Capone Interviews Woody Allen About CASSANDRA’S DREAM!
Published at: Jan. 20, 2008, 8:40 p.m. CST by Moriarty
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
How do you even begin to talk about the works of Woody Allen? For decades, the man has made the world laugh as a stand-up comic, playwright, author, actor, and, of course, as a writer and director of some of my favorite films of all time. I'm not going to sit here and list Allen's filmography; That's easy enough to look up. And if you love movies, you probably have most of the titles committed to memory. It goes without saying that when you have the sheer volume of works that Allen does (he has, without fail, put out about a movie per year for his entire career as a filmmaker), there are bound to be some that don't quite hold up; there might also be a small number of downright clunkers. But the bulk of his work remains solid, especially in the last couple of years (and, yes, I'm leaving out SCOOP), with such works as MELINDA AND MELINDA, MATCH POINT, and his latest, CASSNDRA'S DREAM, another UK-based crime drama about two brothers (Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor) who are desperate for cash. When their rich uncle (Tom Wilkinson) answers their prayers for money, they seem thrilled until they realize that all they have to do to earn it is commit murder. CASSANDRA'S DREAM is a classic morality play from Allen, and if all of his non-comedies are as strong as this and MATCH POINT, I wouldn't shed a single tear if he never made another funny movie again.
I've literally been circling around trying to get an interview with someone on this film since I saw it more than a month ago. First, I went after the actors--Farrell, McGregor, or Wilkinson--but none of them were doing press for this film, at least not internet press. For a while it looked like I'd be talking to a relatively new actress, Hayley Atwell, who plays McGregor's stunning actress girlfriend in the film, but that didn't work out either. Since Allen so infrequently does interviews, the idea of talking to him hardly crossed my mind. I think I may have mentioned his name in early conversations, but I figured he was the least likely interview subject and didn't bring it up again. So when his name was floated to me almost matter-of-factly, I nearly soiled myself. The whole time the day and time of the interview was being worked out, I kept assuming it wouldn't happen, that he would pull out. As few interviews as Allen gives in any given year, I don't think I've ever read one that he's given a geek-fueled and -focused site like AICN. But when his assistant called me Thursday afternoon ready to connect me with Woody, it finally hit me that this was happening.
For someone that doesn't do many interviews, Allen always comes off in print and on television as someone very comfortable answering questions. He's always seems very honest and open about anything, and willing to analyze and discuss his films and influences. We had very little time together--only 15 minutes--and I probably had about an hour's worth of questions for the man. How do you cover the career of a man like Woody Allen in 15 minutes? Quite simply, you don't even try. I tried to focus more on where he is now, working abroad, writing drama, things he seems exceedingly interested in today. He actually has another film coming out this year, and if I get a shot at speaking to him again, maybe I'll venture into his history a bit. I know nothing would be more thrilling for me. Anyway, enough with the preamble. Here's Woody…
Woody Allen: Hello?
Capone: Hi, Woody. How are you?
WA: Good, good.
Capone: First off, thank you so much for doing this.
WA: Oh, sure.
Capone: This wasn't originally going to be my first question, but as a part of a web-based outlet, do you do much internet surfing on a regular basis.
WA: To tell you the honest truth, I myself do not have computer (laughs). I have no idea how they work, and I've never done anything in my life on the internet.
Capone: Well, you're probably better off that way.
WA: I'm just not good at that kind of thing. It's not that I have a philosophy against it. I'm just not good at any kind of gadget or mechanical thing. I just don't take to them.
Capone: Well allow me to give you the opportunity to confirm or deny an internet rumor that just popped up about you this week. Is it true that you are doing a short film for a sort of PARIS, JE T'AIME-style anthology about New York?
WA: I know that appeared in the papers this week. It's a complete and total fabrication [laughs]. I have no idea who made up the story, or why, but it has nothing to do with me whatsoever, nothing I ever contemplated, nothing.
Capone: Okay, we'll get right on stopping that particular rumor mill.
WA: Thank you.
Capone: With your more recent works, people have been focusing a lot on your change of venue to Great Britain, but I've also noticed there's a higher body count and the guilt-ridden upheaval that seems to follow a crime. How long have you had these kinds of stories in you? And what's taken them so long to come out?
WA: Even me comedies, right from the start, people used to say they had a sad underbelly, they had a tragic feeling to them and they were never out-and-out broad comedies, that they had elements of unhappy love, unresolved love, unfulfilled love in the end. As far back as CRIMES AND MISDEMEANSORS, ideas occurred to me that were suspenseful and crime-ridden and tense, and I wanted to make them into a story. And they always seemed to carry with them some sort of moral issues as well. So I did it with CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS; I did it again with MATCH POINT and again with CASSANDRA'S DREAM.
Capone: Even as far back as CRIMES AND MISDEMENASORS, it's sometimes tough to tell whether you hold some sort of admiration for these people who get away, literally, with murder, or whether you condemn them. Or maybe you just stay out of decision.
