Recently Woody Allen met with the press in Los Angeles to talk about his newest film, To Rome with Love. This was a press conference style event with a large number of journalists in attendance. These are excerpts from about an hour of discussions.
When you cast another distinct comedian like Robert Benigni how compatible are they with your style of humor?
They don’t have to be. I cast them because they’re perfect for what I’ve written. They don’t have to in any way be compatible with me. I didn’t think Roberto Benigni would be compatible with me. I thought that I would have a difficult time with him, that he would be irrepressible and I would never be able to get his attention, and he’d be running around, he’d be crazy, but in the end it turned out that he was quite intellectual, quite poised and quiet, and a pleasure to work with. It really had nothing to do with my kind of comedy. He just did his role, and it was quite easy actually.
It’s been a long time since we saw you in front of the camera. Why in this particular movie did you decide to be in the film?
There was a part for me. You know, when I write a script, if there’s a part for me I play it. If there’s no part—and as I’ve gotten older the parts have diminished. I liked it when I was younger I could always play the lead in the movie and I could do all the romantic scenes with the women and it was fun and I liked to play that. Now I’m older and I’m reduced to playing the backstage doorman or, you know, the uncle or something. I don’t really love that. So on the occasion when a part comes up I’ll play it.
What was the inspiration for Rome? When did you decide the setting was going to be there and what is it about Rome that appealed to you for the setting for this film?
There are two things. One is that I have been talking about making a film in Rome for years. People in Rome who distribute my films, they always said, “Come and make a film.” And finally they said, “Look. Come and do it. We’ve been talking for a long time. We’ll put up all the money necessary to make the film.” And I jumped at the chance because I wanted to work in Rome, and it was an opportunity to get the money quickly and from a single source.
In addition to being an accomplished filmmaker, you’re also an accomplished musician. Music always plays an important part in your films. Could you talk about the importance of music in your movies?
I’m a great believer in music in movies. It covers a multitude of sins. Now a great director—a really great director, let’s say like Ingmar Bergman—did not believe in music. He thought the use of music in films was barbaric. That was his word. His films are great enough that he doesn’t need any outside help. I need help. I know this from the first film I made in my life, Take the Money and Run. There were scenes in it that were just dying when I looked at them in the cutting room. The editor, Ralph Rosenbloom, said put a piece of music behind it. I was so inexperienced I didn’t even…. He said, “Here, let me put this record on.” And he put a record on and all of a sudden when I was doing something and it was so boring originally, it came to life. Doing it to music just made the whole thing work. Ever since I’ve been a big believer in supporting the action on film with appropriate music. And it’s gotten me out of a lot of jams over the years. So music for me is a very big thing in films and I use it unashamedly. I use all the classics, all the great composers—both classical and tin pan alley. It’s the most pleasurable part of the movie too. When you have a movie and you look at it and it’s ice cold with no music, then you start dropping in a little George Gershwin or Mozart and the thing suddenly becomes lively and magical. It’s a great feeling.