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Woody Allen Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (22) | Trivia (83) | Personal Quotes (159) | Salary (4)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 1 December 1935Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Birth NameAllan Stewart Konigsberg
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Woody Allen was born on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, to Nettie (Cherrie), a bookkeeper, and Martin Konigsberg, a waiter and jewelry engraver. His father was of Russian Jewish and Lithuanian Jewish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Austrian Jewish immigrants. As a young boy, he became intrigued with magic tricks and playing the clarinet, two hobbies that he continues today.

Allen broke into show business at 15 years when he started writing jokes for a local paper, receiving $200 a week. He later moved on to write jokes for talk shows but felt that his jokes were being wasted. His agents, Charles Joffe and Jack Rollins, convinced him to start doing stand-up and telling his own jokes. Reluctantly he agreed and, although he initially performed with such fear of the audience that he would cover his ears when they applauded his jokes, he eventually became very successful at stand-up. After performing on stage for a few years, he was approached to write a script for Warren Beatty to star in: What's New Pussycat (1965) and would also have a moderate role as a character in the film. During production, Woody gave himself more and better lines and left Beatty with less compelling dialogue. Beatty inevitably quit the project and was replaced by Peter Sellers, who demanded all the best lines and more screen-time.

It was from this experience that Woody realized that he could not work on a film without complete control over its production. Woody's theoretical directorial debut was in What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966); a Japanese spy flick that he dubbed over with his own comedic dialogue about spies searching for the secret recipe for egg salad. His real directorial debut came the next year in the mockumentary "Take the Money and Run." He has written, directed and, more often than not, starred in about a film a year ever since, while simultaneously writing more than a dozen plays and several books of comedy.

While best known for his romantic comedies Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979), Woody has made many transitions in his films throughout the years, transitioning from his "early, funny ones" of "Bananas," "Love and Death" and "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask;" to his more storied and romantic comedies of "Annie Hall," "Manhattan" and "Hannah and Her Sisters;" to the Bergmanesque films of "Stardust Memories" and "Interiors;" and then on to the more recent, but varied works of "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Husbands and Wives," "Mighty Aphrodite," "Celebrity" and "Deconstructing Harry;" and finally to his film of the last decade, which vary from the light comedy of "Scoop," to the self-destructive darkness of "Match Point" and, most recently, to the cinematically beautiful tale of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." Although his stories and style have changed over the years, he is regarded as one of the best filmmakers of our time because of his views on art and his mastery of filmmaking.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: David McCollum and Michael Castrignano

Spouse (3)

Soon-Yi Previn (22 December 1997 - present) (2 children)
Louise Lasser (2 February 1966 - 1970) (divorced)
Harlene Susan Rosen (15 March 1956 - 1962) (divorced)

Trade Mark (22)

Frequently plays a neurotic New Yorker
Frequently casts himself, Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow
Frequently casts Judy Davis. and Scarlett Johansson,
A lot of his movies feature at least one character who is a writer. This is often Woody himself.
Nearly all of his films start and end with white-on-black credits, set in the Windsor typeface, set to jazz music, without any scrolling.
Films his dialog using long, medium-range shots instead of the typical intercut close-ups
His films are almost all set in New York City
His characters (that he plays himself) are often a semi-famous, semi-successful film/tv writer, director, or producer... or a novelist
His thick black glasses, the same type since the 1960s
From Stardust Memories (1980) through Melinda and Melinda (2004), frequently and almost exclusively employs Dick Hyman to contribute musical arrangements, incidental music, and piano accompaniment.
From Sleeper (1973) until Cassandra's Dream (2008), almost never has his movies scored, preferring to use selections from his vast personal record collection.
Billing his actors alphabetically on opening credits
His films often include opening Narration or the protagonist talking directly to the audience
His female characters are often free spirited but naive and often come from small town backgrounds
References to famous writers and literary classics
References to classic Films, particularly the works of Ingmar Bergman
Brooklyn Accent
Stumbling and nervous delivery
Often bases films on his own life experiences
His unchanging nebbish persona
Short stature
Reddish hair

Trivia (83)

