It is promotion time for Woody Allen’s latest immensely entertaining film “To Rome With Love,” and hence the assembled entourage holding a press conference at the Regency Hotel (Tuesday, June 19, 2012). Once again, as has happened repeatedly over the years, cast members expressed their excitement at working with Allen. As Alec Baldwin, heralding Allen as an extraordinary filmmaker, put it, “When he calls you, you go.”
Also present along with Allen were Penélope Cruz, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig and Alessandra Mastronardi. They sat patiently while critics and journalists present directed their questions to Allen, who was, for example, asked why he was getting back to acting by taking a role in the film. In “To Rome With Love” he plays a retired opera director.
“I always liked to act,” he said, “and when I write a script, if there is a part I can play, I do it.” He noted that he had been performing for years and was open to acting in other people’s films, but isn’t often asked.
He was questioned as to whether he could say why “Midnight in Paris” was such a success. Allen said he had no idea why. ”It’s a complete mystery to me,” he asserted, citing other films that he thinks “have the same appeal, or lack of appeal.” The questioner had referred to the film as his greatest success. Allen made the point of saying it was the greatest financial success, apparently meaning that others could have been more artistically successful.
Allen has a way of colorfully describing his moviemaking. He noted, for example, that he always starts out to make the best film that he can, a “Citizen Kane.” “But then you get into the editing room and you realize that you screwed up.” He said the editing process becomes “the floundering of a drowning man.” He described desperately shifting everything around every which way.
He was asked what the most ridiculous question ever posed to him was. He replied that when he does the red carpet thing he is asked: “’Is Scarlett Johansson your muse? Is Penélope Cruz your muse?’” He mocked the very idea of needing a muse, and added that were millions of questions that are “really, really stupid.”
With respect to getting ideas for his films, he said he liked to write down little notes that occur to him and at the end of a year he looks at them and maybe one suggests an idea for a film.
When cast members finally got their turn, they were uniformly complimentary to Allen, who at one pint said, “You are embarrassing me.” Baldwin said that even lesser Allen films were better than most films of others.
Penélope Cruz not only said how much she enjoyed working with Allen, whom she called “fascinating,” but noted that being in a film had another plus. “I’m lucky to get to spend time with him.”
Ellen Page, joining in the praise for Allen, remarked that she enjoyed he opportunity to be in “To Rome With Love,” because the experience “was different from what I had done.”
Greta Gerwig talked about the influence Wood Allen’s movies have had on her, noting that she lives in New York as a result of seeing his films. She stressed, “I wouldn’t be an actress if it weren’t for his movies.”
Alessandra Mastronardi lauded the process of working with Allen: “After the first day you really feel that he trusts you, and you are free to do everything you want.”
The bull often flows freely at press conferences, but in this case one gleaned the impression that these cast members really meant what they said. It is not surprising, given Allen’s directorial reputation and the way so many actors and actresses are eager to work on his films for less money than they might earn elsewhere. “To Rome With Love” shows once again that they have good judgment.