Why Woody Allen Is Always MIA At Oscars

Filmmaker Woody Allen is notorious for not attending the Oscars each year, despite his numerous nominations.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Woody Allen is a favorite to take home at least one Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but don't expect the camera to cut to him when the nominees' names are announced.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

With one exception, Woody Allen has never attended the Academy Awards. In spite of his previous 21 nominations and three wins, he declines the invites. He's known for it, so notoriously so that urban myths are told as to why.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: No, it's not because of a standing gig playing the clarinet at a New York pub. We were assured of that by Eric Lax, who wrote "Conversations with Woody Allen."

ERIC LAX: It was a polite excuse. I think that, if he has a gig that night, he can say, well, I had a gig that night. I needed to be there. You know, that goes all the way back to "Annie Hall."

CORNISH: Allen's Best Picture win in the late 1970s.

BLOCK: And it's not because Woody Allen won't leave his beloved New York, a central character in so many of his films, including "Manhattan."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MANHATTAN")

WOODY ALLEN: (as Isaac) New York was his town and it always would be. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved.

BLOCK: No. That's not it.

CORNISH: Woody Allen actually did make one appearance at the Oscars 10 years ago and, that year, his film hadn't even been nominated. He was invited as an ambassador of his beloved wounded city.

ALLEN: You know, for New York City, you know, I'll do anything. I got my tux. I came out here.

BLOCK: It was the first Oscars following 9/11. Woody Allen thanked Hollywood for its support of New York and told the room to come make more movies. He did admit in his speech that he wasn't sure what to do when the Academy called.

ALLEN: I was sitting home in my apartment in New York and the phone rang and a voice on the other end said, this is the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. And I panicked immediately because I thought that they wanted their Oscars back because I've won a few Oscars over the years and I thought they - you know, that they were calling to get them back and I panicked because the pawn shop has been out of business for ages, you know. And I have no way of retrieving anything.

BLOCK: So why does Woody Allen avoid the biggest night in Hollywood? Here's one reason, according to biographer Eric Lax.

LAX: It's really almost impossible, as he puts it, to judge art, that it's so subjective, you can't really say, well, this performance is better than that or that writing is better than this and that, if you get caught in that trap of relying on other people, however great they are, to tell you whether you're any good, you're either going to consciously or subconsciously start playing to that group.

BLOCK: Or for another answer, Lax tells us to turn to the film, "Annie Hall," where Allen plays, as usual, a version of himself, explaining himself with the help of a joke.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ANNIE HALL")

ALLEN: (as Alvy Singer) And it goes like this. I'm paraphrasing. I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.

CORNISH: And, true to form, despite his several Oscars, Woody Allen is not a member of the Academy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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