Over the course of 45 films, Woody Allen has produced a catalogue of iconic female characters. From Diane Keaton as the titular Annie Hall to Cate Blanchett's boozy Jeanette Francis in Blue Jasmine, memorable and -- perhaps, most importantly -- distinctly different women have graced his screen.
"When I first started I wrote only for me. I couldn't write for females," Allen admits to ET. "Then, when I started dating Diane Keaton and living with her and I got to know her, she was so utterly impressive to me that I started writing parts for her. From then on I wrote for females."
In his 46th feature film, Café Society, in theaters Friday, July 15, Kristen Stewart plays the likeable and sweet Vonnie, a Hollywood agent's secretary caught between two men: her boss Phil (Steve Carell) and Bobby, the man who loves her (Jesse Eisenberg, who does a charming job of bringing to life the "Woody persona" onscreen).
The movie itself, a 1930s-set whimsical heartbreaker, isn't peak Allen, but follows nicely behind recent standouts, 2011's Midnight in Paris and 2013's Blue Jasmine. If nothing else, it still delivers strong, fallible women in the form of the aforementioned Vonnie, Bobby's second love Veronica (Blake Lively), and Rad (Parker Posey), the woman who helps him along his way.
"People have criticized me for being narcissistic," Allen told The New York Times in 2013. "People criticized me for being a self-hating Jew, that's come up. But not being able to create good women was not aimed at me very often."
Despite the reception of some of his films (or the ongoing allegations about his personal life), the female characters Allen writes and directs are often some of the best an actor can ask for -- see all the Oscars earned by his female stars -- especially in an era when so many women in Hollywood are clamoring for more rich, layered characters to play on-screen.
"It is the nature of the craft where you are also fighting for an opportunity, especially as a woman. Women are so unwritten and so underserved in film," Lively tells The Insider. The actor, who is starring in her first Allen film and enjoying a professional high with the back-to-back releases of Café Society and The Shallows, explains that there's a sense of empowerment when it comes to working with Allen. "You feel so safe and secure," she says. "As an actor, you feel fully supported."
"God, it's so nice when a man gets a woman and can write for her," Posey tells ET.
This is Posey's second time working with Allen, following last year's Irrational Man. "I'm so happy that I'm in another one," she says. That's not an uncommon experience for his leading ladies, with estranged ex-wife Mia Farrow, Judy Davis, who returns for Café Society, Keaton and Dianne Wiest numbering among his most frequent collaborators. Most recently, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone have served as his recurring muses.
"I'm so lucky to have been able to work with people that are considered legends, and when you do that you really see firsthand why that is," Stewart tells The Insider. Working in the industry since she was 9 years old, the actor has been directed by David Fincher (Panic Room), Sean Penn (Into the Wild), and Ang Lee (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), among others. "Woody makes really good movies. His perspective is really unique. He looks at things differently than most people and it's really lucky for all of us that he captures that. It's endlessly interesting."
Café Society is her first time being directed by Allen, who she had to audition for. It was one of the few she's had to do following her breakout role as Bella Swan in the Twilight Saga films. "I had to go in and be like, 'Trust me. I can do this. I can be light and feminine,'" she says about having to convince Allen that she was right for the role. "He still called me a sailor everyday on set."
Yet, Stewart proved herself worthy of being one of his muses.
"Anyone alive right now can say that they grew up with Woody Allen movies," Stewart tells ET. "I never inserted myself into that equation once, so to stand next to him is cool. I'm proud of the movie."