“I’m a total romantic!”

Woody Allen

Interview

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Still making movie after movie at 80, tireless author and director Woody Allen talks about his latest project, Café Society, about places yet to be visited, nostalgia and the gratification of working with excellent professionals

Mr. Allen, do you like to travel?

Strictly speaking, no. I get crazy on a plane because I don’t have the attention span to sit out long-distance flights. That’s a problem for me and I have a big conflict with my wife over it.

Because she loves flying?

Yes, and she is dying to get me to go all over Asia – to China, Japan and to Seoul, where she comes from. I have slithered out of that all the time. It’s a long trip.

As a filmmaker, you’re a globetrotter. You’ve shot in England, France, Spain and Italy. So has travel no appeal at all?

I am very ritualistic, but my wife is always trying to get me to try out new things,visit new places. There are places that I like very much, where I would enjoy going to for several months to live and make a film. For years, I’ve had a very romanticized view of Europe. Americans think that Europe is a mysterious, culturally and sexually advanced place that will change them forever.

And is that so?

Perhaps not. But I believe it, because it was always borne out to me through the European films I saw as a young man. They were more original, more confrontational and more sexually uncensored than what came out of the USA. I still believe it. If it’s not true, I don’t want to hear because I am a total romantic.

What is your next dream location?

Stockholm is one of those places that would be livable for me. I could imagine going there for several months to live. The problem is that I need a story that would be specific to the place. If I could come up with an idea, I would be very grateful. Sure, I could come up with a story and say ‘Let’s not do it in New York or Paris, but it could be in any place.’ But it would be nice to have an idea with a meaningful reason for being in Stockholm instead of just setting a film there. I like the challenge of coming up with something.

Woody Allen Skytalk Interview Lufthansa Magazin November 2016

Great romance: Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Café Society

© Sabrina Lantos, Gravier Productions, Inc.

You’re not just a romantic, you’re also a nostalgic. Your new film, Café Society,pays tribute to the glamorous mood of Hollywood and New York in the 30s …

Nostalgia is a trap. Life is very tough, so you always want to be someplace else,a different time. We tend to glorify specific times, but in reality they were not so wonderful. There were incurable diseases. I don’t think you would want to stay, because you would lose out on a vast amount of things you take for granted.

Are trips to beautiful places a way of escaping brutal reality?

Yes and no. When you are in a beautiful place, you get struck by the poignancy of life – you look and see: My god, the beach and the people and the palm trees and the flowers, they are so beautiful. Someone else with a different personality might think: Life is just great. But I don’t. I think: It’s so sad. You enjoy this briefly, and then it’s over. You pass through life once quickly, most people with a lot of sorrow and obstacles and heartache. Mine is always the half-empty glass.

For me, movies are a way to escape from life, from problems

Let’s talk about something fun – making films. Why, at 80, are you still making film after film?

Most of my time is spent writing. But a script without a film makes no sense. When I did my first movie, What’s New Pussycat, I did the script and they made such a terrible job of it. I said to myself: I’m never going to work on movies again unless I can direct. Films are a great escape. When I was a little boy I used to go to the movies to escape from life, from school, from problems. I went to see Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, and I escaped. Now I escape to the other side of the camera. My friends go to their offices or their difficult jobs, and I work with costumes and music and beautiful people.

Woody Allen Skytalk Interview Lufthansa Magazin November 2016

A 1969 portrait of the young Woody Allen by famous photographer Philippe Halsman

© Philippe Halsman/Magnum Photos/Agentur Fotos

So isn’t it hard work directing a film?

It’s one movie a year. A school teacher teaches 800 classes a year, a doctor treats 10,000 patients a year. To make a movie a year is not that difficult. Someone who tells you it is so is making them- selves more important.

Or do you make things easy for yourself? Rumor has it you do not give your actors directions.

I hire great people. They come in and they have all done their homework. Only if they make a mistake, then I correct them. Ninety percent of what I say to actors is, ‘Could you do more?’ Or ‘less theatrical and more realistic.’

But it’s your script. Don’t you have a vision of how you want it spoken?

Sometimes when I am home writing, I know how I want a line to be said. And then they act it and say it completely differently. And their way is much better than what I had in mind.

Do you praise them?

We are professionals. If I am a baseball player, they pay me to get up and hit and play baseball. I don’t need somebody to tell me ‘that’s good’.

So you don’t need praise for your films?

No. I never read reviews. You become so self-conscious, and you think: I’ll write this, because everyone loved it. Or the critics didn‘t like it, I better not do this. No, I write the film, make the film, finish it, put it out and I never watch it again. I have no interest in it. I don’t care. Don’t call.