His adopted daughter Bechet Dumaine, named after Sidney Bechet, was born in December 1998.
Ranked #43 in Empire (UK) magazine's Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time list (October 1997).
Speaks French.
Refuses to watch any of his movies once released.
He and former lover Mia Farrow had three children: Moses Farrow (adopted son, aka Misha), Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow (adopted daughter, aka Mallone), and Satchel Farrow (biological son, b. 1988, aka Ronan).
Suspended from New York University.
He loves Venice, and helped to raise funds to rebuild the Venetian theater La Fenice, which was destroyed by a fire.
Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#89) (1995).
Adopted his second daughter Manzie Tio Allen, named after Manzie Johnson, a drummer with Sidney Bechet's band, after she had been born in Texas. (February 2000).
Older brother of Letty Aronson.
Was once invited to appear with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stanley Kubrick also considered casting him in Sydney Pollack's part in Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
One of the most prolific American directors of his generation, he has written, directed, and more often than not starred in a film just about every year since 1969.
Accused British interviewer Michael Parkinson of having a morbid interest in his private life and rejected questions about the custody battle for his children during his appearance on the BBC's Parkinson (1971) in 1999.
Born at 10:55 PM EST.
Despite the advancement of sound technology, all of his films are mixed and released in monaural sound, although later ones have a mono Dolby Digital mix.
Made his first appearance at the Oscars in Hollywood to make a plea for producers to continue filming their movies in New York after the 9/11 tragedy (2002).
Wrote the concept for the film Hollywood Ending (2002) on the back of a matchbook. Years later, he found the matchbook with the notes for the film on it and made the film.
Attended the Cannes Film Festival for the first time to receive the Palm of Palms award for lifetime achievement (2002).
He has more Academy Award nominations (14) for writing than anyone else, all of them are in the Written Directly for the Screen category.
After completing his first musical, Everyone Says I Love You (1996), he stated that he'd like to do another in the future with an all-original score. Since making that statement, however, nothing has yet to materialize.
In addition to being a comedian, musician and filmmaker, he is also a respected playwright.
Legally changed his name to Heywood Allen. Goes by "Woody" in honor of Woody Herman.
Graduated from Midwood High School at Brooklyn College.
Son of bookkeeper Martin Konigsberg (December 25, 1900-January 13, 2001) and his wife Nettie Konigsberg (November 8, 1906-January 27, 2002).
Was voted the 19th greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Has been nominated or won 136 awards, more than Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd combined.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985." Pages 20-29. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Has a look-alike puppet in the French show Les guignols de l'info (1988).
Ranked #4 in Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comedians of All Time.
Biological son, Ronan Farrow, graduated from college at 15 and was accepted into Yale Law School.
Woody's paternal grandparents, Isaac Koenigsberg and Jennie, were Russian Jewish immigrants. Woody's maternal grandparents, Leon Cherry and Sarah Hoff, were Austrian Jewish immigrants.
Longtime fan and season ticket holder of the NBA's New York Knicks.
Although he is barely interested in awards, he's one of the Academy's favorites - his 14 Oscar Nominations for Best Original Screenplay as of 2005 are a record for that category, and puts him ahead of Billy Wilder, who had 19 combined Oscar nominations for Writing and Directing. With 21 nominations in the combination of the top-three categories--acting, directing and writing--he holds the record there as well.
Directed 17 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Diane Keaton, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Mariel Hemingway, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest (twice), Martin Landau, Judy Davis, Chazz Palminteri, Jennifer Tilly, Mira Sorvino, Sean Penn, Samantha Morton, Penélope Cruz, Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins and himself. Keaton, Caine, Wiest (both times), Sorvino, Cruz, and Blanchett won Oscars for their performances in one of his movies.
Is a fan of Alfredo Zitarrosa, one of the best Uruguayan musicians.
Ranked #10 in Empire (UK) magazine's Greatest Directors Ever! poll (2005).
Directed only one movie in which both of his longtime companions Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow appear in: Radio Days (1987)
He and Diane Keaton made 8 movies together: Annie Hall (1977), Love and Death (1975), Manhattan (1979), Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), Radio Days (1987), Play It Again, Sam (1972), Interiors (1978) and Sleeper (1973).
He and Mia Farrow made 13 movies together: Broadway Danny Rose (1984), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Alice (1990), Another Woman (1988), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), September (1987), Husbands and Wives (1992), A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982), New York Stories (1989), Radio Days (1987), Shadows and Fog (1991) and Zelig (1983).
According to Mia Farrow's biography, "What Falls Away", Frank Sinatra offered to have Allen's legs broken when he was found to be having an affair with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.
Married to Mia Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, from her second marriage with André Previn.
Does not allow his films to be edited for airlines and television broadcasts.
As a boy growing up in Brooklyn, he spent most of his time alone in his room practicing magic tricks or his clarinet.
Got hooked on movies when he was 3-years-old, when his mother took him him to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). From that day, he said, theaters became his second home.
Told a reporter that he has earned more money from two real estate transactions than he has from all of his movies combined. Sold his long-held Fifth Avenue penthouse (which he had purchased for $600,000) for a profit of $17 million and a renovated townhouse for a profit of some $7 million (December 2005).
Five of his movies brought home his actresses Academy Awards: Annie Hall (1977) for Diane Keaton, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Bullets Over Broadway (1994) both for Dianne Wiest, Mighty Aphrodite (1995) for Mira Sorvino, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) for Penélope Cruz, and Blue Jasmine (2013) for Cate Blanchett.
His godson Quincy Rose is also a successful writer and actor.
Wrote What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), Take the Money and Run (1969) and Bananas (1971) with his childhood friend and first writing partner, Mickey Rose. Rose also co-wrote on all of Allen's earlier comedy albums and had a big hand in writing the famous "Moose" sketch.
Stating in an interview that he was "not interested in all that extra stuff on DVDs" and that he hopes his films would speak for themselves. Allen has never recorded an audio commentary or even so much has been interviewed for a DVD of any films with which he had been involved.
Distant cousin of Abe Burrows.
Was originally attached to co-star with Jim Carrey in the Farrelly Brothers comedy Stuck on You (2003), but decided to pass on the idea.
Was set to reprise his voice role in Antz (1998) for a planned direct-to-video Antz 2 but the project never got off the ground.
Is a vegetarian.
Awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain (June 2007).
His variety of neuroses include: arachnophobia (spiders), entomophobia (insects), heliophobia (sunshine), cynophobia (dogs), altophobia (heights), demophobia (crowds), carcinophobia (cancer), thanatophobia (death), misophobia (germs). He admits to being terrified of hotel bathrooms.
After dropping out from New York University, where he studied communication and film, he attended City College of New York.
A life-size statue of him was erected in the Spanish city of Oviedo (2002).
Although depicting himself as nerd in his movies, he was a popular student and adept baseball and basketball player at high school.
According to Eric Lax's book, Allen's favorites of his films are (in order): Match Point (2005), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Stardust Memories (1980), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), and Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993).
His and Mia Farrow's 12-year relationship ended in a custody battle over their three children in which she accused him of sexually molesting their daughter Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow, though the judge dismissed the claims because they were not substantiated. Farrow ultimately won custody of the children. Allen was denied visitation rights with Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow and could only see his biological son, Ronan, under supervision. Moses Farrow chose not to see his father.
Although he was granted visitation rights for his son Ronan Farrow, after a custody battle with Mia Farrow, their relationship is estranged (similar to his other children with Farrow, Moses and Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow). Ronan stated that he cannot have a morally consistent relationship with a man who is his father and his brother-in-law.
Manages his one-film-per-year schedule by setting strict budgets. Actors--famous or otherwise--receive the same salary.
Writes his scripts on a typewriter. He does not own a personal computer, and has his Email account managed by assistants.
He directed, wrote and starred in five of the American Film Institute's 100 Funniest Movies: Annie Hall (1977) at #4, Manhattan (1979) at #46, Take the Money and Run (1969) at #66, Bananas (1971) at #69 and Sleeper (1973) at #80.
Profiled in "American Classic Screen Interviews" (Scarecrow Press).
Plays his clarinet at a Jazz club where the house rule is that he cannot be addressed by any member of the audience. If someone does speak to him, they are automatically ejected from the club.
As a homage to Gordon Willis, his long-time friend and cinematographer, he includes a scene where you hear the actors talking outside the shot. Willis encouraged him to do this when they were shooting Annie Hall (1977).
Match Point (2005) was his first film to make money in seven years.
In the early 1960's, he did stand-up comedy at Enrico's Café in San Francisco.
The oldest Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay (aged 76 in 2012 for Midnight in Paris (2011)).
He's not a member of AMPAS.
His top ten films of all time are: La Grande Illusion (1937), Citizen Kane (1941), Bicycle Thieves (1948), Rashomon (1950), The Seventh Seal (1957), Paths of Glory (1957), The 400 Blows (1959), (1963), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and Amarcord (1973).
Every film directed by Allen since Love and Death (1975) through Blue Jasmine (2013), was cast by longtime friend and New York casting director Juliet Taylor.
Plays clarinet every Monday night at the Café Carlyle in Manhattan. [October 2005]
European concert tour (Brussels, Luxembourg, Vienna, Paris, Budapest, Athens, Lisbon, Barcelona, San Sebastian, La Coruna) with the Eddie Davis New Orleans Jazz Band. [December 2007]
Interviewed in "The Great Comedians Talk About Comedy' by Larry Wilde'.
Many big-name actors are so eager to work with him that they usually work for a fraction of their usual salaries.
Despite having the most nominations for ''Best Original Screenplay'', he almost never attends the Academy Awards.
Doesn't watch his own movies.
Responded to renewed allegations of child abuse by his estranged and grown daughter Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow by writing an op-ed to the New York Times published Feb 7, 2014 which he concluded by declaring it would be the last time he would ever comment on the matter.
Claims he watches TV only before bed or when he's exercising.

