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Woody Allen
American actor, writer, director, comedian and playwright

Woody Allen is an American actor, movie director, scriptwriter and playwright.He's successful career spans over 50 years. Today, Hollywood and Broadway recognizes him as of the most talented and influential directors and writers of all time. He has been the recipient of many movie and theater awards. This proud New Yorker has wrote and directed many successful films like Annie Hall, Match Point, Blue Jasmine, and Midnight in Paris. He has worked with Hollywood A-list stars like Scarlet Johanson, Penelope Cruz,Joaquin Phoenix, and Emma Stone.

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In that PBS Masters special on your early years, you were a prolific comedy writer, and did great stand-up comedy and you make a movie each year like clockwork. What’s the biggest thing that you struggle with as a creator?

The constant desire to do something great and the knowledge that it’s not really in me. I’ve had more than my share of opportunity over the decades to do something great, to break new ground, to find a new form, to electrify, to really stun people. After a while I had to realize, well, wait a minute, nobody’s stopping me. I mean, go ahead and do it. You can do anything you want to. You can have a blank screen for an hour and a half in the movie house if you wanted; you’re the boss. And then I start to think the reason it is not coming is that you can’t do it. You don’t have it in you. You do not have greatness in you; you’re not Kurosawa, or Fellini. You’re a comic turned film director with a modest talent to amuse, to entertain. But true greatness is not in you. You’re not William Faulkner or Cole Porter. You’re one of the entertainers of your lifetime and that’s it. So I’m constantly struggling to say no, this isn’t so, wait until you see what I do next. Then I see what I do next and it’s truly fine and nice but it’s not…I can’t live up to my own egotistical image of myself, I guess.

So until you get that tap on the shoulder…

I’ll keep going. Now, sometimes I come out with a film and nobody wants to see it. But it doesn’t matter to me. I’m already working on another film and having the enjoyment of that and maybe that film a lot of people will come and see, but then I’m on the next one anyway. I never look back. When I was a little boy, I thought the fun in the movies would be the fame and the adulation and the money. Then when I started making films, I realized the fun in the film is not that it’s well-reviewed or that people line up and see it or it’s heartbreaking if they don’t or you’re a great hero if you win an award. All that stuff is nonsense. If it’s not fun when you’re spending the three months writing the film, and then three months shooting the film and the three months editing… if that comprises most of your year and it’s not fun, then why do it? It’s fun for me. I’m in contact with beautiful women and charming guys and art directors and costumes and Cole Porter’s music…it’s a wonderful way to earn a living.

Quentin Tarantino has told me he will retire a couple of movies from now, on the grounds that he wants to stop before feeling that his next film can’t be his greatest, at which point he begins repeating himself. What is your feeling about a filmmaker’s longevity? Is there a time to stop?
Only when you want to. It depends. Some guys only make a few films, and then a guy like Bunuel made them his whole life. I enjoy the making of the film and it’s something for me to do. If nobody ever comes to my films, if people don’t want to give...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Some of your peers, Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott for example, are making big-budget broad canvas movies. Was there ever a big story you wanted to tell so badly that you have been tempted to compromise your creative control so you could get the financing?
No. I don’t have any interest in that. I’ve got to say though, the guys you just mentioned, I have nothing but amazed admiration for them. How a guy like Scorsese or Ridley Scott can make a big film, and still put their artistic vision into it and...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Hasn’t the movie business always been art meeting commerce? Isn’t it just that the pendulum shifting toward the latter?
Hollywood is just commerce, and it’s a shame. There are all these wonderfully gifted actors out there that, as you said before, will be in a film of mine for virtually nothing, union minimum, for what you called validation. Really, it’s because th...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You mentioned review-proof blockbusters. There is an obsession with global box office, sequels, cross pollination of branded content. You’ve never made a sequel. How do you feel about the way the movie business is going?
Well, I think it’s terrible. To me, movies are valuable as an art form and as a wonderful means of popular entertainment. But I think movies have gone terribly wrong. It was much healthier when the studios made a hundred films a year instead of a ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You really regret that deal?
