Last time I reported on Woody Allen’s next film, it was to say that Bruce Willis wouldn’t be appearing in it. The official word was and still is that Willis left the project due to scheduling conflicts with his stage production of Misery, but given the photos of Willis on-set, acting in the movie, that theory didn’t hold too much water, so it’s been speculated that he was fired (allegedly due to him not memorizing his lines). Allen had said that he would find a replacement for Willis in a short enough time to not disrupt shooting, and he has. I suggested that Willis be replaced by Michael Keaton, who was replaced by Jeff Daniels on The Purple Rose of Cairo, but Woody, ever the contrarian, had other plans.
The prospect of Steve Carell playing a role that was going to be filled by Bruce Willis sounds like the premise of an SNL sketch, but it is very much reality in this case. Carell will be playing the role of “Aaron”, formerly played by Willis, in Allen’s as-of-yet untitled film, a period piece set in the 1920s with Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, and Blake Lively, amongst many others, in the cast. This decision makes sense for Allen, as Allen had previously directed Carell in a small role in his 2004 film Melinda and Melinda, and working with Allen to a (presumably) larger extent this time will add another feather to Carell’s cap, as he’s been having a great year thus far, being one of the stars of the upcoming gay-legal-rights drama Freeheld and getting nominated for an Oscar and a Kids’ Choice Award for his work on Foxcatcher and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day (guess which ceremony nominated him for which film!). However, this leaves questions about the nature of this “Aaron” character. Maybe Carell will stretch himself here, or maybe Willis was trying to stretch himself before giving up, but Carell and Willis are actors who have almost nothing in common, and it seems strange to cast Bruce Willis in a role that Steve Carell could have played. Perhaps one reason for Willis leaving/getting canned is that he was completely miscast in the role. Or maybe it’s simply a matter of who fits the period better, because I can imagine Carell fitting into the 20s much more than I can imagine bald and bored alpha-male Bruce Willis fitting in. Maybe Allen wanted to choose the actor with the most honors from Nickelodeon to play the part. Maybe Allen is paying him back finally for giving out a shout-out to Antz on The Office.