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A Cast Worthy of Woody
Once the script and the financing were set, casting director Juliet Taylor, who has worked with Allen on several films, began brainstorming names of actors who would best bring the roles to life. When considering the pool of talent, Allen took into account whether an actor had done comedy or drama in the past. "You can cast a comic actor in a serious role and they do a good job,” he observes. "The other way around doesn't work very well.”

Allen is always keeping his eye out for actors he would like to work with, and in MELINDA AND MELINDA he was fortunate to cast some of his favorites. The character of Melinda was the first casting challenge presented to the filmmakers. A classic Allen creation, a woman who wields a potent combination of sexiness, vulnerability, and mystery, Melinda demonstrates Allen's facility for writing female characters that ring true. "Quite accidentally, I got better at writing women,” admits Allen. "Over the years, in picture after picture, the best parts were going to women, so I worked at it. Now it does come easier to write for women. When I write for men, I usually write for myself or some version of me.”

For the central role of Melinda, the filmmakers cast Australian-born actress Radha Mitchell, best known at the time for her performances in PHONE BOOTH opposite Colin Farrell, PITCH BLACK with Vin Diesel, and HIGH ART. She was most recently seen opposite Johnny Depp in FINDING NEVERLAND, for which she received a SAG ensemble nomination, and in MAN ON FIRE opposite Denzel Washington. "She was a discovery,” says Allen. "Radha is so interesting. She turned out to be lovely and wonderful.”

"We were so lucky to get her,” adds Letty Aronson. "First of all she is incredibly beautiful, a very good actress, and just perfect for the role. She had the intensity where it was important, but also a little bit more.”

Mitchell got a phone call from Woody Allen himself offering her a part in the film. "Of course I was really excited,” she remembers. "He sent me a copy of the script and I said, ‘sure.'

"I was interested in his way of working,” she continues. "His films always manage to be innovative, flexible, surreal and real at the same time. And Woody Allen dialogue is its own realm. It's a specific way of speaking that only occurs in films made by him.”

Amanda Peet and Will Ferrell were cast as Susan and Hobie, the comedic version of the actor/director couple that Melinda is somewhat awkwardly introduced to. Ferrell, known for his characterizations as a "Saturday Night Live” regular and his performances in comedies like OLD SCHOOL, ELF and ANCHORMAN, was an unusual choice for the role of smitten, sweet-natured actor Hobie. ”My movies tend to be more sophisticated than the films Will is known for,” says Allen. "But he did a great job.”

"When we got Will Ferrell, he really hadn't been in anything, just ‘Saturday Night Live,'” says Aronson. "He proved himself to be a very versatile actor. He has the ability to be a real, sophisticated, romantic comedy lead. That was very interesting.” "My agent got in touch with me and the script was flown out to me,” recounts Ferrell. "First I had to get over the headline of ‘Being in a Woody Allen Movie,' which, for every actor in general and comedic actor in particular, is high on the list of big moments in his career.”

The more nuanced character of Hobie was a welcome change of pace for Ferrell, who is known for broader comedic portrayals. "It's obviously a comedic character, but it was the most realistic type of character that I've gotten to play. He's a real person as opposed to an arch,” says Ferrell. "It was nice because you could rely on basic dialogue between people, not funny costumes, and there wasn't so much pressure to be funny. The humor is already there in the context of the story.”

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