by Gabe Toro, published on June 21, 2012 - 1:59 PM|
With Woody Allen, you have someone who is responsible for more memorable moments than anyone whos ever been involved in films, says Alec Baldwin, one of the stars of To Rome With Love, who joined various cast members and the director in New York City to talk with press about the film. The 42nd film of the career of the writer, director and legend, Allen doesnt have to go far to find an exciting collaborator like Baldwin, who bluntly says, When he calls you and asks you to come and do this, if youre available, you go.
To Rome With Love is an anthology, centered around multiple love stories set in the beautiful city of Rome. Its a first for Allen, who has found a second home overseas since 2005s Match Point. Rome is a provocative city to shoot in, Allen says. Its visually arresting, and theres a great Italian film tradition. Adds Baldwin, I think Italy and Rome have more of a sense of humor than a lot of other places Ive been. Its a very loose, very relaxing place, not very self-conscious. Every cliché Ive heard about spending a lot of time in Rome is true.
Like the rest of the cast, Baldwin found inspiration not only on the page, but in the heritage of their surroundings. When you look at Italian films, theres kind of an openness to Italian acting and Italian film, Baldwin says. The people who became stars, from Pasolinis time to New Wave filmmaking, even [co-star Roberto] Benigni, there are people you can see right into them, theres not a lot of pretense to them, theyre very available. I tried to keep that in mind.
Co-star Greta Gerwig, who plays a vacationing student unknowingly involved in a love triangle, used an academic approach to expressing the comedic nature of her work. I was thinking the commedia dell'arte style of acting, says Gerwig. The way actors would play out these types, I thought there was some reflection of that in this film. Though she didnt have to look far for additional motivation, given her relationship with Allens films. I grew up watching his movies over and over again, Ive learned what books to read based on references in his films. I read Death In Venice because he mentioned it. I wouldnt live in New York, and I wouldnt want to be an actor, if it werent for his movies.
Allen also sought inspiration from older films, with one in particular. One of the films that I was thinking of was one of my favorite Fellini films, The White Sheik,' Allen offers. Suggesting that he was subconsciously borrowing from films from the Italian masters, he says, I love the film so much, that stuff creeps into your pores and you do it without even know youre doing it.
Penelope Cruz stars in the film as Anna, a feisty call girl and a font of advice for an engaged Italian on vacation. In speaking a language that was not her native tongue, she also sought very specific inspiration. There were things about [Pasolini's] Mamma Roma that were in the back of my head with this role, she says, citing the Italian neo-realist classic. Shes a character that has no filter in her brain, and its so liberating and refreshing to play someone like that, and to be a part of this homage to Italian cinema.
Allen also took this opportunity to return to acting, as he hadnt been seen onscreen in one of his own films since 2006s Scoop. In Allens typically modest, straightforward manner, he flatly states, In the last half dozen scripts I wrote, there wasnt been anything that I thought I could do.
"Ive been performing for years, I made my first film in 1968. Ive always been open to acting in other peoples films, but no one has ever asked me over the years, he shrugs. Two or three times Ive been asked, and I always said yes. Which explains his involvement in John Turturros upcoming Fading Gigolo." Its shooting in New York City so I said sure, because no one ever asks me.
While Allens role in To Rome With Love is in English, he had to direct the films many foreign language sequences, despite not speaking the local language. This has apparently never been a problem for Allen, who also worked with Penelope Cruz in her native tongue for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I can tell acutely; you just see them acting, and theyre clearly convincing in their body language, says Allen. When I did Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Javier Bardem and Penelope were ad-libbing all over the place. I didnt understand anything they were saying. To this day I have no idea what they were saying in those scenes. But it didnt matter to me, I could see that they got it right, they were acting in the correct fashion for that moment. It was academic what the actual words were. The emotions were clearly correct. Scoffs the prolific living legend, I did three films in a row with a Chinese cameraman who didnt speak any English, and the photography was beautiful!
To Rome With Love opens in limited release this Friday.