Personal Quotes (159)

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying.
I'm not afraid of dying... I just don't want to be there when it happens.
[in 1977] This year I'm a star, but what will I be next year? A black hole?
On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily as lying down.
[when asked if he liked the idea of living on on the silver screen] I'd rather live on in my apartment.
[on films] I can't imagine that the business should be run any other way than that the director has complete control of his films. My situation may be unique, but that doesn't speak well for the business -- it shouldn't be unique, because the director is the one who has the vision and he's the one who should put that vision onto film.
Basically I am a low-culture person. I prefer watching baseball with a beer and some meatballs.
There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?
Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.
I do the movies just for myself like an institutionalized person who basket-weaves. Busy fingers are happy fingers. I don't care about the films. I don't care if they're flushed down the toilet after I die.
Most of the time I don't have much fun. The rest of the time I don't have any fun at all.
[at the Academy Awards in 2002, explaining why he was the one introducing a montage of New York movies] And I said, 'You know, God, you can do much better than me. You know, you might want to get Martin Scorsese, or, or Mike Nichols, or Spike Lee, or Sidney Lumet...' I kept naming names, you know, and um, I said, 'Look, I've given you 15 names of guys who are more talented than I am, and, and smarter and classier...' And they said, 'Yes, but they weren't available.'
If my film makes one more person miserable, I'll feel I've done my job.
For some reason I'm more appreciated in France than I am back home. The subtitles must be incredibly good.
My relationship with Hollywood isn't love-hate, it's love-contempt. I've never had to suffer any of the indignities that one associates with the studio system. I've always been independent in New York by sheer good luck. But I have an affection for Hollywood because I've had so much pleasure from films that have come out of there. Not a whole lot of them, but a certain amount of them have been very meaningful to me.
The two biggest myths about me are that I'm an intellectual, because I wear these glasses, and that I'm an artist because my films lose money. Those two myths have been prevalent for many years.
Join the army, see the world, meet interesting people - and kill 'em.
Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends.
If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.
To you, I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.
Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once.
My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.
[on why he never watches his own movies] I think I would hate them.
[About the audience] I never write down to them. I always assume that they're all as smart as I am . . . if not smarter.
[on the Academy Awards circa 1978] I have no regard for that kind of ceremony. I just don't think they know what they're doing. When you see who wins those things -- or who doesn't win them -- you can see how meaningless this Oscar thing is.
[on being nominated for an Oscar for Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)] You have to be sure to keep it very much in perspective. You think it's nice at the time because it means more money for your film, but as soon as you let yourself start thinking that way, something happens to the quality of the work.
There was no ripple professionally for me at all when I was in the papers with my custody stuff. I made my films, I worked in the streets of New York, I played jazz every Monday night, I put a play on. Everything professionally went just the same. There were no repercussions. There was white-hot interest for a while, like with all things like that, and then it became uninteresting to people.
The directors that have personal, emotional feelings for me are Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, and I'm sure there has been some influence but never a direct one. I never set out to try and do anything like them. But, you know, when you listen to a jazz musician like Charlie Parker for years and you love it, then you start to play an instrument, you automatically play like that at first, then you branch off with your own things. The influence is there, it's in your blood.
Hollywood for the most part aimed at the lowest common denominator. It's conceived in venality, it's motivated by pandering to the public, by making a lot of money. People like Ingmar Bergman thought about life, and they had feelings, and they wanted to dramatize them and engage one in a dialogue. I felt I couldn't easily be engaged by the nonsense that came out of Hollywood.
I had a line in one of my movies - 'Everyone knows the same truth.' Our lives consist of how we choose to distort it. One person will distort it with a kind of wishful thinking like religion, someone else will distort it by thinking political solutions are going to do something, someone else will think a life of sensuality is going to do it, someone else will think art transcends. Art for me has always been the Catholicism of the intellectuals. There is no afterlife for the Catholics really, and there's no afterlife for the arts. 'Your painting lived on after you' - well, that doesn't really do it. That's not what you want. Even if your painting does have some longevity, eventually that's going to go. There won't be any works of William Shakespeare or Ludwig van Beethoven, or any theatre to see them in, or air or light. I've always felt you've got to live your life within the context of this worst-case scenario. Which is true; the worst-case scenario is here.
When I was a kid, movies from Hollywood seemed very glamorous, but when you look back at them as a young man, you can see out of the thousands of films that came out of Hollywood there were really very few good ones statistically, and those few that were good were made in spite of the studios. I saw European films as a young man and they were very much better. There's no comparison.
I was just a poor student. I had no interest in it. When I make a film the tacit contract with the audience is that I will give them some entertainment and not bore them. I have to do that. I just lay a message on them. Great filmmakers, like Ingmar Bergman or Akira Kurosawa or Federico Fellini, they're very entertaining, their films are fun. Well, in college they never made it entertaining for me, they just bored me stiff.
The biggest flaw in being self-taught is there are gaps. You self-teach yourself something and you think you know something fairly well, but then there are gaps a university teacher would have taught you as part of a mandatory program. I would probably have been better off if I'd got a better general education, but I was just so bored.
I can bring stars, I've worked with terrific cameramen, but people still have a better chance of making their $150m films because they're not interested in the kind of profits I can bring if I'm profitable.
The sensibility of the film-maker infuses the project so people see a picture like Annie Hall (1977) and everyone thinks it's so autobiographical. But I was not from Coney Island, I was not born under a Ferris wheel, my father never worked at a place that had bumper cars, that's not how I met Diane Keaton, and that's not how we broke up. Of course, there's that character who's always beleaguered and harassed. Certain things are autobiographical, certain feelings, even occasionally an incident, but overwhelmingly they're totally made up, completely fabricated.
Of course, I would love everybody to see my films. But I don't care enough ever to do anything about it. I would never change a word or make a movie that I thought they would like. I really don't care if they come or not. If they don't want to come, then they don't; if they do come, then great. Do I want to do what I do uncompromisingly, and would I love it if a big audience came? Yes, that would be very nice. I've never done anything to attract an audience, though I always get accused of it over the years.
[on the Academy Awards circa 1978] They're political and bought and negotiated for - although many worthy people have deservedly won - and the whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgment of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don't.
I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.
I know it sounds horrible, but winning that Oscar for Annie Hall (1977) didn't mean anything to me.
When I was in my early twenties, I knew a man who has since died, who was older than me and also very crazy. He'd been in a straitjacket and institutionalized, and I found him very brilliant. When I would speak to him about writing, about life, art, women, he was very, very cogent
  • but he couldn't lead his own life, he just couldn't manage.



