Emma Stone and Colin Firth Talk MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT, Working with Woody Allen, Filming Without Rehearsal Time and More

     July 22, 2014


On the one hand, you’ve got to feel pretty damn good when you’re cast in a Woody Allen film.  He’s an Academy Award winning director who continues to churn out films with outstanding performances year after year.  But, on the other hand, that’s a seriously high-pressure situation right there and Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight stars, Emma Stone and Colin Firth, certainly felt it.

While promoting the film’s July 25th limited release, Stone and Firth sat down with us to talk about hitting the set having done no rehearsals, shooting and re-shooting a certain scene only to have it completely cut from the film, adding Allen’s signature cadence to their own performances and much more.  You can check it all out after the jump.  Also, in case you missed it, click here for what Firth told us about his upcoming Donald Crowhurst movie.

magic-in-the-moonlight-imageCollider:  Is there anything you’ve seen in past Woody Allen films that, when you got these roles, made you say, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to get to do that?’ 

COLIN FIRTH: I don’t think there’s anything in my character that I had particularly seen in another Woody Allen film.

EMMA STONE: I had seen elements I think of my character in a few.  Elementally there are bits and pieces that are kind of an amalgamation of characters.  Because I guess every character plays a different part of Woody’s psyche. 

FIRTH: Oh, I can definitely see a lot of – there’s the motif of the Woody role, as people call it, and I guess I had that, but in a completely different form.  Some of those sentiments and the gags that you would expect somehow landed with me.  And I was looking forward to those, some of them such wonderful, vintage little zingers.  But, you know, I’d seen good acting in all Woody Allen films and good writing.  I didn’t think, ‘I can’t wait to do that;’ I just thought, ‘I hope to god I can do that.’

Was there an intimidation factor here?

STONE: Oh, yeah.  Hugely.  It was hugely intimidating.  I think after a while you get your sea legs a little bit, but there’s no rehearsal process, there’s no real getting-to-know Woody at all.  You just are terrified.  It’s all cold. 

What’s the first thing he does with you when he gives you a role?  Is there a table read or anything?

STONE: Nothing.

FIRST: Action!  Roll camera! 

STONE: You get on set and he says, ‘Action,’ and then he re-shoots it.  [Laughs]

magic-in-the-moonlight-emma-stoneDid he do the same thing with you guys that he did with Jacki [Weaver]?  She told me he just called her into a room, offered her the part and then had her read the script right there to make sure she liked it.

STONE: I didn’t physically see him.  He didn’t pull me into any room and he wasn’t there when I read the script.  Someone gave me the script.  His assistant gave me the script and I read it, gave it back to her and then left. 

FIRTH: Mine was roughly [similar] to that, yeah.  I was given the script and somebody waited while I read it.

Did you do any prep work on your own?  Maybe even some magic 101 or something like that?

STONE: It was kind of a great gift because the whole cast was staying in a hotel together in the south of France so we cooked dinner and we would read.

FIRTH: We clung to each other!  Nothing brings you closer together than blind terror.  Some of the cast got there before Woody arrived in France and we were all nervous about it and so yeah, we unburdened and we were a united front.  But as Emma said, you realize that it finds itself, it finds a rhythm.  You get a bit of a shock on day one when you’re thrown in the deep end. 

STONE: I would say the first week is pretty disorienting.

FIRTH: Sink or swim.  Yeah, and there is a fear that you’re never gonna find it because the first scene we shot just didn’t work for us, darling. 

STONE: No!  [Laughs]

magic-in-the-moonlight-colin-firth-emma-stoneWhat scene was that?

FIRTH: It never made the movie!

STONE: It’s not in the movie!  [Laughs] 

FIRTH: And he re-shot it at the end and it still didn’t make the movie.

STONE. We shot it again and it’s still not there. 

FIRTH: It was a scene after my sort of epiphany that she’s for real and the car breaks down.  You know, we made a [mess] of our first take because it was basically the first time we’d ever done it on its feet.  We stood out there and the camera was rolling.  And it was all in one shot!  The whole scene.  He did not want to cover it, and he was very patient.  He in some very, very polite way told us it was awful and we just kept doing it until he thought he had something we could move on with.  But because it was one shot, you see, it’s like theater.  There was pressure.  It all has to be right.  You can’t say, ‘Okay, the first half was fine.  We’re gonna be cutting into it.  As long as you nail the second bit, we’ll come in for a close-up and we’ll cut it together.’  It had to work as a piece.