Oh, it’s amazing how you can regret. I haven’t had a pleasurable moment since I undertook it.
But haven’t you just voiced the anxiety and insecurity that fueled your entire creative career?
I hope it’s just the anxiety again, but this is hard. I’m like a fish out of water. Movies I’ve been doing for decades, and even the stage stuff, I know the stage and have seen a million plays. But this…how to begin something and end it after a ha...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
So you said yes…
And I have regretted every second since I said OK. It’s been so hard for me. I had the cocky confidence, well, I’ll do it like I do a movie…it’ll be a movie in six parts. Turns out, it’s not. For me, it has been very, very difficult. I’ve been str...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
How do you reconcile your avoidance of computers and iPads, when you signed on to create a TV series for Amazon’s streaming service?
I don’t even know what a streaming service is; that’s the interesting thing. When you said streaming service, it was the first time I’ve heard that term connected with the Amazon thing. I never knew what Amazon was. I’ve never seen any of those se...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
But you’ll shoot your next film digital. Aren’t you curious about what else technology offers?
Yeah, but to me it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t work in it. I set the shot up, I compose, I do all that. But it’s irrelevant to me whether they push the button on the camera; it doesn’t matter.
How invested are you in the digital age?
I don’t own a computer. I’ve never seen anything online at all — nothing. I don’t own a word processor. I have none of that stuff. It’s not an act of rebellion. I’m just not a gadget person.
Culture, from books to movies, is increasingly consumed on smart phones and iPads. I imagine a room in your house with a floor-to-ceiling wall of cherished hardcover books that kids probably consider to be dusty relics. How does the reverence for literature and films shown on big screens compare to when you were imprinting authors and filmmakers who influenced your growth as an artist?
Big difference from when I grew up, and I’m talking about not just my childhood in the ’40s but when I was a young adult, living in Manhattan at twenty-five with my peer group. We were not intellectuals, by any means. I was thrown out of school an...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What’s your favorite Cannes memory? And did global media react differently when you started making movies outside New York?
I’ve always been very lucky abroad. Europe, South America, the Far East, they’ve always supported my films enthusiastically. Right from the start with Take The Money And Run. Bananas was a big hit in Europe and I remember being surprised that it w...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Everybody is courting China. How about there?
That is one of the countries that asked me to come and make a film. I don’t think I can. I’d have to make a film in a place I could live in for four months for the pre-production and shooting. I can live in Paris for four months or London or, you ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
When did it go from hardship of leaving home to reinvigorating your storytelling?
Right away it was artistically provocative to shoot in those cities. I’d like to go back to Paris and make a film. I did four in London and I always wanted to make another in Spain. Maybe where the festival is in San Sebastian. Just a great visual...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You might have started shooting these cities for financial reasons, but I’ve watched the way you shot them in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight In Paris or To Rome With Love, and wanted to go there. There is such romanticism…
That’s because I’m a city freak. I love cities, cosmopolitan areas. Not all of them but almost all of them. Paris, Barcelona, London; these are fantastic places. I don’t think I could do that if I made a movie in Albuquerque. But just like with Ma...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
So what are you looking for?
I just want to know in the end that nobody can say to me, ‘well, that’s the one we’re using,’ even if I feel it doesn’t represent the picture at all or if it was cheap and burlesque-y and they could say, ‘too bad, we’re using it.’ David Picker tel...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Did your transition from studios to overseas funding come because of a slump, or because the game was changing?
The studio game was changing. It started on Match Point. I wrote Match Point for New York. When we began raising the money, people from London called and said if you do a film here we’ll back it. I thought, gee, this film wouldn’t work in Africa, ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
It must take discipline not to waver from that formula. Did somebody say something early on that made you realize you’re better not having your confidence rocked by some silly suggestion?
 No, I never had that problem. Now, once in a while I will sit down with my wife or with Juliet Taylor and say, who do you think would be better here, Joaquin Phoenix or Alec Baldwin? Every once in a while I bounce something off somebody to get fe...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I recall the time when Hollywood studios backed your films, you gave them a bare-bones idea of what you wanted to do, a budget and they said yes without seeing a script. Do you still do it that way?
