Woody Allen Interview - VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Posted by Frosty
You are in town to direct an opera? What is the difference in directing and will you work with Placido Domingo?
WA: I didnít want to direct anybody elseís material before. I never directed a significant thing in the theatre live. The only live thing I directed were my own little one act plays. I certainly never directed on Opera. Iíve only been to about 15 of them in my life. One of the heads of the board of LA Opera is a friend of mine. Heís been bothering me for a long time to direct an opera. Placido Domingo has spoken to me on a number of occasions to direct an opera. I always dodged it or slipped out of it. They said ĎLook, this is a one act opera that Puccini wrote his three one actors that always play together and William Friedkin, wonderful film director and opera director is going to direct the first two, you just have to do the third one.í Itís a small cast, itís a one hour opera, and itís only about 10 people. No big chorus. They said ĎYou can do it, and weíll help you.í This was like three years ago and I figure Iíll be dead in three years, you know, itíll never gonna happen, so I said ĎOkay.í And I didít die. Then time came, ĎYou have to come to LA and do the opera, so tomorrow morning at 9:30 I start. I hope that the Puccini material is strong enough that I wonít get hurt. Unlike movies, they boos in opera. I donít know if I can take that, there is some distance. Itís moving personally, but Iíve got to do it, and Iíll give it my best shot. I think itís okay. Itís only 55 minutes actually. I timed it and it ran 55 minutes. I have to keep it buoyant for 55 minutes. Iím such a novice at it I asked people ĎWhen we rehearse do we sing?í Iím still not sure how that works. Because when you direct a live scene, there is no singing. So when I direct a scene am I going to have to stop and wait for the guy to sing his whole thing before I move on? I donít know what to expect. As I say, Ií trying. I brought Santo Loquasto out with me, my art director, who does all the movies and things. We had a wonderful, wonderful set, and Iíll give it my best shot. I hope the material is so strong that they wonít see the flaws in me.
This is being called your sexiest movie yet. It seems like in your early movies you never had sex scenes. Can you talk about discovering sex at this point in your life?
WA: Itís just by chance. Everybody thinks that there is an agenda that I have. Maybe they think its certain psychological turning points in my life. Itís not really so. It just so happens that this story requires a certain amount of sensuality. There is a kissing scene, a scene between the two girls that is brief, and there isnít really a lot of sex in the picture. Itís nothing really that Iíve discovered after all these years. Whatever is required. I just finished a picture with Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, and Patricia Clarkson. There is no sex in the movie. Itís a comedy, a romantic comedy, but thereís no sex at all. Itís just by chance that the next film I thought of was a musical with no sex, or a very sexual picture, or if I have an idea for what I felt was a brilliant pornographic comedy idea. If I had an idea for a family comedy, itís just whatever idea I come up with. These ĎMatch Pointí had a little passion in it, but there wasít major sex to speak of really. Yesterday when I was practicing my clarinet in the hotel, I turn on the television set and ĎShow Girlsí was on TV. Now that was clearly sexual. This one isnít.
Were you comfortable directing Scarlett and Javier in that scene? They are making love in bed.
WA: When they are kissing? Itís nothing, I mean for me, I didnít feel a thing. There are two fabulous performers. They started kissing, and I thought I would be going very, very long on it to make the scene extra long, beyond what you would think would be long. I wanted to have in and out of focus. They just kissed, and kissed, and kissed. Then when it was over that was it. They went their own way and there was no realÖthey are actors. They get paid. Kissing for a couple of minutes, I watch, and say ĎOkay, thatís enough.í Then itís over and we movie on to the next thing.
You said that you have a pessimistic view of love. For a writer and director who is so into the psychology of how people work isnít there a side to you that thinks people change and evolve?
WA: There is always the possibility that people will change. Real change is more rare. You are who you are at a certain age in life you are pretty much a variation of that your whole life. Itís conceivable that you will change but itís not likely. Rebecca is never comfortable, sheís never going to have an affair, and cheat on her husband. Sheís all nervous and full of anxiety. She changes her clothes a million times, she canít decide if she should kiss him, go to bed with him, should she leave. There will always be that beautiful girl who all the guys run after and she will get involved with the next poet, or factory worker would be her next action. That wonít work out, so sheíll get involved with a swimmer, and the list will go on and on. I donít hold high chances for people changing who they are, but again Iím pessimistic person. You could be speaking to someone here whoís full of buoyant optimism and they could be correct and I could be wrong.
Which was more challenging? Writing for a different culture or characters from a different generation than yourself?
WA: What happens is that you get a lot of help from people. I write the thing as best I can, for the generation, orÖbut I donít think itís a different generation, I just wrote it. They play it and when they play it they say ĎWe would really never say this. We would never go to that nightclub. We donít do this anymore.í They would tell me and I would strike it then ask ĎWhat would you do?í Then I add it and let them do that thing instead. I never think in terms of writing for a culture or for a generation. I just write the story so that it works. When you are doing it you would be amazed how many people chime in with corrections. Everyone from the cameraman to the guy delivering coffee. It could be the actor or actress. All of that helps to focus the thing, so that it works by the time you finish, and itís reasonably accurate.
What life lessons did you learn as a little boy that still serve as a strong source of inspiration for you even now?
