Woody Allen Meets A Tall Dark Stranger

Woody Allen Talks About His Latest Film

Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Woody Allen’s latest film “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” starring an ensemble that includes Gemma Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, and Josh Brolin, opens in U.S. theaters tomorrow,  September 22nd.

On September 8th,  Kultur Kritic excitedly attended a press screening of the film.  “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is another poignant mixture of angst, uncertainty, and delusion.  In this latest installment, Alfie (Hopkins) leaves his wife of forty years, Helena (Jones) to marry a twenty-something call girl, Charmaine (Punch).  Helena copes by turning to the services of a charlatan psychic (Cristal), while her daughter Sally (Watts)  struggles in her own rocky marriage to a floundering writer,  Roy (Brolin).  Both develop feelings outside of their marriage, Sally for her boss Greg (Antonio Banderas) and Roy for his neighbor Dia (Freida Pinto). What ensues is the usual brand of quippery, fun and drama.

On September 14, 2010, a press conference was held at the New York Regency Hotel to promote the film.  Woody Allen, Josh Brolin, Gemma Jones, and Lucy Punch were in attendance.  Kultur Kritik was there to cover the real life quippery, fun and drama of the event.

11:00 AM – Kultur Kritik arrived at the New York Regency Hotel.  While there was some food available,  the continental breakfast unfortunately didn’t include pigs in a blanket (Kultur Kritik’s favorite) so he helped himself to a complimentary glass of orange juice.

11:15 AM – Kultur Kritik’s kamera wasn’t suitable for the low light, so he drew the dais as best he could…

11:30 AM – Woody Allen, Josh Brolin, Gemma Jones, and Lucy Punch arrived.  After a few camera flashes, and a mad scramble for reporters to get their voice recorders onto the dais, the questions began.

When someone asked what makes a romantic comedy a classic, Brolin quipped “Sounds like a Woody question.”  Unfortunately that was one of the few responses we would hear from Brolin due to the fact that Woody was asked about 95% of the questions, which covered the theme of the film, his use of locations, working with actors, etc .

For the fifth time in as many years, Woody shot the film (which he refers to in old school lingo as a “picture”) outside of New York City, choosing to shoot in London. The only major problem he had with the film, Allen said, was that the title “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” didn’t translate well for the European countries since they didn’t recognize the generic “tall dark stranger-type” character.  In Russia, he added, the closest thing would be the Grim Reaper, who is represented as a female.

Someone asked about his sense of nihilism.  If there is nothing to believe in, why make films?  Allen responded that, if he retired, he would spend much of his time thinking about the purpose of life, “What if loved ones perished,” etc. and who would want to think of that?  He would much rather think about casting and filming a project.  If you’re wrong, he said, you have a bad movie, but you don’t die.

The lack of questions to Brolin, Jones, and Punch should in no way reflect on their contributions and performances in the film.  Each of them created deep, nuanced characters with minimal input from Allen, who prefers not to speak with his actors about their roles prior to shooting.  He prefers to trust them to do their job.  As he put it, he wrote the characters, but they brought them to life.  Their individual characters each had their own roller coaster ride of despair, (false) hope, (supposed) triumph, and finally uncertainty.

When Brolin was finally asked a question about the acting process in a Woody Allen film, he looked at Woody and quipped: “Do you want someone to talk other than you?”  Brolin explained he is the type of actor that that prefers dialogue with the director, and tries to create as much havoc with his character in order to strip it down and simplify.  He enjoyed the process of working with Allen, and as nihilistic as Woody is, Brolin said, he’s practical and doesn’t accept falsity.  There are no power struggles, etc.  It feels blue collar.

Lucy Punch ended the press conference with a story about how she’d been out of work for a year and her confidence had waned.  Her mother started looking into other careers for her, including podiatry.  She had never fought for a part more, and getting the part and creating the role of Lucy has transformed her life.  Allen ended the press conference with: “Podiatry has lost a great, great woman!”

11:45 – The press conference ended.  Kulture Kritik left with a complimentary bottle of water.