[on shooting in London, 2004] In the United States things have changed a lot, and it's hard to make good small films now. There was a time in the 1950s when I wanted to be a playwright, because until that time movies, which mostly came out of Hollywood, were stupid and not interesting. Then we started to get wonderful European films, and American films started to grow up a little bit, and the industry became more fun to work in than the theatre. I loved it. But now it's taken a turn in the other direction and studios are back in command and are not that interested in pictures that make only a little bit of money. When I was younger, every week we'd get a Federico Fellini or an Ingmar Bergman or a Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut, but now you almost never get any of that. Filmmakers like myself have a hard time. The avaricious studios couldn't care less about good films - if they get a good film they're twice as happy, but money-making films are their goal. They only want these $100-million pictures that make $500 million. That's why I'm happy to work in London, because I'm right back in the same kind of liberal creative attitude that I'm used to.
With my complexion I don't tan, I stroke.
I always think it is a mistake to try and be young, because I feel the young people in the United States have not distinguished themselves. The young audience in the United States have not proven to me that they like good movies or good theatre. The films that are made for young people are not wonderful films, they are not thoughtful. They are these blockbusters with special effects. The comedies are dumb, full of toilet jokes, not sophisticated at all. And these are the things the young people embrace. I do not idolize the young.
Man was made in God's image. Do you really think God has red hair and glasses?
Most of life is tragic. You're born, you don't know why. You're here, you don't know why. You go, you die. Your family dies. Your friends die. People suffer. People live in constant terror. The world is full of poverty and corruption and war and Nazis and tsunamis. The net result, the final count is, you lose - you don't beat the house.
Life is for the living.
My brain: It's my second favorite organ.
I don't believe in an afterlife, although I'm bringing along a change of underwear.
Organized crime in America takes in over $40 billion a year and spends very little on office supplies.
It's true I had a lot of anxiety. I was afraid of the dark and suspicious of the light.
I'm a practicing heterosexual, although bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.
I was thrown out of NYU [New York University] for cheating on my Metaphysics final. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.
For me, being famous didn't help me that much. It helped a little. Warren Beatty once said to me many years ago, being a star is like being in a whorehouse with a credit card, and I never found that. For me, it was like being in a whorehouse with a credit card that had expired.
Stanley Kubrick was a great artist. I say this all the time and people think I'm being facetious. I'm not. Kubrick was a guy who obsessed over details and did 100 takes, and you know, I don't feel that way. If I'm shooting a film and it's 6 o'clock at night and I've got a take, and I think I might be able to get a better take if I stayed, but the Knicks tipoff is at 7:30, then that's it. The crews love working on my movies because they know they'll be home by 6.
I never wanted movies to be an end. I wanted them to be a means so that I could have a decent life -- meet attractive women, go out on dates, live decently. Not opulently, but with some security. I feel the same way now. A guy like Steven Spielberg will go live in the desert to make a movie, or Martin Scorsese will make a picture in India and set up camp and live there for four months. I mean, for me, if I'm not shooting in my neighborhood, it's annoying. I have no commitment to my work in that sense. No dedication.
I wasn't away. And I'm not back. Match Point (2005) was a film about luck, and it was a very lucky film for me. I did it the way I do all my pictures, and it just worked. I needed a rainy day, I got a rainy day. I needed sun, I got sun. Kate Winslet dropped out at the last moment because she wanted to be with her family, and Scarlett Johansson was available on two days' notice. It's like I couldn't ruin this picture no matter how hard I tried.
I think there is too much wrong with the world to ever get too relaxed and happy. The more natural state, and the better one, I think, is one of some anxiety and tension over man's plight in this mysterious universe.
80% of success is showing up.
Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.
[Responding to fans, skeptical of his plan to direct an opera] I have no idea what I am doing. But incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.
I do feel that in everyday life people on a great spectrum get away with crime all the time, ranging from genocide to just street crime. Most crimes do go unsolved, and people commit murders and ruin other people and do the worst things in the world, and, you know, there's no one to penalize you if you don't have a sense of conscience about it. There is an element in life of enormous, enormous injustice that we live with all the time. It's just an ugly-but-true fact of life.
[Movies are a great diversion] because it's much more pleasant to be obsessed over how the hero gets out of his predicament than it is over how I get out of mine.
My mother always said I was a very cheerful kid until I was 5 years old, and then I turned gloomy.
I can't really come up with a good argument to choose life over death. Except that I'm too scared.
I was never bothered if a film was not well received. But the converse of that is that I never get a lot of pleasure out of it if it is. So it isn't like you can say, 'He's an uncompromising artist.' That's not true. I'm a compromising person, definitely. It's that I don't get much from either side.
Your perception of time changes as you get older, because you see how brief everything is. You see how meaningless ... I don't want to depress you, but it's a meaningless little flicker.
I once thought there was a good argument between whether it's worth it to make a film where you confront the human condition, or an escape film. You could argue that the Fred Astaire film is performing a greater service than the Bergman film, because Ingmar Bergman is dealing with a problem that you're never going to solve. Whereas 'Fred Astaire', you walk in off the street, and for an hour and half they're popping champagne corks and making light banter and you get refreshed, like a lemonade.
I've made perfectly decent films, but not (1963), not The Seventh Seal (1957) ("The Seventh Seal"), The 400 Blows (1959) ("The 400 Blows") or L'Avventura (1960) - ones that to me really proclaim cinema as art, on the highest level. If I was the teacher, I'd give myself a B.
Ireland's one of the few places that lives up to the hype, that is as beautiful as everyone tells you it is.
[on directing the LA Opera, alongside William Friedkin] I figured, "Eh, I'll be dead before it happens. I'm 72. I'm never going to make it to the opera." But it came around, and next Monday, I start rehearsal. I'll just do the best I can and then get out of town and let them tar and feather Friedkin.
[on directing an opera] He [Plácido Domingo] said, "What if we do the Puccini trilogy - it's three one-acts that are always done together? The first two, Billy Friedkin will direct. You'll only be responsible for a one-act, a one-hour opera, and it's funny." You know, funny to opera people is not funny to the Marx Brothers.
It would be a disgrace and a humiliation if Barack Obama does not win... It would be a terrible thing if the American public was not moved to vote for him, that they actually preferred more of the same.
I never had a teacher who made the least impression on me and if you ask who are my heroes, the answer is simple and truthful: George S. Kaufman and the Marx Brothers.
I don't believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.
[on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)] It was one of the few times in my life that I realized that the artist was so much ahead of me.
I've never felt that if I waited five years between films, I'd make better ones. I just make one when I feel like making it. And it comes out to be about one a year. Some of them come out good, and some of them come out less than good. Some of them may be very good and some may be very bad. But I have no interest in an overall plan for them or anything.
If I write a film and there is a part in it for me - great. But if I sit down in advance and think, "I'd like to be in this film," or "It's been a long time since I've been in a film so it would be fun to do one," then all of a sudden there's an enormous amount of limits and compromise. I can only play a few things so that compromises the idea instantly. I think Deconstructing Harry (1997) would have been better with Dustin Hoffman or Robert De Niro, for sure. I also tried very hard to get another actor to play the part I did in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001). I think we tried to see if Tom Hanks was available, and Nicholson. Either they weren't available or didn't want to do it. So I finally played that part. And I shouldn't have, because it wasn't my usual kind of role, and I think that hurt the film.
I've been around a long time, and some people may just get tired of me, which I can understand. I've tried to keep my films different over the years, but it's like they complain, "We've eaten Chinese food every day this week." I want to say, "Well, yes, but you had a shrimp meal and you had a pork meal and you had a chicken meal." They say, "Yes, yes, but it's all Chinese food." That's the way I feel about myself. I have a certain amount of obsessive themes and a certain amount of things I'm interested in and no matter how different the film is, whether it's Small Time Crooks (2000) here or Zelig (1983) there, you find in the end that it's Chinese food. If you're not in the mood for my obsessions, then you may not be in the mood for my film. Now, hopefully, if I make enough films, some of them will come out fresh, but there's no guarantee. It's a crapshoot every time I make one. It could come out interesting or you might get the feeling that, God, I've heard this kvetch before - I don't know.
