Scoop
    Questions & Answers
    with Woody Allen
    (Interview by Jason Simos)
    Pictures and Interview provided  by
    Films Odeon - Atlantis Viva Films



    Question: You’ve said before in interviews
    that you often have several potential film projects
    percolating at once. How exactly was it that Scoop
    jumped to the fore?
    Woody Allen: Well, I had done Match Point with
    Scarlett Johansson, and we had talked about
    doing another film together. Scoop was an
    idea that I had which accommodated both of us,
    so I thought we would do it.

    Q: What was the creative point of entry into this
    story, in terms of your writing the script – the
    mystery, the romance, or the concept of Scarlett’s
    character as a tenacious young journalist?
    WA: No, originally the concept was, a reporter so
    dogged and so determined that he would come
    back and get his story from the afterlife; that there
    was a good story to be had that he learned
    of after death, and nothing would deter him from
    getting that story. It was an homage to first-rate
    investigative journalism.

    Q: As opposed to some of the Fleet Street
    journalism we’ve seen over the years.
    WA: Well, as opposed to lesser journalism.

    Q: So it evolved from there to encompass the
    young college journalist character played by
    Scarlett…
    WA: Yeah. When I had the idea, I thought it would
    be a reporter, because I had the idea prior to
    knowing Scarlett. But when I was
    formulating the script, and I knew Scarlett was
    playing the character, it seemed like it was a
    natural that she was a college
    journalist on vacation for the summer.

    Q: Scoop is your second movie filmed in London,
    with a third on the way; unlike the character you
    play in Scoop, have you fallen in love with this city?
    WA: It’s a very nice place to film in. I mean,
    I like filming in New York a lot myself, but London
    is accommodating to me; the
    weather’s very good there and the conditions for
    shooting – the financial conditions, the artistic
    conditions – are good, so it’s
    a pleasant place to shoot.

    Q: Do you now have favored locations in London –
    equivalents to, say, Kaufman Astoria Studios or
    Greenwich Village?
    WA: You know, I don’t know the town that well,
    so I still enjoy going around to all the places in
    town. I like going around the streets of London,
    which is a particularly pretty city. So it’s
    very easy to get locations when you combine
    the beauty of the city and the beauty of the
    weather that you get every day; these
    wonderful, moody, gray, soft-lit skies.
    It comes out very
    seductive on film.

    Q: In Scoop, it seemed like there are parts of
    London that you’re still exploring, after
    Match Point.
    WA: Right. Because I don’t know it that well,
    of course I gravitate to those places that
    I know or that the art director
    brings me to that are picturesque. Being a city
    person myself, naturally I’m taken – I think
    anybody would be, in London – with
    the enormous amounts of parks and squares
    that they have, and the beautiful white houses
    and beautiful country locations. They’re
    famous for their country houses and estates,
    and it’s fun to shoot on those.

    Q: To shoot all these locations for Scoop,
    you’ve reteamed with cinematographer Remi
    Adefarasin, following Match Point.
    WA: I didn’t know Remi at all before I met him
    on Match Point, but his reputation preceded him;
    people said I’d love to work with him, and he’s
    terrific. I met with him and he’s a very affable
    guy, and I did love working with him, so I invited
    him back for the next one. I was thrilled that he
    was available for my second picture in London.
    He’s a very gifted cameraman. For my third one
    in London, that I’m doing this summer, he’s not
    available; he’s on another film that he’s been
    committed to for a long time [the Elizabeth sequel
    The Golden Age]. So I’ll be working with
    Vilmos Zsigmond, who I’ve filmed with before
    [on Melinda and Melinda].

    Q: In scripting and playing the character of
    Sid Waterman – a.k.a. Splendini – you’re returning
    to writing about, and playing out, scenes of magic
    and those who practice it. What is the appeal;
    it’s an interest dates back to childhood, does it not?
    WA: Yeah. It’s just something that always was
    a little junk-tooth interest of mine. I liked it when
    I was a kid, and I’ve grown up as a sucker for it.
    It always strikes me as amusing and interesting,
    and I’m always taken with the kind of
    cheesy-looking Japanese red lacquered boxes
    and silk handkerchiefs and swords and cards
    and silver rings and all the apparatus that give it
    an exotic look.

    Q: And also, what the magician wears, right?
    WA: What the magician wears, yes. [laughs]
    In my case, well, I always take a little license there.

