Never say never because Woody Allen has arrived in Los Angeles to talk up a film of his for the first time in decades. Movie Fanatic was there as the legendary filmmaker sat down with us and gave insight about his latest, To Rome with Love. The film follows several intersecting stories about relationships and friendships, all set to the beautiful background of the Italian capital. In our chat, Allen surprises when he gets quite personal and admits that there is not a film on his resume that he is proud he made. Seems the filmmaker is a perfectionist and he has been chasing perfection since his first film in the 1960s. Would you believe he is not a fan of Annie Hall... his iconic classic?
Movie Fanatic: There are elements of the film that deal with fame and its cost and benefits. Was that your intention?
Woody Allen: The fact that some of the film deals with that theme is post facto. I thought, “It’s a funny idea that the guy sings in the shower and becomes famous. It’s a funny idea that a guy wakes up one day and suddenly he is famous and doesn’t really know why.” I’d never thought of any thematic connection, in any way. That’s all just an accident. It may have been something that was on my unconscious, at the time, and it came out in some strange way.
Movie Fanatic: How do you see fame as you look back on your life?
Woody Allen: I, myself, feel about fame the way the chauffeur talks about it in the movie: Life is tough, whether you’re famous or whether you’re not famous. In the end, it’s probably, of those two choices, better to be famous ‘cause the perks are better. You get better seats at the basketball game and you get better tables and reservations at places. If I call a doctor on Saturday morning, I can get him. I’m not saying it’s fair. It’s kind of disgusting. But, I can’t say that I don’t enjoy it. There are drawbacks to being famous, too, but you can live with those. They’re not life-threatening. The bad stuff is greatly outweighed by the dinner reservations.
Movie Fanatic: [Laughs] We haven’t seen you act in one of your films in quite a while. Why To Rome with Love?
Woody Allen: Only because there was a part for me. When I write a script, if there is a part for me, then I play it. 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. Now, I’m older and I’m reduced to playing the backstage doorman or the uncle, or something, and I don’t really love that.
Movie Fanatic: Of all the films in your astounding career, does the making of any one of them stand out? Perhaps the surprise success of Midnight in Paris?
Woody Allen: When you make the film, it’s like a chef who works on the meal. After you’re working all day in the kitchen, dicing and cutting and putting the sauces on, you don’t want to eat it. That’s how I always feel about the films. When I begin a film, I always think that I’m going to make Citizen Kane. Then, when I see what I’ve done afterward, I pray that it’s not an embarrassment to me. I’ve never been satisfied or even pleased with a film that I’ve done. I make them, but I’ve never looked at one after. I made my first film in 1968, and I’ve never seen it since. I just cringe when I see them. There’s such a difference between the idealized film in your mind and what you wind up with that you’re never happy and you’re never satisfied. For me, I’ve never liked any of my films. I’m always thankful that the audience has liked some of them, in spite of my disappointment.
Movie Fanatic: You even feel that way about Annie Hall?
Woody Allen: When Annie Hall started out, that film was not supposed to be what I wound up with. The film was supposed to be what happens in a guy’s mind, and you were supposed to see a stream of consciousness that was mine. I did the film and it was completely incoherent. Nobody understood anything that went on. The relationship between myself and Diane Keaton was all anyone cared about. That was not what I cared about. I had to reduce the film to just me and Diane Keaton, and that relationship, so I was quite disappointed in that movie.
Movie Fanatic: Your films deal so well with the intricacies of relationships. What have you learned about love over the decades?
Woody Allen: When it comes to the important things in life, you never learn anything. You make a fool of yourself when you’re 20. You make a fool of yourself at 40, at 60 and at 80. The ancient Greeks were dealing with these problems. They screwed up all the time and people do now. All over the world, relationships between men and women are very, very tricky and very difficult. You’re always going by instinct and your instinct betrays you because you want what you want, when you want it. I have years and years of failure. I have nothing to say. I have no wisdom.