[on Match Point (2005)] To me, it is strictly about luck. Life is such a terrifying experience - it's very important to feel, "I don't believe in luck, Well, I make my luck." Well, the truth of the matter is, you don't make your luck. So I wanted to show that here was a guy - and I symbolically made him a tennis player - who's a pretty bad guy, and yet my feeling is, in life, if you get the breaks - if the luck bounces your way, you know - you can not only get by, you can flourish in the same way that I felt Marty Landau could in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). If you can kill somebody - if you have no moral sense - there's no God out there that's suddenly going to hit you with lightning. Because I don't believe in God. So this is what was on my mind: the enormous unfairness of the world, the enormous injustice of the world, the sense that every day people get away with the worst kinds of crimes. So it's a pessimistic film, in that sense.
[on his least favorite of his own films, Manhattan (1979)] I hated that one. I even made Stardust Memories (1980) for United Artists just so Manhattan would stay on the shelf. And even after those efforts, I still can't believe even to this day how it became so commercially successful. I can't believe I got away with it.
I'm kind of, secretly, in the back of my mind, counting on living a long time. My father lived to a hundred. My mother lived to 95, almost 96. If there is anything to heredity, I should be able to make films for another 17 years. You never know. A piano could drop on my head. (December 2005)
I've never, ever in my life had any interference. I've always had final cut, no-one saw scripts, no-one saw casting. So since Take the Money and Run (1969), I've been spoiled. But recently, at about the time of Match Point (2005), the studios began to behave differently. They started to say, "Look, we like to make films with you and we'll give you the money, but we don't want to be treated as if we're just a bank, putting money in a bag and then just going away. You'll still have final cut and all of that, but we would like to see a script, know who you're casting and be involved in some way." I feel that this is a completely reasonable request, but I just wasn't used to working that way, so I went over to Europe. There's no studio system, so they don't care about any of that stuff. They're bankers. And they're happy to be bankers. They put up the money, you give them the film, and that's what they care about. That worked very well for me on Match Point (2005). So I did it again with Scoop (2006) and Cassandra's Dream (2007). And I made Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) in Spain under the same circumstances.
If they said to me tomorrow, "We're pulling the plug and we're not giving you any more money to make films," that would not bother me in the slightest. I mean, I'm happy to write for the theatre. And if they wouldn't back any of my plays, I'm happy to sit home and write prose. But as long as there are people willing to put up the vast sums of money needed to make films, I should take advantage of it. Because there will come a time when they won't.
Retire and do what? I'd be doing the same thing as I do now: sitting at home writing a play, then characters, jokes and situations would come to me. So I don't know what else I would do with my time.
[on Shelley Duvall] She's a true one of a kind. She's so effective on the screen, that if she's cast properly, she's incapable of being anything else but fascinating.
[on Michelangelo Antonioni] I knew him slightly and spent some time with him. He was thin as a wire and athletic and energetic and mentally alert. And he was a wonderful ping-pong player. I played with him; he always won because he had a great reach. That was his game.
[on Ingmar Bergman] He and I had dinner in his New York hotel suite; it was a great treat for me. I was nervous and really didn't want to go. But he was not at all what you might expect: the formidable, dark, brooding genius. He was a regular guy. He commiserated with me about low box-office grosses and women and having to put up with studios. The world saw him as a genius, and he was worrying about the weekend grosses. Yet he was plain and colloquial in speech, not full of profound pronunciamentos about life. Sven Nykvist told me that when they were doing all those scenes about death and dying, they'd be cracking jokes and gossiping about the actors' sex lives. I liked his attitude that a film is not an event you make a big deal out of. He felt filmmaking was just a group of people working. I copied some of that from him. At times he made two and three films in a year. He worked very fast; he'd shoot seven or eight pages of script at a time. They didn't have the money to do anything else. I think his films have eternal relevance, because they deal with the difficulty of personal relationships and lack of communication between people and religious aspirations and mortality, existential themes that will be relevant a thousand years from now. When many of the things that are successful and trendy today will have been long relegated to musty-looking antiques, his stuff will still be great.
The biggest personal shock to me of all the movies that I've done is that Hollywood Ending (2002) was not thought of as a first-rate, extraordinary comedy. I was stunned that it met with any resistance at all. I thought it was a very, very funny idea and I thought that I executed it absolutely fine, and that I was funny and that Téa Leoni was great. I thought it was a simple, funny idea that worked. I didn't think I blew it anywhere along the line - in performance, in shooting it, in the jokes, situations. When I showed it to the first couple of people, film writers, they said, "This is just great. This is one of the funniest movies you've done." But that's not what the subsequent reactions were. And I was so shocked. I generally don't love my own finished product but this one I did. I don't think many people would, but I would put it toward the top of my comedies. The audience didn't show up. I think if people had gone to see it they would have enjoyed it. But they didn't go to see it.
[on Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)] Everything wonderful about that movie... is because of the way it was directed. Otherwise, I thought there were flaws in the writing of the movie and flaws in some of the performances of the movie. But the directing of the movie was so bravura and so superb, that it was just a knockout.
Whenever they ask women what they find appealing in men, a sense of humor is always one of the things they mention. Some women feel power is important, some women feel that looks are important, tenderness, intelligence...but sense of humor seems to permeate all of them. So I'm saying to that character played by Goldie Hawn, "Why is that so important?" But it is important apparently because women have said to us that that is very, very important to them. I also feel that humor, just like Fred Astaire dance numbers or these lightweight musicals give you a little oasis. You are in this horrible world and for an hour and a half you duck into a dark room and it's air-conditioned and the sun is not blinding you and you leave the terror of the universe behind and you are completely transported into an escapist situation. The women are beautiful, the men are witty and heroic, nobody has terrible problems and this is a delightful escapist thing, and you leave the theatre refreshed. It's like drinking a cool lemonade and then after a while you get worn down again and you need it again. It seems to me that making escapist films might be a better service to people than making intellectual ones and making films that deal with issues. It might be better to just make escapist comedies that don't touch on any issues. The people just get a cool lemonade, and then they go out refreshed, they enjoy themselves, they forget how awful things are and it helps them-it strengthens them to get through the day. So I feel humor is important for those two reasons: that it is a little bit of refreshment like music, and that women have told me over the years that it is very, very important to them.
I think what I'm saying is that I'm really impotent against the overwhelming bleakness of the universe and that the only thing I can do is my little gift and do it the best I can, and that is about the best I can do, which is cold comfort.
You want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me...it's a brutal, meaningless experience-an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but these are just small oases. Overall, it is a brutal, brutal, terrible experience, and so it's what can you do to alleviate the agony of the human condition, the human predicament? That is what interests me the most. I continue to make the films because the problem obsesses me all the time and it's consistently on my mind and I'm consistently trying to alleviate the problem, and I think by making films as frequently as I do I get a chance to vent the problems. There is some relief. I have said this before in a facetious way, but it is not so facetious: I am a whiner. I do get a certain amount of solace from whining.
I think Frank Capra was a much craftier filmmaker, a wonderful filmmaker. He had enormous technique, and he knew how to manipulate the public quite brilliantly. I was just doing what I was doing because it interested me, and in fact obsessed me. I was not doing it with an eye to manipulate the public. In fact, I probably would have had a larger public if I had gone in a different direction.