    Q: Also regarding your character in Scoop, can
    you discuss a little of his journey in the course of
    the story? He reminded me of some of the people
    in your films or in your stories who find
    themselves unexpectedly swept up from one part
    of their life to another, and kind of deposited on
    another side they didn’t anticipate.
    WA: There’s a standard suspense picture gimmick –
    in this case, in a comic suspense movie – where an
    innocent character is, for one reason or another,
    sucked into a story that he has no real
    interest in and that he doesn’t want to waste his time in.
    But there’s always a reason why they are; in Scoop,
    Sid is talked into it by Sondra, because she’s an amiable,
    energetic, likable student. He starts to get involved with
    the story, and gets carried away with it a little bit in
    helping her out.

    Q: In the later scenes, he seems compelled to carry it
    through for the girl.
    WA: Yes, he likes her; not as a girlfriend, but as a person. His
    common sense tells him not to get involved – if anything, this is
    going to lead to trouble – but she’s clearly someone who comes
    from his neighborhood, his country, who he can identify with and
    empathize with. So he gets more and more drawn in, and her
    enthusiasm is boundless because she’s relentless and because
    she starts to fall in love with the subject of her investigation.

    Q: Your last several films have spotlighted younger protagonists.
    In Scoop, there’s also the element of your and – from beyond the
    grave – Ian McShane’s character feeling protective and paternal
    towards Scarlett’s character –
    WA: Mmm-hmm.

    Q: Do you think this is a conscious evolution of your films’ storytelling?
    WA: Well, no, I think what happens is I, over the years, starred in my
    movies and played the lead. And then, as I got older, the lead has got to
    be passed on – certainly, the romantic lead has got to be passed on –
    to younger leading people. And so, you know, I just cast them that way.

    Q: In terms of leading men, was Cary Grant perhaps an inspiration
    for the Hugh Jackman character and performance – maybe Suspicion,
    especially?
    WA: No, I think that’s built into Hugh; he’s such a dapper, sweet,
    likable, guy who can dance and move gracefully and is so handsome
    and can sing that comparisons are inevitable. You could always –
    just as there was a time Hugh Grant would be compared with Cary
    Grant, because he also is very debonair and charming, well, so is
    Hugh Jackman, and it is an inevitable comparison.

    Q: Had you seen Hugh onstage in The Boy from Oz?
    WA: Oh no, no, I didn’t see him. I had never seen Hugh Jackman or
    his movies or even knew what he looked like before I met him. He
    was just one of those people who I’d never come in contact with
    for one reason or another. I only heard wonderful stories about
    him, and how great he was as an actor.
    We called him and asked him if he’d be interested in doing
    something, and he said “sure.” He came by to say hello, and he
    walked in and not only is he fun to look at – great-looking – he’s
    also lovely and suave. I offered him the role right away. I was
    very lucky that he was free to take it, and wanted to take it.

    Q: In terms of knowing people’s work, what was it like working
    with Ian McShane – he was making movies in London when you did a
    couple, back in the Swinging ‘60s. Were you aware of him from back
    then?
    WA: Nope, nope. I was completely unaware of Ian McShane as well. I
    had never seen his television show [Deadwood] or anything. Juliet
    Taylor, who casts with me, said, “I know the guy who would be
    great for this role – Ian McShane.” And I said, “Send him in.” He
    came in – and it was one of those situations that Juliet’s had me
    in over the years where she sends in an actor or an actress that
    I’ve never heard of – and the minute Ian walked in, I thought,
    right on the money, he’ll be perfect. I looked no further.

    Q: As we’ve said, you knew Scarlett Johansson well, having just
    made a film prior with her. You showcased an unseen dramatic side
    of her in Match Point, and now in Scoop the comedic side. What’s
    she like to direct – and, in Scoop, act opposite?
    WA: She’s a total joy. It’s like I hit the lottery or something.
    She simply has everything. She just lucked out in life; she’s
    beautiful, sexy, very bright, funny, nice, quick-minded, easy to
    work with. She’s got range; dramatically powerful, and funny when
    you need her to be funny.
    There are certain people I’ve worked with over the years – Diane
    Keaton was one – who were just hit with the talent stick and had
    it all. And Scarlett has got it all. She lights up the set when
    she comes on; the crew loves her. She’s full of energy, and
    infuses the whole set with positive feeling all the time.
    It’s a treat to work with her, and I’m not just saying this as her
    costar; everyone in the company looked forward to working with her
    on the second picture after the first picture’s experience.

    Q: Acting with her in Scoop, did you find she kept pace with you
    in scenes –
    WA: Oh, she leaves me for dead. [laughs] I mean, she’s one of
    those people that always – offstage or on – always tops me. No
    matter how good a line I come up with – when we’re putting each
    other down, teasing each other, whatever – she always nails me
    last, and best. Of course, that, to me, earns a lot of respect.
    Because I always think that I’m quick and witty, and so when
    someone outguns me consistently, I’m just amazed by it. But it’s
    true – and everyone on the set will tell you that.

