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Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Poster

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Maureen O'Sullivan plays the mother of her real-life daughter, Mia Farrow.
Many of Hannah's scenes were filmed in Mia Farrow's own apartment. Woody Allen said that Farrow once had the eerie experience of turning on the television, finding a chance broadcast of the movie, and seeing her own apartment on television--while she was sitting in it.
After Max von Sydow and Barbara Hershey finished filming their characters' break-up scene, the film crew gave them a standing ovation.
According to "USA Today", when the film was released a movement tried to make Woody Allen's script the first screenplay to be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
While parts of the film were being shot in her apartment, Mia Farrow and several of her children lived and went about their daily routines on a working film set and among the crew. The Farrow family ws careful not to interrupt production, or to do anything that would affect the shooting schedule; however, the situation was hectic for family and crew alike. Co-star Michael Caine likened the situation to watching an intimate home movie, and recalled that one moment Farrow would be feeding her children dinner and the next the assistant director would inform her that she was needed on set. She would put down the kitchen utensils, walk into the next room and begin to act.
The poem Elliot gives Lee, which contains the line "Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands", is "Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Gladly Beyond" by e.e. cummings.
With a box-office gross of over $40 million, this was Woody Allen's most financially successful film until Match Point (2005).
Four of Mia Farrow's real-life children appear in the film. Daisy Previn and Moses Farrow play Hannah's son and daughter. Soon-Yi Previn and Fletcher Farrow Previn appear as young guests in the Thanksgiving scenes.
Woody Allen says he was inspired by the title. "I thought I'd like to make a film called 'Hannah and Her Sisters'," he said, saying this prompted him to give Hannah two sisters. He was interested in making something about the relationship between sisters, which he felt was more complex than that between brothers. "Maybe that comes from childhood; my mother had seven sisters, and their children were female, so all I knew were aunts and female cousins."
Woody Allen was originally going to have a more downbeat ending, but the studio asked him to make it more upbeat.
Woody Allen said he was inspired to write this film after re-reading "Anna Karenina."
Part of the film's structure and background is borrowed from Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander (1982). In both films a large theatrical family gathers for three successive years' celebrations (Thanksgiving in this film, Christmas in Bergman's). The first of each gathering is in a time of contentment, the second in a time of trouble and the third showing what happens after the resolution of the troubles. The sudden appearance of Mickey's reflection behind Holly's in the closing scene also parallels the apparition behind Alexander of the Bishop's ghost. Additional parallels can be found with Rocco and His Brothers (1960), which, besides the connection to its name, also uses the structural device of dividing sections of the film for the different siblings' story arcs.
Woody Allen admits that the role of Hannah was based on Mia Farrow being "a romanticized perception of Mia. She's very stable, she has eight children now, and she's able to run her career, and have good relationships with her sister and her mother. I'm very impressed with those qualities, and I thought if she had two unstable sisters, it would be interesting."
Final film of Lloyd Nolan. NOTE: The movie was released about four months after his death in September 1985.
Michael Caine plays Mia Farrow's husband. In real life, Caine had been a long-term friend to both Farrow and Woody Allen, then a couple. In fact, Caine had been the one who introduced the couple to each other nearly 20 years before.
According to a 2014 podcast with Woody Allen, Jack Nicholson was the first choice for the role of Elliot. He was interested in the role, but it conflicted with filming Prizzi's Honor (1985).
Mia Farrow wrote that "it was the first time I criticized one of his scripts. To me, the characters seemed self-indulgent and dissolute in predictable ways. The script was wordy, but it said nothing." She claims that "Woody didn't disagree, and tried to switch over to an alternative idea, but pre-production was already in progress, and we had to proceed." She elaborated, "It was my mother's stunned, chilled reaction to the script that enabled me to see how he had taken many of the personal circumstances and themes of our lives and, it seemed, had distorted them into cartoonish characterizations. At the same time he was my partner. I loved him. I could trust him with my life, and he was a writer, this is what writers do. All grist for the mill. Relatives have always grumbled. He had taken the ordinary stuff of our lives and lifted it into art. We were honored and outraged".
In the trailer, April and David discuss a painting in an art gallery. The scene is not in the final film.