[the existence of God, life after death, the meaning of life] were always obsessions of mine, even as a very young child. These were things that interested me as the years went on. My friends were more preoccupied with social issues-issues such as abortion, racial discrimination, and Communism-and those issues just never caught my interest. Of course they mattered to me as a citizen to some degree...but they never really caught my attention artistically. I always felt that the problems of the world would never ever be solved until people came to terms with the deeper issues-that there would be an aimless reshuffling of world leaders and governments and programs. There was a difference, of course, but it was a minor difference as to who the president was and what the issues were. They seemed major, but as you step back with perspective they were more alike than they were different. The deeper issues always interested me.
I didn't see Shane (1953) as a martyred figure, a persecuted figure. I saw him as quite a heroic figure who does a job that needs to be done, a practical matter. I saw him as a practical secular character. In this world there are just some people who need killing and that is just the way it is. It sounds terrible, but there is no other way to get around that, and most of us are not up to doing it, incapable for moral reasons or physically not up to it. And Shane (1953) is a person who saw what had to be done and went out and did it. He had the skill to do it, and that's the way I feel about the world: there are certain problems that can only be dealt with that way. As ugly a truth as that is, I do think it's the truth about the world.
I feel that is true-that one can commit a crime, do unspeakable things, and get away with it. There are people who commit all sorts of crimes and get away with it, and some of them are plagued with all sorts of guilt for the rest of their lives and others aren't. They commit terrible crimes and they have wonderful lives, wonderful, happy lives, with families and children, and they have done unspeakably terrible things. There is no justice, there is no rational structure to it. That is just the way it is, and each person figures out some way to cope.... Some people cope better than others. I was with Billy Graham once, and he said that even if it turned out in the end that there is no God and the universe is empty, he would still have had a better life than me. I understand that. If you can delude yourself by believing that there is some kind of Santa Claus out there who is going to bail you out in the end, then it will help you get through. Even if you are proven wrong in the end, you would have had a better life.
[on his character Mickey's personal crisis in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)]: I think it should be interpreted to mean that there are these oases, and life is horrible, but it is not relentlessly black from wire to wire. You can sit down and hear a Mozart symphony, or you can watch the Marx Brothers, and this will give you a pleasant escape for a while. And that is about the best that you can do.... I feel that one can come up with all these rationalizations and seemingly astute observations, but I think I said it well at the end of Deconstructing Harry (1997): we all know the same truth; our lives consist of how we choose to distort it, and that's it. Everybody knows how awful the world is and what a terrible situation it is and each person distorts it in a certain way that enables him to get through. Some people distort it with religious things. Some people distort it with sports, with money, with love, with art, and they all have their own nonsense about what makes it meaningful, and all but nothing makes it meaningful. These things definitely serve a certain function, but in the end they all fail to give life meaning and everyone goes to his grave in a meaningless way.
Like Boris [from Whatever Works (2009)] I fight it all the time. I've always been lucky: I've never experienced depression. I get sad and blue, but within a certain limit. I've always been able to work freely, to play my clarinet and enjoy women and sport - although I am always aware of the fact that I am operating within a nightmarish context that life itself is a cruel, meaningless, terrible kind of thing. God forbid the people who have bad luck, or even neutral luck, because even the luckiest, the most beautiful and brilliant, what have they got? A minuscule, meaningless life span in the grand scheme of things.
Sarah Palin is a colourful spice in the general recipe of democracy. She's a sexy woman. Yes. Me and Sarah - we could do a romance.
I can only hope that reading out loud does not contribute to the demise of literature, which I don't think will ever happen. When I grew up, one could always hear T.S. Eliot, William Butler Yeats, S.J. Perelman and a host of others read on the Caedmon label, and it was its own little treat that in no way encroached on the pleasure of reading these people.
[on why he chose in 2010 to read his short stories for Adiobook]: I was persuaded in a moment of apathy when I was convinced I had a fatal illness and would not live much longer. I don't own a computer, have no idea how to work one, don't own a word processor, and have zero interest in technology. Many people thought it would be a nice idea for me to read my stories, and I gave in.
To me, there's no real difference between a fortune teller or a fortune cookie and any of the organized religions. They're all equally valid or invalid, really. And equally helpful.
Well, I'm against [the aging process]. I think it has nothing to recommend it. You don't gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you'd trade all of that for being 35 again. I've experienced that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and you start to think about your own mortality and envision it, and it gives you a little shiver. That's what happens to Anthony Hopkins at the beginning of [You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)], and from then on in, he did not want to hear from his more realistic wife, "Oh, you can't keep doing that - you're not young anymore." Yes, she's right, but nobody wants to hear that.
If my films don't show a profit, I know I'm doing something right.
[on the controversy surrounding his marriage to Soon-Yi] What was the scandal? I fell in love with this girl, married her. We have been married for almost 15 years now. There was no scandal, but people refer to it all the time as a scandal. I kind of like that in a way because when I go I would like to say I had one juicy scandal in my life.
My films have developed over the years. They've gone from films that started out as strips of jokes and funny gags to more character-oriented things - slightly deeper stories where I've sacrificed some laughs. And sometimes I've tried to make serious pictures without any laughs at all. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) is probably a film I wouldn't have been able to make 20 years ago, because I feel I wouldn't have had the depth to make it. I'm forever pessimistic about everything in life, except my work. I feel that my best work is still to come, and I keep working and trying. It may be foolish and misplaced optimism, but nevertheless I'm optimistic. I feel I've always progressed. I've always made the film I wanted to make that year, and the films I made later were better than the ones I made earlier. Manhattan (1979) and Annie Hall (1977) were quite popular, but they were not as good as, say, Match Point (2005), which was a better film than both of those films. Midnight in Paris (2011) I think will be seen as a better film. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) is a better film than those I made years ago. But it's capricious. I get an idea for a film and I do it, and if I'm right in my judgment, and in execution, then the film turns out to be a good film, a step forward. If I guessed wrong and I thought the idea was wonderful and it's really not, or I execute badly, then the film is not such a good film. But it doesn't have anything to do with the chronology. [2011]
I think universal harmony is a pipedream and it may be more productive to focus on more modest goals, like a ban on yodeling.
Not only does my play have no redeeming social value, it has no entertainment value. I wrote this sprightly little one-acter only to test out my new paper shredder. If there is any positive message at all in the narrative, it is that life is a tragedy filled with suffering and despair and yet some people do manage to avoid jury duty.
I've always felt close to a European sensibility. It's a happy accident: when I was a young man and most impressionable, all these great European films were flooding New York City. I was very influenced by those films. I comes out in my work without trying to. It's like if you grow up hearing Mozart your whole life at home and you start to write music, probably what comes out - until you develop your own style - is an imitation of Mozart, to some degree. And that's what happened with me and films. I've very often relied on European cinema as a crutch or as a guide. The films I grew up with - Bergman and Fellini and Kurosawa and De Sica and Antonioni - just left an indelible mark on me. It's the same with certain American films that impressed me as a young boy, like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and Citizen Kane (1941) and Double Indemnity (1944). There have been very few American films since that have equalled the impact those films had on me, because I do think the time you see them figures into it. Consequently my films have been well appreciated in Europe, more than the United States, where it's been so-so.
