At the heart of Emmet Rays story is his touching affair with the laundress Hattie.
The unusual role was given to young British actress Samantha Morton. It is a major dramatic role, replete with a love story, without a single spoken line. Morton had to convey all of Hatties intensely pure emotions through her eyes and expressions alone. For Woody Allen, Samantha Morton had an almost Harpo Marx quality a comic waif who is deeply, if silently and simply, devoted to Emmet Ray.
Contrasting with Hattie is Blanche, portrayed by Uma Thurman, who previously starred as another glamorous 1930s socialite in Henry and June. Here she plays a woman who is every bit the troubled equal of her husband. Says Allen: "Uma is a wonderful actress gorgeous, sophisticated, with the quality of an exceptionally imposing aristocrat."
Appearing in cameo roles are a series of well-known jazz aficionados, including jazz critic Nat Hentoff, writer/director Douglas McGrath, and Woody Allen himself all of whom provide anecdotes of Emmets life and times, anecdotes that sometimes give different versions of the same events.
The vast scope of Sweet and Lowdown with dozens of period locations that traverse the nation made for an extraordinary production challenge. Allens superb creative team, many of who have worked with him for decades, worked closely and efficiently to pull off the remarkably complex logistics. Moving through 85 locations meant rapid coordination in assuring that each location was ready to be shot at the right time -and even with the right weather.