Woody Allen returned to the Venice Film Festival this weekend for the world premiere of “Coup de Chance,” a romantic thriller that marks his 50th, and he suggests, quite possibly his last, feature film. The French-language film, playing at one of Europe’s major festivals, represents the continued mutual embrace between the director and the continent, after controversies have limited his funding stateside. This accounts for his pondering retirement: Allen says that producing a new movie means hustling to secure backing and at 87, he’s not sure he still wants to do that kind of work.
“I have so many ideas for films that I would be tempted to do it, if it was easy to finance,” he tells me when we sit down together at the Excelsior Hotel for a one-on-one interview. “But beyond that, I don’t know if I have the same verve to go out and spend a lot of time raising money.”
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And while independent film financing has always been a struggle, Allen has fallen out of the marketplace entirely in the U.S. after press coverage of the allegations of sexual abuse by his daughter Dylan Farrow. When I raise this topic, Allen’s tone and demeanor shifts noticeably. He’s jovial and talkative when discussing his film and his love for French cinema classics, looking enraptured. His mood suddenly turned gloomy, however, as I asked him to comment on Farrow, as well as the impact that her claims has had on his reputation in the U.S. By the end of our interview, Allen became pensive, gazing off into space.
It was a startling shift from a director who’d been an open book about his influences and his work. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you choose to make this film in France?
Growing up, all the films that excited us in New York were either from Italy, France or Sweden. And I always wished I had been born in France or that I could be a French filmmaker. I was such a fan of Truffaut and Godard, of course. And, I got a chance to meet these people and even work with Godard. He made a film that he asked me to be in. And I didn’t want to be, but I would never say no to him because he was such a great influence on cinema. And all these French (directors), you know, Chabrol and Renais and Renoir, all these people I was crazy about. So I always wanted to be a French filmmaker. And of course, I couldn’t be, because I was a New York filmmaker. And since this is my 50th film, I thought that I would give myself a present and indulge myself.
Originally you wrote the screenplay to focus on Americans living in Paris. Is that correct?
Yes, I thought they would be Americans living in Paris. And then afterwards I thought to myself, you know, much of the cast is going to be French. Why don’t I just make the film in French? I got a chance to live in Paris for months and the cast turned out to be wonderful. You can tell good acting and bad acting. If you see a Japanese film, for example, you can tell who’s good and who’s not good, and the same in another language. So it wasn’t that complicated.
It’s a fantasy vision of Paris, right?
As always, I have that. I did that in “Midnight in Paris.” I have that about New York, too. I have that about cities. I’m in love with cities the way directors would fall in love with leading ladies. I just love cities and I’ve romanticized New York for years. If you see New York by Spike Lee or by Martin Scorsese, mine is very different from theirs. And the same in Paris, I see Paris through rose-colored glasses. And it helps because when you’re doing a murder story, the reason one enjoys the Hitchcock films so much is because there’s a lightness to them, a romantic feeling. They’re not grim and ugly where you see people getting murdered. In a film like “Shadow of a Doubt,” you don’t see anything at all, and yet the whole picture is gripping from start to finish. So to show Paris and Parisian characters in a charming way and make it a murder story is what interested me.
There’re also some stereotypes about French people cheating on each other.
You’ve said you’re an advocate of the #MeToo movement. Do you stand by that?
I think any movement where there’s actual benefit, where it does something positive, let’s say for women, is a good thing. When it becomes silly, it’s silly. I read instances where it’s very beneficial, where the situation has been very beneficial for women, and that’s good. When I read of some instances in a story in the paper where it’s silly, then it’s foolish.
It’s silly, you know, when it’s not really a feminist issue or an issue of unfairness to women. When it’s being too extreme in trying to make it into an issue when, in fact, most people would not regard it as any kind of offensive situation.
You’ve said you’ve never had any complaints on any movies that you’ve made.