Was that the case for most of this movie?  There are a ton of scenes covered in just one shot, or very few, and they work well from my perspective, but it sounds pretty damn intimidating for you.

FIRTH: Very intimidating!  The trouble is, what you have in theater instead of an editor is rehearsal.  You know, in film you’re covered by the fact that you can get – you don’t have much time, not the time people think you get to do it over and over again.  You don’t really on a film.  You’ve got to get lightning in a bottle in a couple of takes.  But at least you can assemble pieces that you got right from different takes and possibly from different angles and that sort of thing.  In the theater, you obviously can’t do that so you rehearse the heck out of it if you can so that it’s a fully user-friendly product by the time it’s out in front of people. 

STONE: And neither option is available.

FIRTH: We didn’t have those options!  So we were basically rehearsing in front of the camera … 

STONE: … that was rolling.

magic-in-the-moonlight-interviewFIRTH: That was intimidating.  Apparently Woody edited it quickly you said, which, if you haven’t shot a lot of coverage … 

STONE: I heard two weeks. 

FIRTH: Astounding.

That’s incredible.

STONE: But he’s done so many.  I mean, it must just be – 

FIRTH: Well, at least you don’t have to cut the scenes together if they’re in one shot.  I mean, I know that sounds oversimplified because you still have to assemble the film and get the pace right, but a scene if you’ve only got one shot, that’s the scene.

How about working with him as an actor’s director on set?  He’s this old pro, so imagine everyone in the ensemble wants to adhere to the way he likes to work, but does he do anything to adjust to your process?

STONE: One of his favorite things, at least to say to me, is, he comes up between takes and has his sides for the day of the scene, takes off his glasses, puts them on his head and says, [imitating Allen] ‘Well, how I would do it …’  And then he acts out for me how he would do it, half comically and he adds his cadence to his dialogue, which is really important, I think at least. 

FIRTH: Well, I love his acting, too.

STONE: I think he’s such an amazing actor!

Having seen him act in so many films, I could totally picture and hear what you were just describing!

STONE: Oh, yeah!  Absolutely!  And he writes in his sort of patter, so if you can get the rhythm of his – of course you don’t wanna be doing a Woody impression, but just to kind of have that information is useful.

FIRTH: There were times when I thought there’s no other way to do it.  I mean, I didn’t fall into it very often because I don’t think it would be consistent with the character, but there were certain bits of dialogue and I thought, ‘This doesn’t feel like the way people talk.’ 

magic-in-the-moonlight-emma-stone-colin-firthAre there any particular lines like that that stick with you most?

FIRTH: No, not really, but I have to say, the lines where I felt most strongly about that was that I can only do it like he would do it.  This is written to be spoken like that, with that body language!  You’ve gotta have the hands and inflections and that rhythm.  That’s the only way.  And the only scenes I felt that way about are also not in that movie.  [Laughs] They haven’t made the cut.  It’s funny, the stuff that has not made it into the film – and there’s not very much.  He hasn’t taken out much.  But the bits where I felt that struggle are not there.

Now just to touch on some upcoming projects before we wrap up, Emma, I know you’re doing another movie with Woody.  Do you know when you’re going to get working on that?

STONE: We’re in the second week right now. 

Is it hard to have to tap back into this one to promote it while working on that?

STONE: I think that actually happens strangely often with movies, you’re in the middle of shooting something and you’re promoting something else for the weekend or something.  We’re talking about the person that I’m working with right now so it’s kind of …

FIRTH: In some ways it helps actually.  If you interviewed us about this movie last August, I wouldn’t have known how to … 


FIRTH: We were so in it!  I wouldn’t have known how to have a – and they do that!  You have the EPK interviews and stuff and I always find those a struggle.  They say, ‘Tell me about your character.’  ‘I’m still figuring it out.  I’ll have to get back to you in a year.’  And I also have to see the movie and be able to pretend that I intended everything.


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