07/23/2013 01:32 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2013

Cate Blanchett as Tragic Hero: Woody, Women, and Williams

"Jasmine was a gift of a role," said Cate Blanchett at the New York premiere of Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's new movie. As the wife of a shady financial wheeler-dealer who has bankrupted his clients and was, by the way, a philanderer as well, Blanchett's Jasmine is Ruth Madoff, fragile by way of Blanche DuBois, even though, as she said, "We never discussed that," that is, the resemblance to the tabloids or Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire: "her downfall is so present for a lot of people." Of course, Woody was absent for the star-studded premiere, sending a text that was read out loud at MoMA: "I am in the south of France and cannot attend. I truly wish I were in New York and cannot attend." In fact, he is shooting his as-yet-unnamed French movie with Colin Firth and Emma Stone. While his films are not in competition with each other, he has to go far to best Blue Jasmine, one of the finest in his prolific career, turning in this one from his signature comedy to tragedy.

Actors are thrilled to be cast in his movies. Alec Baldwin, in his last year's To Rome With Love ensemble, plays the crooked, rich husband Hal in Blue Jasmine. His hugely pregnant wife Hilaria said, Alec would be proud to be permanently cast. There are few people he admires as much as Woody. The couple did not make to the SK-II and Quintessentially Lifestyle sponsored after party at Harlow, where cast members mingled freely: Peter Sarsgaard, if you follow the Tennessee Williams template, plays the "gentleman caller," who wants to marry Jasmine. Louis CK does a funny turn wooing Jasmine's sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), Andrew Dice Clay has swagger as her ex-husband, Augie. The "Stella and Stanley" of the piece, Hawkins could not attend, and neither did Bobby Cannavale, volatile as the jealous Chili. Even without Woody Allen, this was a director-packed party with Barry Levinson, Julie Taymor, David Chase, George C. Wolfe, Ry Russo-Young. Doubling, as many do, Oren Moverman was just back from L.A. for the first week of shooting his script for Love & Mercy, with Bill Pohlad directing, about Beach Boy Brian Wilson, starring Paul Dano and John Cusack.

One of the nicest actors on the planet, Boardwalk Empire's chilling Arnold Rothstein, Michael Stuhlbarg plays the sleazy dentist Dr. Flicker who hits on Jasmine, in his employ as a receptionist. "She's very tall," he deadpanned, making an awkward scene hilariously more so. It took three takes because Woody wanted one shot on the lunge. "'Go for it, he directed. Don't take no for an answer.'" He practiced on his fiancé Mai-linh. My next role, he said provocatively, makes both these characters look like utter gentlemen.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.