I never have. I said years ago that I should have been a poster boy [for the #MeToo movement] and they got all excited about that. But the truth is, it’s true. I’ve made 50 films. I’ve always had very good parts for women, always had women in the crew, always paid them the exact same amount that we paid men, worked with hundreds of actresses, and never, ever had a single complaint from any of them at any point. Not a single one ever said, ‘Working with him, he was mean or he was harassing.’ That’s just not been an issue. My editors have been women. I don’t have any problem with that. It’s never been on my mind in any way. I hire who I think is good for the role. As I said, I’ve worked with hundreds of actresses, unknown actresses, stars, mid-level actresses. Not one has ever complained and there’s nothing to complain about.
What was your reaction when your daughter Dylan Farrow participated in a 2021 docuseries, “Allen v. Farrow,” detailing her allegations that you sexually abused her? What is your response to her accusations?
My reaction has always been the same. The situation has been investigated by two people, two major bodies, not people, but two major investigative bodies. And both, after long detailed investigations, concluded there was no merit to these charges, that, you know, is exactly as I wrote in my book, “Apropos of Nothing.” There was nothing to it. The fact that it lingers on always makes me think that maybe people like the idea that it lingers on. You know, maybe there’s something appealing to people. But why? Why? I don’t know what you can do besides having it investigated, which they did so meticulously. One was less than a year and the other one was many months. And they spoke to everybody concerned and, you know, both came to the exact same conclusion.
Have you seen Dylan or her brother Ronan Farrow again?
No. Always willing to but no, no…
Do you feel you’ve been ‘canceled’?
I feel if you’re going to be canceled, this is the culture to be canceled by. I just find that all so silly. I don’t think about it. I don’t know what it means to be canceled. I know that over the years everything has been the same for me. I make my movies. What has changed is the presentation of the films. You know, I work and it’s the same routine for me. I write the script, raise the money, make the film, shoot it, edit it, it comes out. The difference is not is not from cancel culture. The difference is the way they present the films. It’s that that’s the big change.
Are you thinking of making another film in France?
I was thinking this is my 50th film and I have to decide if I want to make more films. There’s two things that I thought about. One is, it’s always such a pain in the neck to raise money for a movie. And do I want to go through it? Making the movie is one thing, but raising the money for it, you know, is tedious and not glamorous. And now if somebody steps out of the shadows and says, ‘I’ll give you money to make your movie,’ that would be an influential factor in making another movie. And the other thing is where movies have gone. I don’t like the idea – and I don’t know of any director that does — of making a movie and after two weeks it’s on television or streaming.
This is not a high cultural point. There were many wonderful films made in the past, and you don’t see many wonderful films made now. When I wanted to go to the movies, there used to be three or four films I was dying to see. Every week there would be a film from Truffaut and Fellini and Ingmar Bergman and Kurosawa. Now, very few European films are playing in the United States to begin with. I think we’re not in a wonderful place culturally, certainly not in cinema.
Catherine Deneuve has said she would still love to work with you. Did you consider casting her in “Coup de Chance”?
I don’t know her well. I met her, I would say probably almost 60 years ago. She was being photographed by a famous photographer. And then I ran into her once, I think for a few seconds in a restaurant. But, you know, she’s one of the great French actresses in history. She was not right for anything in this movie, but if she had been, it would have been an honor for me to offer it to her.
Do you think you’ll make another movie in New York?
My guess is that if I made another film, I think the basic idea that I have is in New York, and I would make it there.
But it has become more challenging for you in terms of casting and financing in the U.S.?
But it’s not challenging enough to be a factor. It’s not challenging enough so that over the years, you know, I still keep making films. I mean what was very challenging was Covid. That was a big challenge.
Do you believe that you could make another film with a major Hollywood star like Cate Blanchett?
I would be thrilled to make another film with Cate Blanchett. I think she had a nice time working on ‘Blue Jasmine’ and she’s obviously one of our great actresses. And I yeah, I’d be thrilled if I had an idea that she would be good for. I would certainly go right to her with it and invite her to do it. And same with ‘Blue Jasmine,’ if she liked the movie and the part, I think she’d be happy to do it.
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