It’s even freer, now that I’m backed independently. I’ve never had a script note in my life. I write the script; nobody sees it, not the people that put the money in the picture. I cast who I want, and make the film. That’s why I’ve always felt th...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
If I was a young actor, auditioning for Woody Allen, I’d be crushed if I was out of there in one minute. Does your assistant routinely say, it’s OK, that’s how he works?
They warn them beforehand that I cast quickly. Actors of course are so insecure. We never turn anybody down because they’re bad; we don’t hire them because we found somebody that suits the part better. But naturally every actor that comes in and d...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
How does your audition process work?
 Sometimes I read them but very briefly. I don’t like that as much as just hearing them say something. They don’t have to read from my movie; I just like to hear them and so they come in, sit down here and read for one minute. Half a page maximum ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I’ve covered the casting of your films for years and young actors consider your invitation to be real validation of their talent. How does a young actor get on your radar and how voracious are you in watching movies to keep current?
I see movies, but not to keep current. I watch strictly for enjoyment. But you do get exposed to the ones that come along. I saw Winter’s Bone and became aware of Jennifer Lawrence. And Juliet Taylor has an encyclopedic knowledge and will so often...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What of Joaquin Phoenix’s work made him right for Irrational Man, playing this tormented philosophy professor who seems reinvigorated by a death wish?
Often, I write a part with an actor in mind; I didn’t in this case. I finished the story because I thought I had a good idea. Then, who would be good for this? The first thought I had was certainly Emma Stone because she’s great for practically an...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
If you watched it now?
I would never watch it because I remembered it so fondly and it would be like, my God what was I thinking?
Directors say, don’t ask me to choose my favorite film; they are all my children.
Yeah, well I hate them all. None are different, and all are…unsatisfying, when you’re finished. Once, I had a generally positive feeling when I finished Match Point. I thought I was very lucky with this film. I was going to use an actress and she ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Daniel Day-Lewis once told me he rigorously prepares for roles and lives in the character’s skin through the shoot, and can’t watch the results because he sees only flaws. What’s it like when you have to watch yourself over and over in editing? Are you self-conscious or does that only kick in after you’re done?
Well, a little of both. If I’m in it it’s tougher. It’s like if you’ve ever heard your own voice on a tape recorder? It’s worse when you see and hear yourself. If I’m not in the film and it has delightful people like Diane Keaton or Emma Stone, I ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Ever?
Ever. I’ve never seen Take The Money And Run since I made it. I never saw Annie Hall again, or Bananas or Manhattan or any of them. Because, you can only have regrets. If I was to screen any of my films now I would only see what I could have done,...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Irrational Man marks the 11th time you’ve brought a film to Cannes, 12 if you count your contribution to the anthology New York Stories. You didn’t want to premiere in competition. Why?
I’ve never had a film in competition in my life. I just don’t feel you can say one film is better than another. Who’s to say some arbitrarily appointed group of judges can decide one is better? Is The Godfather better than Goodfellas, or whatever ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Who was that?
Danny Simon. Neil Simon’s brother, who was really very helpful to me when I was 20 years old. He was a merciless editor and that rubbed off on me. This was when I was writing television. Danny and I would work on a skit. It would be coming along f...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Some would call that discipline. What you call it?
Anxiety. It’s easy for me to cut length, I never care about that. I notice a lot of people don’t like to cut, they’re reluctant to part with lines in stage plays and bits in movies. But I was brought up to cut stuff. When I learned how to write, t...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Can you recall specific jokes you killed that you regret?
I can recall many bits. In Bananas, there was a very funny bit when the dictator came to the United States and was on the Cousin Brucie show. We cut that because I just didn’t have the nerve. There was a wonderful bit in Bananas too where the guys...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Afraid of overstaying your welcome with audiences with an overly long film?
Sometimes it didn’t even get to that. Once you’ve tested it, if they laugh they laugh; if they didn’t then you could always throw it away. There is a number of funny things that I never even tested with audience because I didn’t have the nerve to ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Are you a ruthless executioner of lines you loved when you wrote them on the page?
