9:30 p.m., July 2, 2022
He gave us an appointment in the offices of his editing room. This Monday, June 20 in the morning, we arrive at the entrance of a plush building on Park Avenue, a stone’s throw from Central Park. At the reception, the doorman wants to escort us himself to the Manhattan Film Center of Mr. Woody Allen. You have to go to the end of the luxurious marble hall and don’t miss the small corridor on the right leading to an all-white door without any inscription. Who discovers a second, this time displaying a beautiful all-wood frame. Inside, the assistant director of Annie Hall (1977) welcomes us with a big smile. “Mr. Allen is very happy that you have come from Paris to meet him. It’s been pretty quiet since the pandemic, so he enjoys seeing people again. »
On the walls, posters of the director’s classics with four Oscars; on the shelves, art books, old film magazines, a few tin boxes containing film. And on a soft couch, Woody Allen ready to confide. At 86, the hair is still white, the silhouette has shrunk a little, but the spirit is sharp and the responses are still tit for tat. Even if it is sometimes necessary, badly connected sonotone obliges, to ask the questions to the one whose new film we will finally discover, Rifkin’s FestivalJuly 13: the story of an old film teacher who follows his press attaché wife to the San Sebastián festival because he suspects her of having an affair with a young French director…
How are you doing after these two years of pandemic?
My wife [Soon-Yi Previn] and I were lucky not to catch the Covid. When I walk in the street, I am very careful: I change sidewalks as soon as there are too many people. But the confinement did not change much in my routine: I who like to spend time at home, I had an excellent excuse to stay hanging out between my bed and my desk. As I was not seeing anyone, I wrote more than usual: I worked on film projects, plays and a book gathering humorous short stories published in the New Yorker, plus a few other unpublished ones: Zero Gravity , which has just been released in the United States. It amused me a lot because they are little stories whose life stops as soon as they are printed. Nothing to do with a scenario where the trouble begins once it is completed! We have to go out and find funding. This is the hardest part of this job.
Is this even more the case today?
This has been my main problem throughout my career. I had a hard time raising $1 million, which wasn’t much, for Take the sorrel and shoot yourself! . It has never changed since. So when Spanish producers offered me money to shoot in their country, I immediately said yes. As the filming was supposed to start in the summer, I thought back to the San Sebastián film festival, where the heat is less stifling, and I decided to make it the setting for Rifkin’s Festival.
The film of your dreams, without budget limit, what would it be?
I would like, just once, to have enough money not to have to make compromises, give up extra days of filming or settle for a team of 20 people when I would need 50… often happened to write off my director’s salary to replenish the coffers! This is what would make me happy: when I ask 10 million dollars for a film, that I am not asked to do it for only 9 million…
With the accusations of rape of your adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, did you fear that you would no longer be able to film?
I am an author and no one can prevent me from writing, and therefore from working. It is the guarantee of my freedom and my independence.
Some artists like Timothée Chalamet have said they regret having acted in your films. Are you worried about not attracting the stars anymore?
I’ve heard so many actors tell me: “I would do anything to work with you. »But often, when I called them to offer them a role, they found that I didn’t pay them enough and they couldn’t fit me into their schedule. It’s pure mythology that I could afford All-Hollywood. I never managed to convince actors as talented as Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt…
In Rifkin’s Festivalyou have fun revisiting some great films that have marked the history of cinema.
It is my tribute to the masterpieces of the great European masters that made me want to do this job. It is not nothing to take the time of a few minutes for Godard, Fellini or Bergman! On this subject, I have a moved thought for Jean-Louis Trintignant, this immense actor who has just left us and who embodied this golden age with so much elegance.
Why is this film shot in 2019 released so late and not worldwide?
He was a victim of the pandemic! It was released in Spain and five days later the cinemas closed. Same in Italy… In the United States, it remained in theaters for two weeks before ending up on a streaming platform. And again, I was made to understand that I had been given a favor! People from the studios now explain that promoting a film costs too much, that more and more cinemas are going out of business… Attendance has been falling for a while and the Covid has only pushed the last nail in the coffin! I don’t want to continue working in such an atmosphere.
I’m part of a generation for whom going out to see a movie was a great moment.
You can’t imagine directing for Netflix or Amazon like many of your colleagues?
I can’t resolve it. I’m part of a generation for whom going out to see a film was a great moment: we were happy to get dressed, to share emotions with hundreds of people in the dark, and then go and chat over a drink. or a good dinner. It was no small thing to live a collective experience with 6,000 spectators at Radio City Music Hall in New York! Today, a cinema ticket is expensive and people prefer to spend 10 dollars in a subscription to a platform to watch a movie with family or friends. Especially when it’s raining and it’s cold outside… Can we blame them for choosing the comfort of their sofa? We can resist, but at some point we won’t be able to fight anymore. When that happens, I’ll start writing for the theatre. So I’m going to take full advantage of my next shoot, scheduled for this fall. It may be the last!
Where will it take place?
Your house ! I’m moving to Paris in September, for a two-year-old project postponed because of the Covid. This will be my 50th feature film. I found the financing in the United States, but the cast is entirely French and the film will be played in your language. I have already chosen the main actors. The story will be in the vein of Match Point: a sort of amorous and poisonous thriller. I have excellent memories of the filming of Minuit à Paris, in 2010. I really like this city and I came often, discovering magical places each time. My daughter Manzie Tio is currently in Paris for the filming of the new season of the series Emily in Paris [sur Netflix].
She will assist you?
She’s way too busy! Unlike her nerdy father, she prefers to work for television: for the new generation, that’s where it all happens. What interests her is not writing, but taking part in the adventure of filming by acting as production or directing assistants. I am very proud of her.
Did you start consuming series too?
Never ! I watch the news, I have dinner, and afterwards I settle down in front of broadcasts of American football, basketball or baseball matches. It’s the only thing that interests me on television.
Do you continue to play the clarinet?
Sure ! And I had plenty of time to practice at home for the past two years. I do my exercises on my treadmill and, once my old carcass is warm, I grab my instrument. I’m sad that I couldn’t rehearse with my band. I don’t even know if we’ll be able to meet again: our bandleader, Eddy Davis, who played the banjo, tragically died of Covid, and the small concert hall of the Carlyle Hotel, where we used to we happen, hasn’t reopened yet.
Read also – Woody Allen: “I’ve never made a great movie”
The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, climate change… Are you worried about the future?
How not to be ? Our planet is not at its best. I believe that it is partly the fault of the United States, which has not shown real leadership: internationally by losing interest in NATO, but also in our country with Democrats and Republicans who have become particularly aggressive towards each other… The human race is what it is: a species full of faults that never learns from its mistakes. The world would be much better off if there were only birds, deer, or even crocodiles on earth.
Does death scare you?
I don’t like getting old and feeling that my body is giving up on me: I have to wear hearing aids which irritate me, my sight isn’t as good anymore… But I’m not anxious about leaving this world . Albert Einstein said you only live once and that’s enough. I agree with him.
Do you have any regrets?
My life is an endless series of regrets! Of not having finished my studies, of having made more different films, of not having insisted more with certain women with whom I was in love and of having shown myself too enterprising towards others… Of not having received more roles as an actor too. I read that Stanley Kubrick wanted me to play inEyes Wide Shutbut he never sent me anything.
What title would you give to the film of your life?
“Portrait of a boring man”. People think I’m like my stories: funny, interesting, sparkling… But when they meet me, they’re often disappointed by my banality. Even my shrink told me that my analysis was nothing special!
What would you say to God if you met him?
” You are fired ! “I’m very angry with him right now.