Among the different vignettes in Woody Allen’s new film To Rome With Love, there is a story about a normal businessman (played by Roberto Benigni) who wakes one day to discover that he is incredibly famous – and he has no idea why. Even though the tale offers some shrewd insights about the vagaries of achieving fame, Woody Allen says that he wasn’t offering a deliberate critique of celebrity worship.
"The fact that some of the film deals with that theme is post-facto,” Allen told reporters Friday during a press conference in Los Angeles, Calif. “That may have been something that was in my unconscious mind at the time and it came out in some strange way. But I myself feel about the way the character of the chauffeur talks about it in the movie – that life is tough, and it’s tough whether you’re famous or not famous, and in the end it’s probably of those two choices better to be famous.”
Allen, of course, has courted tabloid attention in the past. In particular, his ongoing cinematic preoccupation with older men and younger women seemed to culminate in his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, with whom he had a ten-year relationship.
Currently conducting interviews for To Rome With Love, he admits that he’s come to terms with the Faustian bargain of fame. “Because the perks are better,” he observes. “You get better seats at the basketball game, and you get better tables and reservations places, and if I call a doctor on Saturday morning I can get him. There’s a lot of things that you don’t get if you’re not famous.
“Now, I’m not saying it’s fair – it’s kind of disgusting – but I can’t say I don’t enjoy it.”
The cast of To Rome With Love includes an international ensemble of acclaimed performers, including Benigni, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg. Allen acknowledges that being famous doesn’t mean your life is perfect, but it’s decidedly more manageable than other celebrities have sometimes made it out to be. “There are drawbacks in being famous, but you can live with those too,” he confesses. “They’re not life-threatening. You know, if the paparazzi are outside your restaurant or your house and actors make such a big thing and scurry into the car and drape things over their head – you think they’re going to be crucified or something – but it’s not a big deal. You can get used to that.
“It’s not so terrible,” he says. “The bad stuff is greatly outweighed by the dinner reservations.”
To Rome With Love enjoyed its North American premiere at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival. The film opens nationwide June 22.