    Q: You well know the pool of actors in New York City, and how it’s
    evolved. But in the U.K., there’s this incredible bench strength;
    there’s people in small roles in Scoop, like John Standing, Julian
    Glover, Fenella Woolgar…
    WA: Yes; England has a great, great theatrical tradition. The
    people there are wonderful. One of the interesting things is, the
    most gifted people, the biggest people, have no problem taking
    small roles. They don’t get into the business of ego, or size of
    roles. So you’ll see a great Shakespearean actor on television,
    doing a commercial; there’s no stigma to any of that. So I get
    these great people who – perhaps if they were in this country,
    wouldn’t deign to do a small part or a 1-2-day part. There, they
    do it with great relish and enthusiasm, and they love it.
    Everybody’s ready to pitch in, and so you get great actors
    throughout the whole fabric of the piece. And I get the benefit of
    that.

    Q: In terms of the comedic suspense genre, were there any works
    that you had in your head while writing the script or being in
    London? Scoop is a lighter story than Match Point, but there’s
    still malfeasance and mystery…
    WA: Well, I was thinking of those murder mystery stories that gave
    me pleasure when I was younger, whether they were comic or – more
    usually – serious. One of my own favorite films of mine is
    Manhattan Murder Mystery –

    Q: Yes.
    WA: -- and I like that kind of a film. I liked the Thin Man films
    when I used to see them as a younger person, and certain Bob Hope
    murder mysteries that I would see when I was younger, and of
    course the many non-comic suspense pictures…from Hitchcock all the
    way down to other good ones that were made over the years.
    You know, when you’re making one that’s comic, you can’t really be
    as effective as when you’re doing it seriously. But there’s
    nothing I could do about that; this was a comic film, and I wanted
    to keep it light – even broad, in spots. It’s a type of film that
    I myself get pleasure out of watching, and pleasure out of doing.
    Whether an audience will get pleasure out of seeing it, I can only
    hope.

    Q: I’d mentioned Suspicion before in part because of the glass of
    milk Sondra brings Peter in one scene, and I thought of Diabolique
    later in the movie…
    WA: Right, true. You can always go back to – I mean, I don’t want
    to make this comparison, because it’s pretentious…but you can
    always go back to Hitchcock on these films because he did so many
    suspense films and used so many tricks that it’s impossible to do
    suspense things without being in some way reminiscent of
    Hitchcock; I don’t mean in his high quality, but reminiscent
    structurally. But mine is done with the light touch completely –
    emphasis on the lightness.

    Q: As with Manhattan Murder Mystery, Scoop has two people roaming
    around a city trying to make sense of something.
    WA: Yeah, and many fast dialogue scenes. In Scoop, I wanted to do
    the same thing. You know, I don’t have a big range as an actor;
    unlike Scarlett, my range is kind of small. I can play an
    intellectual – a college professor, or a shrink – or I can play a
    lowlife – a cheesy little bookmaker; in Scoop, a cheap
    vaudevillian magician.

    Q: You mentioned hoping that audiences get pleasure from this
    latest movie. In always keeping up such an active filmmaking pace,
    is it ever a concern of yours how moviegoers will respond to a
    film?
    Woody Allen: Well, it can’t concern you. Because if it concerns you,
    then what happens is, it paralyzes you and you sit home trying to
    anticipate what they’re going to like. And you make a step and
    then you panic and think, “No, that’s not it.” So you’ve just got
    to do what you want to do, and hope that they like it.
    That’s always been the way that I worked; I always made whatever
    I’ve wanted, whether it was a musical or a black-and-white film or
    a Bergmanesque drama. Whatever strikes me as interesting at that
    time, that’s what I make. And I hope the audience likes it. If
    they don’t like it, there’s nothing I can do about it; I’m off on
    the next one. If they do like it, that’s always nice.
    The position you don’t want to be in is, you want to like the film
    yourself, and if you make the film and you yourself don’t like
    it…I write the script and then direct, and if I don’t like what
    I’ve done when it’s over, then even if the audience likes it, I
    figure, “Well, I got away with one” or “They’re not perceptive” or
    “This is such a piece of junk” – so it’s not a good feeling.
    But if you make a film that you like – “This is really a good
    piece of work; I got the most out of this script and executed it
    beautifully” – and they like it, it’s great. But if they don’t
    like it, you still get somewhat of a decent feeling. You figure,
    “Well, it’s a bad break for me, they don’t like it; but I really
    did the best job I could and I’m sorry they don’t like it.” That’s
    a much better feeling than if they love it and you yourself don’t
    get any kick out of it.
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