Woody Allen on Aging


If there is one thing we associate with Woody Allen, it is probably his wit. The screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, author, playwright, and musician has succeeded in provoking thought for nearly fifty years. Unfortunately, Allen isn’t enjoying old age, according to Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian (UK). “It’s a bad business,” says the 76-year-old filmmaker. “It’s a confirmation that the anxieties and terrors I’ve had all my life were accurate. There’s no advantage to aging. You don’t get wiser, you don’t get more mellow, you don’t see life in a more glowing way. You have to fight your body decaying, and you have less options.”

Allen has reached a conclusion; actually, it’s been his modus operandi for decades: to manage the horror of mortality one must above all “remain distracted.” “The only thing you can do is what you did when you were 20—because you’re always walking with an abyss right under your feet; they can be hoisting a piano on Park Avenue and drop it on your head when you’re 20—which is to distract yourself.” Allen confesses, this is why he attempts to make a new film every year or two—it stops him from dwelling on death. “Getting involved in a movie [occupies] all my anxiety. ‘Did I write a good scene for Cate Blanchett?’ If I wasn’t concentrated on that, I’d be thinking of larger issues. And those are unresolvable, and you’re checkmated whichever way you go.”

Allen’s candid remarks bring to mind a lecture I once heard during seminary. In view of the massive demographic of men and women whose lives are busy from morning to night without so much as a moment to consider life’s meaning, Professor Richard Lints proposed that we view such people as “sleepwalkers” who need to be awakened. These folks are “tuned out” from the things of God. Our calling is to engage them.

And how might we effectively awaken such people? One way is to ask thought-provoking questions. “What motivates you to do what you do?” Another approach is to ask sleep-walkers for input on how to combat the existential din within. Such honest questions have the potential to open the eyes of one’s soul, like smelling-salt in your nostrils, to recognize the eternal light of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

May the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:14 apply to Woody Allen and every other sleepwalker: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”    

About the author

Chris Castaldo (PhD, London School of Theology) is the lead pastor at New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel and coauthor of The Unfinished Reformation.


  1. Go on YouTube and check out the video of Woody Allen interviewing Billy Graham. I was riveted the whole time. I knew Graham was a powerful preacher but I had no idea he could go toe to toe with the greatest wit of the century and match him every step of the way. It’s almost like God is saying, “Okay, Woody, you think wit is what matters? I’ll meet you there, too.”

    But Graham the preacher comes out, too. Best moment:

    Graham: God doesn’t make mistakes, Woody.

    Allen: I don’t know, when I look in the mirror I have trouble believing that.

    Graham: Woody, in God’s eyes you’re beautiful.

Comments are closed.