Interview with Woody Allen
Woody Allen talks to Kenneth Whyte about soon-yi, scarlett Johansson, hollywood ‘toilet jokes,' and his odd eating habits
Kenneth Whyte | Jan 3, 2008 | 16:31:22
Q: In the new film, Cassandra's Dream, we have a couple of brothers, a horrible crime, a family torn apart, a terrible ending. Is this the Russian novel that you'll never write?
A: Well, you know, I have always wanted to do these kind of films, like Match Point and Cassandra's Dream, and it just so happened that I had a sense of humour and comedy was my strong point and so I succeeded by doing comedies, and I then became known for doing comedies and any time I would depart from that it was always difficult for me, first of all because I wasn't as good at it, and because people didn't want it from me. When I would go into the film company and say, "I'd like to do this dramatic story," they wouldn't be thrilled and didn't want to put up the money for it. Fairly recently I've been getting my financing abroad--so I made Cassandra's Dream and Match Point in England--and when you're not working with a studio they're not interested in the content, they just want to put their money in something that's beneficial for them, and that's good for me because then I can make whatever film I want to make. Then Match Point was quite successful for me, so I felt, "Well, if people will accept this from me, then I can do some of the films that I've always wanted to do."
Q: You have been near this material before, though, in Crimes and Misdemeanors, where a small crime leads to a larger crime, and the covering up of a small crime required a larger crime. The man behind the murder gets away with it. And you suggested life was like that, that people got away with things and could live with heinous crimes.
A: 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.
Q: For someone who once said that life is a come-by-chance, meaningless little charade, this is a very earnest and searching film. This is a paradox, isn't it, making meaningful films about the meaninglessness of existence?
A: I have no real answers or knowledge of these things, I only have my feelings about them, and I'm ready to explore all the possibilities. My own personal conclusion concurs with what seems to be the everyday finding of our physicists, that it was an accident, that it will end, and it was just an odd little phenomenon that has no meaning, that [it] wasn't created by any super-being or with any design, it's just a chance phenomenon and a micro-speck in an overwhelming, violent universe, and it will end, and everything that Shakespeare did and Beethoven did, all of that will be gone, and every planet will be gone, every star will be gone--down the line--but that's where we're headed, out of nothing to nothing. And yet the trick, to me, seems to be to find, not meaning, but to be able to live with that and to enjoy life. By enjoy it I don't mean sybaritically, I mean to be able to find some kind of MO where you can enjoy your life, even if it's abstemious and you spend your life in a monastery and you enjoy culturing flowers and pea pods every morning or something, but if that will get you through it in some decent way, that's the best you can hope for. To live with the awful truth, we're endowed with this denial mechanism. Some people have less of a denial mechanism than others, but without it, if you faced the real truth all the time, it's very, very unpleasant.
Q: I've heard you say that you're not an intellectual, you like to stay home, drink beer [and] watch the Knicks game.
A: That is the truth. I don't lead what people call a life of the mind. I'm not a profound reader. I've been mostly dedicated to show business rather than an intellectual life, and it's just that when I make films or write, these subjects interest me. Even as a stand-up comic in nightclubs those were the subjects that interested me. I was never politically wise or politically astute, and I was never interested in social issues, I was always interested in existential issues. I feel that if you solved all the political problems in the world, and solved all the relationship problems, and nobody was starving and everyone was living in peace and all of that, we would still have...