Back in 1999, Woody Allen was working on a film called Sweet and Lowdown: the story of jazz musician Emmett Ray (Sean Penn) who falls in love with a mute woman named Hattie (Samantha Morton) in the 1930s. . Characters such as Uma Thurman and John Waters also appear in the film, and if Allen had his way, Rosie O’Donnell would have done the same. However, due to allegations leveled against him in previous years, O’Donnell made it clear that she was not interested. “I said, ‘I don’t do this. I do not work for or with him and am not affiliated with him,” she told Howard Stern (via Entertainment Weekly).
As O’Donnell recalls, shortly before “Sweet and Lowdown” appeared, she starred in an HBO special where she smashed Allen without apologizing. However, his team reached out to her several times in hopes of changing her mind. “The first year of my show, they called me and said: “He wants you to be in [Sweet and Lowdown]. I said, “Please send him my HBO special,” O’Donnell said, who the person she spoke to remarked that Allen had already seen him. She asked for it anyway, with an even more adamant statement that she had no desire to be in the film.
When all was said and done, Woody Allen and his team accepted Rosie O’Donnell’s rejection and set to work on Sweet and Lowdown without her. Apparently, to this day she does not regret that she made this film.