Ruthless. I think probably over the years I’ve been too ruthless, mainly because I’m anxiety-ridden. I’ve cut jokes and bits out of movies that would have played just great, if only I had had the nerve to leave them in. I regret having cut differe...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Like?
You need to make a character less likable or more likable or a relationship more believable. Maybe you add a music track or narration. Or certain things aren’t coherent in that version that’s two hours and ten minutes long. By the time you’re done...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What are the advantages compelling you to try it for the first time?
They seem minimal. It’s all the after-stuff of not having to cut celluloid, but digital is really not cheaper and it’s not faster. It’s just that that’s the way everything has moved and it looks pretty. I see digital shot by good cameramen that is...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Purists like Scorsese and Tarantino are dedicated to preserving film. You?
I have no strong feeling on it. I’m happy to go whichever way everyone is. Digital looks very good to me if it’s done well. Film always looks great if it’s done well. I’ve never shot anything in digital, but I think I will shoot my next film digit...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
How long is it from depression to finished film?
It used to take a long time, when we worked with celluloid. Now with the Avid I can edit a film in seven to eight days and it is no big deal.
What is this place?
 A bridge club years ago that we took over and made into a screening room with a projector, to screen films recreationally. I found it a great place to work. So we edit in the other room, and come in here and look at it. Then we become depressed, ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Given its setting, I would expect the French audience will be enthusiastic about the movie.
I hope they receive it with the spirit that I did it in. I certainly have an enormous amount of affection for Paris. And the French have always supported me from my first film Take the Money and Run on. Now that I finally got a chance to do a film...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Do you know if the Sarkozys will be attending?
I don’t know. I really have no idea. I think if their schedule permits, either he or she or both of them will come. But you never know with them, because they have more important things to do.
Having already been through opening night at Cannes once before, what are you anticipating?
 It’s always an unreal experience. If  you’ve ever seen it up close, there are a million flashbulbs going off in your face. People clap when you walk in to take your seat. You have to sit through the movie, that’s the worst part. And after the mov...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You did shoot a bit in Paris before when you filmed Everyone Says I Love You. How did you decide on locations for this movie. Did you avoid settings you used before?
I tried to let the art director go and find as much of Paris as she could for me, because I had only filmed there in a very limited way in the past. I used a couple of the places that I had filmed at before, because they are irresistible — it woul...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Did you realize when you cast her, she’d be a magnet for the paparazzi?
We have that all the time, whenever we are working in the street. When I was working in England with Scarlett Johansson, the tabloids were all over the place. When I was working in Barcelona with Javier and Penelope, the tabloids were out en masse...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What led to your casting Carla Bruni?
With Carla, my wife and I were having brunch with the Sarkozkys about a year and a half ago. I had never met them before. He was very charming, very nice, and then she walked into the room. She was so beautiful, so charming and charismatic, I said...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Is that unusual for you, to rewrite a character to suit an actor?
That does happen, and I’m happy to do it if I can get an actor like Owen, who is a strong person to play something. Then I am perfectly willing to rewrite a character if I can rewrite it. Of course, there are some characters that you could never c...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
The movie has a very eclectic cast — how did it fall into place?
I was certain I wanted Rachel McAdams. I knew that. She had always been what I conceived of for her part. The lead was a more East Coast character in the original script (casting director) Juliet Taylor suggested Owen Wilson. I had always been a f...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
The trailer hints that while visiting Paris, Owen Wilson’s character somehow finds himself back in the Paris of the ‘20s?
I can’t talk about the plot of the movie, but I can tell you I tried to develop the most romantic story I could for Paris, because that’s all that came to mind to me. If someone had said to me make a film about Berlin, I would have thought of a sp...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Did you come up with a screenplay set in Paris, or did you decide to film in Paris and then come up with a screenplay? Which came first?
It was suggested I do a film in Paris. This goes back about five years now. Of course, it was something I wanted very much to do because I love Paris, but I didn’t have any ideas for Paris off the top of my head. So I thought about Paris, I though...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free