[on Stardust Memories (1980)] I wanted to make a stylish film. Gordon Willis and I liked to work in black and white and I wanted to make a picture about an artist who theoretically should be happy. He has everything in the world - health, success, wealth, notoriety - but in fact he doesn't have anything, he's very unhappy. The point of the story is that he can't get used to the fact that he's mortal and that all his wealth and fame and adulation are not going to preserve him in any meaningful way - he, too, will age and die. At the beginning of the movie you see him wanting to make a serious statement even though he is really a comic filmmaker. Of course, this part is naturally identified with me even though the tale is total fabrication. I never had the feelings of the protagonist in real life. When I made Stardust Memories I didn't feel I was a much adored filmmaker whose life was miserable and all around me things were terrible. I thought I was a respectable moviemaker and the perks of success - as I said in my film Celebrity (1998) - actually outweighed the downside. I was never blocked, conflicted much, or steeped in gloom - though I often played that character. I did it again later in Deconstructing Harry (1997). That character is also a writer but nothing like me. I wanted to make Stardust Memoies stylish. It's a dream film; the attempt is poetic. I'm not saying it comes off but the intent is poetic, so you're not locked in to a realistic story. You could certainly tell a realistic story about a guy who has everything and is unhappy but I was trying to do it on a more fantastic level. I feel if you give the film a chance, there are some rewards in it. It's dense. I haven't seen it in many years, but when I finished it I was very satisfied with it and it was my favorite film to that time.
[on Shadows and Fog (1991)] I think I did a good job directing it and Santo Loquasto's sets are beautiful. But the picture is in the writing and people weren't interested in the story. You know when you're doing a black-and-white picture that takes place in a European city at night in the twenties, you're not going to make big bucks. Nobody liked the picture. Carlo Di Palma won an award for it in Italy. It just looked great. There was pleasure in the way it was photographed, and in making it. I make these films to amuse myself, or should I say to distract myself. I wanted to see what it would be like making a film all on a set, outdoors being indoors. And setting it during one night and having all these characters and this old European quality to it. The hope is that others will enjoy it when I'm finished. It fulfilled that desire that keeps me working, that keeps me in the film business. I do all my films for my own personal reasons, and I hope that people will like them and I'm always gratified when I hear they do. But if they don't, there's nothing I can do about that because I don't set out to make them for approval - I like approval, but I don't make them for approval.
[on Anything Else (2003)] The cast is wonderful and I thought it was an interesting story and full of good jokes and good ideas. Somebody said it summed up everything that I always say in movies - they were saying this positively - and maybe it did and that was a negative for me. I don't know. I had screening of it and people seemed to love it. Again, it was one of those pictures that nobody came to. You know, a lot of it is the luck of the draw with someone like me. I'm review-dependent. You hit a guy who likes the film and writes a good review of it, it might possibly do business. The exact same film, if that reviewer's sick that day and the other critic on the paper doesn't like it, then it doesn't do business. There are many, many people making films who are not review-dependent and it doesn't matter what anybody says about them, they have an audience. I only have to mention Spider-Man (2002). With me, it depends who's writing the review. But I did think Anything Else was a funny movie. I thought it was a good movie. I was crazy about Christina [Ricci], and Jason [Biggs] was adorable and Stockard Channing is always a really strong actress.
My sets are boring. Nothing exciting ever happens, and I barely talk to the actors.
[Directing']s a great loafer's job. Much less stressful than if I were running around delivering chicken sandwiches in a deli somewhere.
[To Stu Hample on developing the comic strip "Inside Woody Allen"] Need more character engagement - instead of jokes being free-floating, they must be jokes on the way to character development. Jokes are like the decorations on the Christmas tree - but it's a beautiful tree you need to start with. Only then can you hang baubles on it. (Sorry for the disgusting metaphor.)
Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.
I finished writing the script [for To Rome with Love (2012)] and saw that there was a part that I could play. I never force it. I never write something for myself. I'm trying to be faithful to the idea. If I had made To Rome with Love in the United States, I could have played Roberto Benigni's part. If I was fifty years younger, I would have played Jesse Eisenberg's part. Right now, I'm reduced to fathers of fiancees.
[on playing his screen persona] It's effortless. It's the only thing I can do. I'm not an actor. I can't play Chekhov, I can't play Shakespeare or Strindberg. I can do that thing that I do. There's a few different kinds of things I can act credibly. I can play an intellectual or a low-life.
I'm not as crazy as they [fans who meet me] think I am. They think I'm a major neurotic and that I'm phobic and incompetent and I'm not. I'm very average, middle class. I get up in the morning, I have a wife and kids, I work, I've been productive, I practice my horn, I go to ballgames, it's a normal kind of thing. I have some quirks, but everybody has some quirks.
[on why he always skips the Oscars] They always have it on Sunday night. And it's always - you can look this up - it's always opposite a good basketball game. And I'm a big basketball fan. So it's a great pleasure for me to come home and get into bed and watch a basketball game. And that's exactly where I was, watching the game.
That, or anything I ever won, has never changed my life one iota. And the fact that Midnight in Paris (2011) made $160 million meant zero in terms of anyone - and by anyone I mean no one - stepping forward and saying, 'We'd like to bankroll your next film.'
[American financiers] don't like to work the way I like to work. They like to read the script and have some input. They want to say, 'Well, we'll let you cast who you want, but if you can get Brad Pitt, we'd much prefer you got him.' ... We don't do that, though. We don't let them see the script, or have anything to say. So I have a lot of trouble raising money in this country.
For me, success is, I'm in my bedroom at home and get an idea and I think it's a great idea and then I write it, and I look at the script and I say, 'My God, I've written a good script here.' And then I execute it. And if I execute the thing properly, then I feel great. If people come, it's a delightful bonus.
[on "Ozymandias melancholia," a term for the sense of inevitable decline which he first coined in Stardust Memories (1980)] It's a phenomenon that I think everybody gets afflicted with, certainly the poet [Percy Bysshe Shelley] did, but I get afflicted with it. And you feel it really very much in Rome, because you see those ancient ruins and you're hyper-aware of the fact that thousands of yeas ago, there was a civilization that was mighty, the most dominant civilization in the world, and how glorious it must have been. And now it's a couple of bricks here and a couple of bricks there, and someone's sitting on the bricks eating their sandwich.
It isn't just psychological, when you're getting closer to death that time passes faster. I think something happens physiologically so that you experience time in a very different way ... It's also scary, as you'll see when you get older. It doesn't get better. You don't mellow, you don't gain wisdom and insight. You start to experience joint pain.
[I'm] depressed on a low flame.
My own feeling was always [that] I was totally uninterested in what anyone thought. I loved Soon-Yi Previn and it was a serious thing, not frivolous. We've been together for years, and it's been, on a personal basis, the best years of my life, really. And certainly the best of hers - not because of my scintillating personality, but it really brought her out of herself. She really had a chance to get into the world.
I've shown the older one, [daughter] Bechet, a number of Alfred Hitchcock movies, and I've shown them both [daughters] a couple of The Marx Brothers movies. But they're not that interested ... I try to encourage them musically and guide them cinematically, but my opinion ... I represent the Old World, the Europe from which they took boats to escape.
I have a very pessimistic view of everything. Obviously, I'm not a religious person, and I don't have any respect for the religious point of view. I tolerate it, but I find it a mindless grasp of life. [It's] the same thing with the philosophers who tell you that the meaning of life consists of what meaning you give it. I don't buy that, either. It's very unsatisfying.
What you're left with, in the end, are very grisly, unpleasant facts. You can't avoid them, you can't escape them. The best you can do, as far as I see it at the moment - maybe I'll get some other insight someday - is distract. I work all the time, I plunge myself into trivial problems, problems that are not life-threatening: How I'm going to work my third act, or can I get this actress to be in the movie, or am I over budget? These are my problems that obsess me, so I don't sit home and think about the fact that the universe is flying apart at breakneck speed as we're sitting here.
I know of only six genuine comic geniuses in movie history; Charlie Chaplin (Charles Chaplin), Buster Keaton, Groucho Marx & Harpo Marx, Peter Sellers, and W.C. Fields.
