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Woody Allen: Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen opens up—and slings a few zingers—at the press conference for his latest. Also? He's acting in his next movie...

Midnight in Paris: Owen Wilson, Woody Allen


Woody Allen’s public persona is a bit confusing at times; the prolific American auteur is both notoriously press-shy and yet surprisingly open when he does decide to engage with the media. With a career renaissance that’s been underway for six years now, kicked off by a relocation to European shooting and his best film in ages (Match Point), Allen has slowly started coming out of his shell a bit more as of late.


Such was the case at the press conference for Allen’s latest, Midnight In Paris, his French-set (duh!) ode to romance and fantasy in the City of Light, starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, and some terrific cameos, including one by Mrs. Sarkozy, Carla Bruni. Clearly falling in the fantastic tradition of earlier works such as The Purple Rose of Cairo, the film is more of an adventure than a comedy or drama, a pure romance as few Allen films are.


Midnight in Paris: Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, Woody Allen


At the start of the press conference, at the Regency Hotel on the Upper East Side, it was clear that Allen—whose affect was extremely humble, soft-spoken, articulate and patient, certainly at odds with certain portraits of the filmmaker as nihilistic and depressive—would be packing a few zingers. When asked if he had ever been called a communist, as the film’s screenwriter protagonist is at one point, Allen replied, “No, absolutely not. I’m not a communist—I could never even share a bathroom.”


An interesting question (one yours truly had been about to ask—damn!) was posed regarding Allen’s writing habits. Just what is the process like for this filmmaker, the most prolific American writer/director of the modern era? “My ideas come unpredictably and constantly,” Allen explained. “When I started out I was a television writer, and the shows were on at the end of the week, live. You had to write. You couldn’t just come in and wait for your muse to inspire you. I can still do that—I can get into a room and force myself. It’s no fun, let me tell you, but I can. Usually the ideas come in the course of the year; I write them down and look at them later. Some seem terrible, but others, I realize, are okay.”


Midnight in Paris: Carla Bruni, Owen Wilson


As far as Midnight In Paris went, “For the longest time I just had the title—Midnight In Paris, which I thought was very romantic. But what happened at midnight in Paris? Do two people meet? Are they having an affair? One day it occurred to me that the protagonist would be walking along the street, a car would pull up, people would tell him to get in and take him on an adventure. It was very adventurous and capricious.”


Allen had another zinger when explaining that his scripts are hardly set in stone: “I explain to the actors that they’re absolutely allowed to say things in their own way; they are not bound to every word in the script. If the actor comes home and says something to his wife in his own way, and she responds in her own way, as long as they make it real and exciting, I’m very, very happy—to take credit for it later.”


Midnight in Paris: Michael Sheen, Nina Arianda, Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson


The filmmaker, who’s had quite a varied career (when one considers his absolutely singular perspective on life), got into what created his POV when asked who his own cultural icons were (you have to see the film to get the relevance of the question): “Growing up, my biggest icon was Groucho Marx. And then when I got a little older, Ingmar Bergman. You couldn’t have two more disparate personalities, and that’s what I was doing at the time. It made for an interesting or disconcerting presentation.”


Of course, the inevitable Europe question came up: how does Woody feel about his exile from New York due to financing constraints? While Allen spoke at length (as he has in the past) about how accommodating the European cities he’s been working in are, he did quip, “This summer in Rome [when filming his next movie], I’ll have three months of a hotel shower. I have a great shower at home. It comes down hard and hot. You get into a foreign shower—you know how that is. I like to work at home: my home, my bed, my surrounding pharmaceuticals.”


Midnight in Paris: Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson


Naturally, the big question of Woody’s return to acting—he hasn’t appeared onscreen since his hilarious turn in 2005’s Scoop—was broached at the end of the conference. “The new film stars Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, and myself,” he explained. “It’s a broad comedy of various interwoven tales. I’m in one of them. All of the parts are significant. There just happened to be a part that I could play. I can’t play the love interest anymore, and of course this is tremendously frustrating, because that’s really what I want to play. But that’s not as believable anymore. I have to play Pops, the backstage doorman at the theater or something like that. But in this one there is a part for me.”


Thankful for that, we certainly are—no one delivers Allen’s dialogue quite like he can.


Midnight in Paris opens this Friday, May 20. Find tickets.


Watch the trailer:





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