Three lovely young actresses dish on starring in Woody's latest film|
by Bill Cody, published on Friday, June 22, 2012 - 2:15 PM
Last Friday I had the good fortune to attend a press day for Woody Allen's newest film, To Rome With Love. In addition to that, I attended a press conference with the great man himself in which he admitted he never watches his films after they're finished and that he considers Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters great disappointments.
In fact, here's what Annie Hall, according to Allen, was supposed to be about:
"Annie Hall. Let me tell you. When Annie Hall started out, it was not supposed to be what I wound up with. It was supposed to be what happens in a guy's mind and you were supposed to see a stream of consciousness in his mind. And I did the film and it was completely incoherent. Nobody understood a thing that went on. And the relationship between myself and Diane Keaton was all anyone cared about. That was not what I cared about, it was a small part of another big canvas that I had. And in the end I had to reduce the film to just me and Diane Keaton and that relationship.
So I was quite disappointed at the end of that movie. As I was with other movies of mine that were very popular. Hannah and her Sisters was big disappointment because I had to compromise tremendously to survive with the film."
I guess Mr. Allen and I are just going to have to agree to disagree about those two films. I always enjoyed them just as I have his last several movies. That includes his latest film, which features several of the most talented young actresses on the scene today. I got to sit down with three of them. Here are excerpts of my exclusive interviews with indie fave Greta Gerwig, charming Tony nominee Alison Pill and Italian actress Alessandra Mastronardi.
Alison Pill: I am a huge Woody Allen film. I think Annie Hall is a perfect film and Dianne Keaton is my heroine. The fact that he can write such great female parts and also be confounded by women at the same time, were always so amazing to me and so refreshing. Instead of just putting words in our mouths, he was like, "What?" This is what they say, but what does it mean? That confusion between the sexes that is at the heart of his best films, and the exploration of these relationships is something you don't see in other films. That was so exciting to me. And then when I met him, I just walked through to his office and it is exactly what you would expect. There's this small desk, and filing cabinets everywhere, it's squished in the back, but then there's this big red screening room and you can tell that is the most important thing in the office. For him, it is about the movies. And that's the way it is. He doesn't care about what people think. Would he like if people lied the movies? Yes. But I also think and he said it again last night, it's the best I could do. It's not an exact science.
Greta Gerwig: I know everyone idol worships Woody Allen, but I think I do it a little more than everyone else. I feel like he changed my life. When I first saw his films I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to go to New York and make films. I felt excited to be alive when I saw his films. SO I was really nervous to work with him and I think it took me a second to get over my nerves. But he's wonderful. He let's you be as free as you want to be. I think he's looking for actors to bring everything they can to his films. He doesn't give you a lot, but he wants you to bring a lot of yourself to it. He wants you to be open to feel.
Alessandra Mastronardi: I am an Italian actress so I was thrilled for this opportunity that Woody gave to me. For us, it is important in Italy. The Italian film industry is claustrophobic right now with the debt crisis so is you can work outside it is a great thing. And to work with Woody Allen. He's a legend.
Alison Pill: He is one of the funniest people on screen, and I didn't really know how methodical his comedy is. And when you see it, you can try and dissect why it works, the movements he makes with his hands or the way he says something. Why is that so funny. So I was mostly just thinking, oh, my god, this man is a genius at making people laugh. I think sometimes people don't respect that element of his work enough. He is an amazing physical comedian. Amazing. You know, I'm a New York girl and S.J. Perlman short stories and Woody Allen short stories are the best things ever, and I think there is such a lack of mean-spiritedness for the most part. I love that about his movies. It's just, like, life is crazy isn't it? How absurd and wonderful is that? As well as terrifying and horrific.
Greta Gerwig: It is hard to sustain a career as long as Woody's and I think what is impressive about him is that he keeps giving himself opportunities to make films and not slowing down at all so he gets stuck in anything. He doesn't take a long time between films and I think that allows to to not make everything so precious. Sometimes you can get in your own way. But if you're rigorous and you put one out every year or every two years I think it is easier to get out of your own way.