There are lots of nice advantages that you get, being a celebrity. The tabloid things, the bumps in the road, they come and they go. Most people don't have as big a bump as I had, but even the big bump - it's not life-threatening. It's not like the doctor's saying: 'I looked at these x-rays of your brain, and there's this little thing growing there.' Tabloid things can be handled. I just don't want a shadow on my lung on the x-ray.
I'm just trying to be objective and honest. If you were having a 10-film festival and showing Citizen Kane (1941) on Monday, Rashomon (1950) on Tuesday, Bicycle Thieves (1948), The Seventh Seal (1957) ... I don't think anything I've ever made could be placed in a festival with those films and hold its own.
I have an idea for a story, and I think to myself, "my God, this is a combination of Eugene O'Neill, and Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller" ... but that's because [when you're writing] you don't have to face the test of reality. You're at home, in your house, it's all in your mind. Now, when it's almost over, and I see what I've got, I start to think: "what have I done? This is going to be such an embarrassment! Can I salvage it?" All your grandiose ideas go out the window. You realise you made a catastrophe, and you think: "what if I put the last scene first, drop this character, put in narration? What if I shoot one more scene, to make him not leave his wife, but kill his wife?" [But nine times out of ten, after the screening of the first rough cut,] the feeling is: "OK, now don't panic." The other 10% of the time, it's: "OK. That's not as bad as I thought."
My experience has been, with one exception [Midnight in Paris (2011)], that when I do a film in a foreign country, the toughest audience for me is that country. In Italy, they said: 'This guy doesn't understand Italy.' And I can't argue with those criticisms. I'm an American, and that's how I see Barcelona or Rome or England. If the situation was reversed, and somebody from a foreign country made a film here, I might very well be saying: 'Yeah, it's OK, but this guy really doesn't get New York.' And I'd be right. And I'm sure they're right.
To have been the lead character in a juicy scandal - a really juicy scandal - that will always be a part of what people think of when they think of me. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't please me. It's a non-factor. But it's a true factor.
[Ageing] is a bad business. It's a confirmation that the anxieties and terrors I've had all my life were accurate. There's no advantage to ageing. You don't get wiser, you don't get more mellow, you don't see life in a more glowing way. You have to fight your body decaying, and you have less options. The only thing you can do is what you did when you were 20 - because you're always walking with an abyss right under your feet; they can be hoisting a piano on Park Avenue and drop it on your head when you're 20 - which is to distract yourself. Getting involved in a movie [occupies] all my anxiety: did I write a good scene for Cate Blanchett? If I wasn't concentrated on that, I'd be thinking of larger issues. And those are unresolvable, and you're checkmated whichever way you go.
If you're a celebrity, you can get good medical treatment. I can get a doctor on the weekends. I can get the results of my biopsy quickly.
[European backers support me when Americans won't] You'd think that after a hit like Midnight in Paris (2011) - made a lot of money, not by The Dark Knight (2008) standards, but by my standards - there would be some companies that would want to do a film with you. But I didn't get a single offer. Not one ... and then an Italian company I'd been talking to for years was willing to put up money.
Making films is a very nice way to make a living. You work with beautiful women, and charming men, who are amusing and gifted; you work with art directors and costume people ... you travel places, and the money's good. It's a nice living.
[The French] think I'm an intellectual because I wear these glasses, and they think I'm an artist because my films lose money.
I have one last request. Don't use embalming fluid on me; I want to be stuffed with crab meat.
Editing is that moment when you give up every hope you have of making a great piece of art and you have to settle with what you have.
I'm very happy doing films. I wrote a novel, but it didn't come out well and I put it away. I would like to write for the theatre again, and I will continue to write for The New Yorker. But I don't have to knock myself out to do one film a year - a year's a long time to make a film. I don't make these films like, say, Steven Spielberg, where I take three years and a hundred million dollars. My films are much less ambitious. It's easy for me. I finish a film and I'm sitting around the house and have other ideas; I get them together and I write them. I don't require much money to make a film, so it's not hard for me to get funded. And I'm a good bet for an investor, because I work fast and inexpensively. And when the film is released, before you know it, the small amount that it cost, they've made back. Then once in a while, if I hit one that is popular - like Match Point (2005), which made a hundred million dollars - then everybody makes a lot of money on it. Everybody except me. [2011]
There are worse things than death. Many of them playing at a theater near you.
I am not a hypochondriac but a totally different genus of crackpot.
My parents both lived to ripe old ages but absolutely refused to pass their genes to me as they believed an inheritance often spoils the child.
Believe it or not, there are many terrible things about being famous and many wonderful things, too. In the end, the good things are better than the bad, so if you have the chance, it's better to be famous.
[Los Angeles] is not a city I could ever live in because I'm not temperamentally suited to the lifestyle here. I could never survive getting up in the morning and seeing all that sunshine and having to get into a car to go anywhere. But I have lots of friends here and I enjoy coming out for a couple of days, eating at a couple of great restaurants, having some laughs and then going home.
[In 2012] I make films for literate people. I have to assume there are many millions of people in the world who are educated and literate and want sophisticated entertainment that does not cater to the lowest common denominator and is not all about car crashes and bathroom jokes.
Europeans started to finance my films very, very generously, and they did so under my rules, which means they don't interfere with me in any way, they don't read my scripts, they don't know what I'm doing and they just have faith that I'll make a film that won't embarrass anyone. It started off in London in 2004 with Match Point (2005) and then I kept going.
[on shooting To Rome with Love (2012) in 2011] I had been speaking to the Italian people for years about doing a film there and when they said they'd finance it of course I was happy to shoot it there. I felt it lent itself to so many diverse tales. If you stop a hundred Romans they'll tell you: "I'm from the city, I know it well and I could give you a million stories."
[In 2012]: I always wanted to be a foreign filmmaker. But I'm from Brooklyn so I couldn't be because I wasn't foreign. But all of a sudden, through happy accidents, I've become one, to such a degree that I'm even writing subtitles. So I'm thrilled with that. The language is never a problem because when you're making a movie there are only a few things you ever talk about and you learn them right away. I did three pictures with a Chinese cameraman who didn't speak a word of English - not a word. And it didn't matter at all because we were only talking about the lighting and the angle.
I've never thought of myself as an actor. I could never play Chekhov or a big range of characters but there are one or two things I can do: I can play a bookmaker or a low-life agent like in Broadway Danny Rose (1984), or because I look scholarly - although I'm not - I can play some kind of intellectual and get away with it. I have no method whatsoever and I don't rehearse or practice and I never took a lesson. It's just a very limited thing I can do and if there's a need for that sort of character you can hire me and I'll do it, but if there's a need for something more complex then you get Dustin Hoffman.
[on his fear of flying] It's something I'm not thrilled with. I'm always sitting in my seat bracing for the crashing of the plane, but I can't avoid flying because if I don't fly I can't go to places to shoot a film or do promotion for it. And since my wife doesn't have any phobias, she has no fear of flying, nor do my children, so I fly to accommodate them, but it's very difficult for me and always with clenched fists.
I never see a frame of anything I've done after I've done it. I don't even remember what's in the films. And if I'm on the treadmill and I'm surfing the channels and suddenly Manhattan (1979) or some other picture comes on, I go right past it. If I saw Manhattan again, I would only see the worst. I would say: "Oh, God, this is so embarrassing. I could have done this. I should have done that." So I spare myself.
If I had my life to live over I would do everything the exact same way - except with the possible exception of seeing the movie remake of 'Lost Horizon'.
I'm very nice to all the actors, and I never raise my voice. I give them a lot of freedom to work, to change my words, and they see in five minutes that I'm not a threat. That they're not gonna have to worry. They are not dealing with some kind of cult genius or some kind of formidable person. Or someone who's a temper tantrum person. You know, they see right away that this guy is going to be a pushover for me. And I am.

Salary (4)

What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) $66,000
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) $500,000 +15% first-dollar gross
Bullets Over Broadway (1994) $1,500,000
Deconstructing Harry (1997) $2,500,000

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