WA: I think that the biggest life lesson I learned as a boy that has helped me and is still with me is that you really have to discipline yourself to do the work. If you want to accomplish something you canít spend a lot of time hemming and hawing, putting it off, making excuses for yourself, and figuring ways. You have to actually do it. I have to go home every single day, no matter where I am in a world, no matter what Iím doing, and putting 30 to 45 minutes of practice on my clarinet because I want to play. I have to do it. When I want to write, you get up in the morning, go in and close the door and write. You canít string paper clips, and get your pad ready, and turn your phone off, and get this, get coffee made. You have to do the stuff. Everything in life turns out to be a distraction from the real thing you want to do. There are a million distractions and when I was a kid I was very disciplined. I knew that the other kids werenít. I was the one able to do the thing, not because I had more talent, maybe less, but because they simply werenít applying themselves. As a kid I wanted to do magic tricks. I could sit endlessly in front of mirror, practicing, practicing, because I knew if you wanted to do the tricks youíve got to do the thing. I did that with the clarinet, when I was teaching, I did that with writing. This is the most important thing in my life because I see people striking out all the time. Itís not because they donít have talent, or because they donít want to be, but because they donít put the work in to do it. They donít have the discipline to do it. This was something I learned myself. I also had a very strict mother who was no nonsense about that stuff. She said ĎIf you donít do it, then you arenít going to be able to do the thing.í Itís as simple as that. I said this to my daughter, if you donít practice the guitar, when you get older you wouldnít be able to play it. Itís that simple. If you want to play the guitar, you put a half hour in everyday, but you have to do it. This has been the biggest guiding principle in my life when I was younger and it stuck. I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up. People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen. All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack. They couldnít do it, thatís why they donít accomplish a thing, they donít do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening. So that I was say my biggest life lesson that has worked. All others have failed me.
I wanted to ask about the music in the movie. How much of a part does it play in directing?
WA: The music to me is always the most pleasurable part of the movie. You are finished cutting it, you watch and there is no sound or music, itís a little naked. Then suddenly I go into my other room and there am I recording and I have everything from Beethoven to Debussy to Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker, anything I want. I can drop it in and suddenly the movie gets a lift that is great. When I put the Gershwin in ĎManhattan,í my friend Marshall Brickman calls the thing suddenly gets a great lift. I picked out Spanish pieces that were very, very beautiful. The main song ĎBarcelonaí was a funny story. I get a million things in the mail everyday that I donít look at, they are scripts, music, and things. Iím not supposed to look at them. I never do. But I was running out to shoot in Barcelona and I had a long car trip to the location and just as I walked out my door this recording had been slipped under my door. I took it with me, even though is shouldnít, I usually throw them in a pile, and my assistant returns them. I took it with me as something to play in the car. I put it in the car, put it on, and it was the music of Barcelona, opening song. I thought ĎMy God, Iím half way through the picture, but this is the music I want for the picture.í We contacted with people and they were thrilled. They were not established people or anything. They were happy to give it for nothing, just for the exposure of the song. The song is very, very catchy. Everybody loves it, itís a hit in Barcelona, and they are making a video of it there now. It was just by chance that it happened.
The companies that financed this picture have offered you three more pictures. Can you address how that will guide you artistically?
WA: The companies who did this picture is a very nice group of people who backed the film. I was putting together my next film and we spoke to them. They said they would love to back another film of mine. We had been talking to somebody else about doing three films. We said to them ĎWeíre on the verge of making a deal with these people for three films.í They said ĎWeíll make three films with you.í I said ĎThatís fine, but I canít do three more films in Barcelona.í So they said ĎYou can make them anywhere in the world you want to make them. We just want to be the producers, we want to finance the films.í They were lovely people, we all had a very nice experience, and so I said ĎSure.í They donít have a studio system in Europe. In the United States they would be saying to me ĎWeíll give you the money to make the film, but weíre not just bankers.í They are in fact just bankers, but they think they are not just bankers. They want to participate, cast, read the script. ĎThis is a great script, but you have no second act.í This is stuff that they are utterly unqualified to judge, because even people that do this for a living have a hard time making those calls. They make them wrong all the time. The money people in the United States want to participate. I can get money in the United States if I want to let them read my script, sit in with me on casting, and I didnít want to do that. In Europe there is not studio system. They are just bankers. ĎWe donít know about that stuff. You make the film. You cast it, we donít read the script. We just want to put up the money and make some money on it.í There are tax things and whatever mischief they get involved with, so itís a pleasure. Iíd much rather work under those circumstances. So thatís what Iím doing. I finished a film as I said Larry David, now whoís financed by the company who did I think ĎCassandra's Dream,í they are a French company. They were lovely too, I had a wonderful time working with them, and they financed Larry David films. The next three films that Iím gonna do would be for the same company I did Vicky Cristina Barcelona for and everything is fine. Will it be fine if I make two embarrassing pictures for them and they lose their shirt? Will they stay nice to me? Maybe they will, I donít know, but maybe not. Lots of times everything starts off with a lot of hugs and kisses ĎYou are real artist we love art.í And then you make a picture that tanks and they canít get them on the phone and the lawyers are talking. I donít know. My experience with these people has been very positive so far and they seem like lovely people. I have great faith in them.
From working with two Spanish actors in Spain was there anything that you learned from that culture?
WA: They take themselves very seriously. Javier and Penelope are very serious actors. I always found that amusing, they are so great, and like most serious actors like Robert De Niro, they think they are great because they do all that work. They are born great. They are great when they wake up in the morning. They donít have to do all that work and they would still be great. I never rehearsed with any of the actors. I never talked to them about the plot or anything. I just show up and do it. I get a lot of great performances simply by hiring great people. Javier and Penelope were constantly talking about the plots but not with me. They talked about it with each other. They were rehearsing all the time, their lines, they rehearsed themselves. I found that amusing. They think thatís what is making them great. What is making them great is that they just are great. Javier could walk into this room, never having seen anything before, and act the part out. He would be charismatic and mesmerizing. Itís just built into him. Itís the same with Robert De Niro, or Jack Nicholson. Itís just there for a lot of actors. I found that the Spanish actors took it very seriously. They were very formal and serious about the work. I found that amusing myself. In the end it doesnít bother me.