ON FILMING IN ITALY
Greta Gerwig: This was the first real film I did in Europe. It was amazing. It was the best way to be in a country. You're working so you have a purpose so you don't spend every day at a museum. As much as I enjoy going to museums, it allows you to feel like you live there for a little bit. Which is the best way to experience a city I think. I think I've always had a dream of experiencing a lot of different cities and having an elementary knowledge of lots of different languages. I haven't quite achieved that dream but I have time.
Alessandra Mastronardi: This film is not a documentary of Rome. You have to think of this movie as an amazing post card from Woody Allen.
Alison Pill: They're worthy postcards. If anyone wants to see these cities shot beautifully. That's another thing by the way, Darius [Khondji], our cinematographer, shot both films beautifully. He must get a shout out.
Alessandra Mastronardi: This film was important for Italy. If you consider that we were one of the most important parts of the history of cinema, with De Sica, Fellini, Antonioni, Visconte and that even fifteen years ago, twenty years ago Italy produced sixty movie and now just ten, it is just unbelievable. Because nobody believe in it anymore. The American industry is too strong and for us it is a bit difficult. With the economic crisis especially. But Woody gave us a gift. Just like he did for Barcelona and Paris. He's sending back these beautiful postcards of Europe. So maybe he can help us. I'll have to ask him.
ON ACTING IN A WOODY FILM
Greta Gerwig: I think that being around a filmmaker who can write both male and female characters, and also be incredibly funny and being incredibly human. That's a unique quality. There are so many things about Woody that are seemingly contradictory. His films are so crafted, yet incredibly free flowing. It is inspiring and makes me want to makes films myself. I love being around him and his work.
Alessandra Mastronardi: My portion of the film was an homage to Fellini's Lo sceicco bianco [The White Sheik], with Alberto Sordi. So Woody told me this was an homage and that if I wanted to, I could think about that. So I did and based my character well, the film was a bit dramatic, but I mixed it up and I did it.
Alison Pill: I will say this. Movies are your job, and making them can be awesome. But you also have to live a life outside of the film and the American way of making films is often working 19 hours days, six days a week and often you end up just slogging though and trying to make it happen. Versus the movies I've done with Woody where I'm never exhausted, I'm never tired. I'm like, I can do more. And you come back the next days with ideas to make your part better because you actually slept the night before. And I think that is far more inspiring than working until you're dead. Woody respects actors. He'll tell you if you look stupid, but his support is always there. You feel like, if this man trusts me, maybe I can do this. You're really comfortable doing whatever you want.
ODDS AND ENDS
I asked Alison Pill about her experiences with Allen on their first collaboration Midnight in Paris:
Alison Pill: Just to add to the surreal quality of going to film in Paris, I was flying first class, which is a whole thing in itself. It is crazy. And I was settling into my seat and I look over, and I think I did a quadruple take because I was like, I know that man, oh, man, that's Jay-Z and Beyonce. They were in the chairs next to me.
BC: Did you talk to Jay-Z?
Alison Pill: No! No, he seems lovely. He helped someone with their bags. But I didn't have anything to say.
BC: You could have been like Gwynth Paltrow and pulled out the N-word.
Alison Pill: Shockingly, I didn't say that. But when I was going back to my hotel one day after shooting, I saw Prince. I saw Prince! So I had to go in my room and have a Prince dance party. Then I was working with all these wonderful people and all these surreal elements were coming together and I was in this surreal movie. And you know, I didn't even know I was in this kind of time travel movie and I thought it was all set in the twenties because I didn't read the whole script. So when I saw Owen Wilson, I was like, "Hmmmm, he's wearing some kind of contemporary digs for a film about the '20s. Hmmmm." But slowly over time everything became clear.
To Rome with Love hits limited theaters today, June 22, and will expand nationwide over the coming weeks.