WA: I hope it's not hard to tell. I shouldn't be hard to tell. I don't know why it would be. I'm just depicting life as it is. In real life, people are committing crimes all the time, on a sleazy street level, on a blue-collar level, on a drug level, on a government level, everything from genocide to torture. And people get away with it. If you have no moral conscience and you're willing to do horrible things, you're not going to get stopped or punished by some heaven or hell or afterlife. You're going to have to stop yourself. The only morality we have is self-imposed. So I've depicted that in each of these films, and there are people--as in CASSANDRA'S DREAM--can commit crimes and have no moral conscience about it, and there are people who can't.
Capone: I'd imagine that the success of MATCH POINT was freeing to you as a storyteller. Was that the case?
WA: I was gratified by it; I was glad it was so well received. I felt, you know, I've always had to fight the thing of people saying “Well, he's a comedy director.” And they always expect me to do comedies, so I wanted it to be clear. I thought it was clear from CRIMES AND MISDEMEANSORS, but I wanted it to be really clear that I occasionally would make films that were not funny, and they could be enjoyable too if they were suspenseful and interesting and gripping.
Capone: I think people might link MATCH POINT and CASSANDRA'S DREAM as two sides of the same moral coin. Without giving away the ending, one could almost make the argument that the new film is an apologist's take on the ending of MATCH POINT and the fate of the murderer. Do you see it that way?
WA: Quite the opposite. First of all, I don't think anyone could logically develop the notion that they are two sides of the same coin. They have nothing to do with one another. One had to do was strictly about the role of luck in life; the other had to do with making a moral choice and how far one would go in life to rationalize the moral choice. The truth of the matter is at the end of CASSANDRA'S DREAM, the most evil character in the story--the uncle—triumphs completely. He gets everything he wants with no problem at all. There would be no reason to apologize for MATCH POINT because the point made with it is a true one. Luck plays an enormous part in life, and some people get away with terrible things because of luck. And at the end of CASSANDRA'S DREAM, in the same way, the worst character in the movie pays no penalty for what he's instigated.
Capone: That is true. Are you through with comedies for the time being?
WA: No, no. Not at all. I'm starting to shoot a broad comedy in about six or eight weeks.
Capone: Your schedule is remarkable, because I know you already have a finished film in the can ready to come out later this year.
WA: Yes, a romance in Barcelona this summer with Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Scarlett Johansson.
Capone: That's right, and I spoke with Javier recently, and we talked about your film. And it's funny because he said that he wasn't sure whether it was a comedy or a drama, and that it all depended on how you editing it. I've heard that about a few of your older films, that you are able to change them tonally in the editing room. Is that true?
WA: To some degree, that is true. And Javier is correct there. You could put this film together to emphasize the comedy or the drama, but basically it's a romance and it remains a romance. It's hard to explain. It's a dramatic film, but there are laughs in it and a lot of romance in it. It's a much, much lighter film than CASSANDRA'S DREAM. On the other hand, the one that I'm starting in New York is a very broad one and could not be mistaken for a drama in any way.
Capone: What can you tell me about casting on that film?
WA: I haven't cast it yet; I'm just beginning to cast it now.
Capone: Since we're talking about comedy, what do you think of the current comedic landscape, with Borat and Judd Apatow essentially leading the pack in the last couple of years?
WA: To be honest, with regards to specific films, I do find Sacha Baron Cohen funny. I find him a talented, funny guy. I probably didn't see the other films you're referring to. I'm guessing you're talking about teenage films.
Capone: Not really. I'm talking about movies like THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP.
WA: See, I didn't see them.
[At this point, Woody's assistant comes onto the call to tell us we have to finish soon.]
Capone: I've noticed in your last few films, you seem to focus on the lives of characters much younger than yourself.
WA: That's everybody! [laughs] I gradually got to be, through no fault of my own, 72. So all of the sudden, I'm writing about younger people because that's most of the population.
Capone: Fair enough. I was thinking that it was because younger people's emotions and lives are still in flux.
WA: I'm not going to do a lot of films about 72-year-old people because the basic heroes and heroines of movies, you do want to see young people meeting and falling in love and getting into trouble at a younger age. That's just a natural thing.
Capone: You are still releasing about a film a year at this point. How much longer do you think you can keep that pace up? It's a pace that puts directors a third your age to shame. Are you still enjoying the process?
WA: Oh yeah. It's not as hard as it sounds. It's not as strenuous as it sounds, as long as people back the film. The hardest part of any film is getting the money for it. Writing, coming up with stories, and making films are not the hard parts. Raising the money is the hard part. And as long as they put the money up and my health holds out, I guess I'll just keep making films.
Capone: That's the best news I'm going to hear all day. And thank you for putting some of the most beautiful actresses in your films. I can always count on you to do that.
WA: [laughs] My own personal treat. Wait until you see Penelope and Scarlett together.
Capone: I can't wait. I think Scarlett has really shown her greatest range through the films she's made with you.
WA: She's fabulous in this romance with Penelope. You'll love it, you'll see.