Kim Basinger accepted the role of Hannah, but dropped out to star in 9½ Weeks (1986).
The cast includes three Oscar winners: Woody Allen, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest--coincidentally, the three were awarded for their work in this movie--and four Oscar nominees: Barbara Hershey, Max von Sydow, Sam Waterston and Richard Jenkins.
The first Woody Allen film to feature Fred Melamed. As of 2013, Melamed has appeared in seven films directed by Allen.
This film marked the first collaboration between Woody Allen and cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, and launched a decade-long partnership. Allen had worked with Gordon Willis in all of his films since 1977; however Willis was not available due to a scheduling conflict.
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Mia Farrow later wrote that Woody Allen had been intrigued about the subject of sisters for a long time. Janet Margolin, one of his earlier co-stars, had two sisters, Diane Keaton had two and Farrow had three. She says Allen gave her an early copy of "Hannah and Her Sisters", saying she could play whatever sister she wanted, but that "he felt I should be Hannah, the more complex and enigmatic of the sisters . . . whose stillness and internal strength he likened to the quality Al Pacino projected in The Godfather (1972)."
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The Stanislavsky Catering Company is based on a two-person catering company that Janet Margolin and Jennifer Salt ran early in their careers, between acting jobs.
Film debut of Lewis Black.
This is the only film that Mia Farrow (Hannah) and her mother Maureen O'Sullivan (Norma) made together.
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Frederick, played by Max von Sydow, complains bitterly, while watching television, that if Jesus were to come back and see what religion had become, "he'd never stop throwing up." Von Sydow played Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).
Brooke Shields was considered for the role of April. She turned it down because she was attending Princeton.
According to the script, Elliot and Lee (Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey) were supposed to act out a heated love scene in a boat. The scene was to be remarkably lengthy and explicit, something that had been absent from Woody Allen's previous films. Due to the lack of precedent, Caine and Hershey figured that the scene would be cut from the script before it was ever filmed. Much to their chagrin, it was not. The scene was filmed, and while it called for no nudity, the actors were required to provide realistic movements to simulate sex in a lengthy scene. Much to the actors' relief, the whole sequence was cut from the final film.
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This movie, and Bullets Over Broadway (1994), are the two Woody Allen films with the most Oscar nominations. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for Dianne Wiest, the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award for Michael Caine, and the Best Writing and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Woody Allen. It was nominated also for: Robert Greenhut for Best Picture, Susan E. Morse for Best Film Editing, Stuart Wurtzel and Carol Joffe for Best Art Direction/Set Direction, and Woody Allen for Best Director.
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Mia Farrow admitted "a small sick feeling . . . deep inside me" which "I shared with nobody was my fear that 'Hannah and Her Sisters' had openly and clearly spelled out his feelings for my sister. But this was fiction, I told myself . . . so I put those thoughts out of my mind."
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In October 2013 the film was voted by "The Guardian" readers as the fourth best film directed by Woody Allen.
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The fifth film collaboration between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow.
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Jennifer Jason Leigh was considered for Hannah, but Woody Allen wanted a more experienced actress.
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The structure of the film, centering around holiday gatherings, was based on Fanny and Alexander (1982) by Ingmar Bergman. Woody Allen had long been an admirer of Bergman's films. This may also explain the inclusion of Max von Sydow, a Bergman regular, in the cast. In fact, Von Sydow had wanted to be in Fanny and Alexander, but demands, made on his behalf by his agent, prevented his involvement.
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Jessica Lange was considered for the role of Hannah.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Carrie Fisher and Dianne Wiest walk beneath a Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre sign: "THE BEST PLAY 1984 Tony Award Winner." The play was "The Real Thing" by Tom Stoppard. The play was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close.
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Film debut of Christian Clemenson.
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Kay Lenz was offered the lead role, but turned it down for the horror B-movie House (1985).
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Annie Potts screen-tested for the role of Hannah.
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Film debut of Joanna Gleason.
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Woody Allen and John Turturro would later appear in Fading Gigolo (2013) in reversed roles. Allen directed, wrote and acted alongside Turturro in a supporting role in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), while in the other film Turturro was the lead actor, writer and director, with Allen playing a supporting role.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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