman, and Groucho Marx? In each of the two scenes, the role of the “everything” bagel will be played by Mira Sorvino. In both scenes, denizens of the Upper West Side develop terrible rashes, which suggests that, while the scratching itself can be hilarious (particularly when done by Will Ferrell), itchiness is essentially tragic.

Possible Problem: Audiences tend to stay away from dermatological pictures. Definitely do not cast Mickey Rourke.

* * *

Project Two
Working Title: Hoboken
Julie Kavner stars as an angst-filled television writer who simultaneously breaks up with her much-younger boyfriend (played with puckish sentimentality by Ashton Kutcher) and quits her job to write a novel. Her good friend (Louis Lasser, if she will return my calls) introduces her to a curmudgeonly but brilliant filmmaker (played by yours truly), and the two suddenly find themselves sopping wet in the Frick Collection, which is strangely erotic despite the sneezing. Kavner, low on money, is forced to move to Jersey, at which point the filmmaker drops her to return to Louise Lasser. A thought—a brilliant final sequence in which Kavner lists the things that make life worth living: Louis Armstrong’s “Potatohead Blues,” those great apples and pears by Cezanne, men who love donuts.

Predicted Reaction: Nostalgic affection creates decent-to-good box office, followed by the usual Academy snubbing. Consider cutting the subplot involving Kierkegaard.

* * *

Project Three
Working Title: Inferiors
Three sisters (Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, and Tony Roberts) wander around an improbably large Hamptons beach house searching for a volume of The Collected Dramatic Works of Anton Chekhov. Wait. That sounds terrible. Here we go: Keaton, at first a spoiled housewife, is kidnapped by the rebels and trained as a revolutionary who quotes Groucho Marx frequently but also loves to have sex in public places. Farrow, discovering a grove of gigantic fruits and vegetables, uses a huge banana peel to bring the rebels to their knees, then brings Keaton back to the Hamptons for a Felliniesque finale in which Tony Roberts, listening to Gershwin, lists the things that make life worth living: Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, the crabs at Sam Wo’s, and exceptionally nubile parrots. Uncredited cameo: Jack Klugman as a really grouchy sperm.

Dilemma: Only Mia will do, but I’m pretty sure she still considers me the “antiChrist.” Perhaps cast self in exactly that role to lure her into picture.

Predicted Critical Reaction: “Finally, a return to his earlier, funnier movies!” Stupid critics.

* * *

Project Four
Working Title: When Sally Met Harry
I star (What can I do? Even Branagh did a terrible me, and these are the pictures that sell more tickets!) as a talent agent whose lesbian ex-wife is writing a book about why men and women can never be “just friends.” Harry Hanks (Bruno Kirby) owns a Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side that is putting out of business the little bookshop owned by Sally Ryan (Carrie Fischer). The talent agent invites both Harry and Sally to have a pathetic Thanksgiving dinner with him, at which point they become “just friends,” allowing me to marry Sally’s adopted daughter (Mariel Hemingway). Unforgettable scene: Hanks and Ryan humorously wrestle with lobsters in the kitchen of an improbably large Hamptons beach house while my ex-wife makes out with Julie Kavner in the living room. Soundtrack—sick of Gershwin, but maybe Cole Porter?

Projected Reaction: Audience confusion, followed by fatigue and eventual acceptance of my unstoppable cinematic genius. Interesting question: Will Rob Reiner or that little schmuck Billy Crystal actually have the balls to sue?

Will Layman used to be wise beyond his years, but then the wisdom kind of slowed down and the years just kept coming and … well, you get the picture. Now he is simply itchy beyond his years. When not furiously scratching, he teaches in Washington, D.C., plays the rock ‘n’ roll music, and pursues the pot of gold at the end of the Little Humor Pieces on the Internet Rainbow. Dig his work on National Public Radio, McSweeney’s,, and at Contact Will, if you dare, at

Will the Real Alvy Singer Please Stand Up (Please Stand Up)?

Not Woody
Stephen Rose.
[Courtesy Susan Scott Lookalikes.]

Not Woody
Antonello Avallone.
[Courtesy something in Italian.]

Not Woody
Not Woody.
[Courtesy Jam Entertainment.]

Not Woody or Soon-Yi
Not Woody and not Soon-Yi, either.
[Courtesy Clowning Around.]

Not Woody
Not Woody.
[Courtesy a sidewalk in Oviedo, Spain.]

Asshole High School Reporter Kristie MacDougal Buries the Lead Extra! Extra! Becky Thelen Lands Lead Role in Competition Production of Grease! Read All About It!
John Irving Clarifies the DTV Transition Before killing himself, the talking bear mauls Tom Wolfe to death leaving the ersatz novelist's white suit bloodied and tattered.

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