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Interview with Woody Allen, writer/director/star, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz and Alessandra Mastronardi, stars of To Rome With Love

Sony Pictures Classic releases Midnight in Paris in select theaters on June 22nd, 2012 at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you return to acting?

Woody Allen: Well, I always like to act. When I write a script, I look at it and if thereís a part I can play,then I play it. In the last half dozen scripts Iíve written or so, there hasnít really been anything I felt I could do. So with this script I looked at it, and I could do it. I saw a part I would be able to play. Iíve been performing for years. I made my first film in 1968 and Iíve always been open to acting in other peoples films, but over the years no one has asked me. When I say no one, two or three times Iíve been asked and Iíve always said yes, but Iíve only been asked two or three times in thirty years or more than that. So when John Turturro asked me if I would be in Fading Gigolo, a film that he was shooting in New York City, I said sure because no one had ever asked me. So I was happy to do it. I was fortunate that my script happened to have a part for me. But Iíve always enjoyed acting.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why has Midnight in Paris been so popular? How do you feel about this being a follow up?

WA: It was my biggest financial success. To me I make all the pictures and I try and make a good picture each time and I either make it or I donít. It was a happy accident I donít know why everyone embraced it so enthusiastically. I make a lot of pictures. Some people like them, some donít, and some pictures they like a little bit. Itís very capricious for the film maker. I have no idea. No matter where it was, Sweden, or Japan, it was the best attendance I ever had on a picture. A complete mystery to me. To me itís a no more appealing picture than Match Point or Annie Hall or Husbands and Wives. To me they all have the same appeal or lack of appeal, so I donít know.

NYC MOVIE GURU : Whatís the most idiotic question you;ve been asked by the press?

WA: Youíre asking me? I donít think we have enough time. The times Iíve walked through those red carpet things, the amount of time Iíve been asked, "Is Scarlett Johansen your new muse? Is Penelope Cruz your new muse?" Every time I make a new picture people assume I have a muse, or I want a muse, or that that person wants to be my muse. So thatís one of millions of questions I could give you that are really stupid.

NYC MOVIE GURU : Do you have multiple cuts or edits of the film?

WA: In the editing you start with very great ambitions. You want to make Citizen Kane, and then when you shoot the film and get to the editing room, you realize that you screwed up so irredeemably that you will edit the film in any configuration to avoid embarrassment. You put the beginning at the end, you take the middle out, you change things, the editing process becomes the floundering of a drowning man. Thatís been true for me since the start of my career, my first movie, Take the Money and Run , it was a fight for survival, the editing room. Itís not simply that you go into there and you got various themes and youíre going to edit it like itís Battleship Potemkin , itís not that way for me. I am just in there selling out left and right every ounce of integrity I have to get by.

NYC MOVIE GURU : How is the advancement of modern technology affecting the quality relationships?

WA: Itís making it electronically quicker to break up, but itís not really affecting the real content of it, just the cosmetics. You can meet people quicker, you can lose people quicker, but it doesnít really affect anything significant. Youíre still going to have trouble. Itís a sad situation for everybody and the electronics just facilitate the anxiety.

NYC MOVIE GURU : What about Rome or the Italian character makes the greatest impact on the film?

WA : Rome is a captivating city to shoot in. Itís visually arresting and thereís a great Italian film tradition and thereís certain things in the Italian sensibility that makes you want to tell certain different stories. And those certain stories that occurred to me that I thought were, if not exclusively indigenous to Rome, they were certainly suggestive of shooting in Rome. Something with the opera, something with paparazzi, a young couple that are newlyweds come to town and they get split up, these are things that are very Roman. The story Alec, Ellen, and Greta were in, I couldnít have done that in New York, but it worked very well in Rome because it had the added element of someone coming to live at their house. And if they were all in New York, they would have been New Yorkers, and that would have been a problem. But the fact that they were in a different city and Rome is as good as any of them for that. But I could have done that story in New York, or San Francisco, or Los Angeles, or something. The others were more Roman rooted.

NYC MOVIE GURU : What was the order you came up with these stories and what were the casting choices you made like?

WA: Rome is such a vital city, there are so many funny characters and the activity of Rome takes place in the streets and itís got such an amusing and vibrant city, as opposed to making a film in Brussels or Berlin, which have a totally different sensibility. Rome, itís all up and fun, everything has a built in comic life enjoying feeling, so I couldnít settle on one story. I started to write one, but I thought a funny story about a guy that could only sing in the shower, no wait, a guy that wakes up and heís suddenly famous and he doesnít know why, this is funny. Then I thought, "Why donít I do them all in a cavalcade of stories? Just put them out there and the audience will follow." I was confident the audience would follow them, theyíre not difficult to follow, so I did them. I edited them logically so when you left one story, you werenít disappointed in going to the new story. You were caught up sufficiently in the new story to forget the old one for five minutes and go with the new one. We worked it out as logically as we could. NYC MOVIE GURU : For the rest of the cast, how do you divorce your feeling of being a fan of with Allen with your working relationship.

Alec Baldwin : I donít know whatís going to happen with that. Weíre still trying to do that. I just want to say that the last time I had an opportunity to embarrass someone this way was at an event for Sidney Lumetís work where I was talking about the different kinds of films that were successful, and that the phenomenon here is that you have a man, that surely there are screen actors that have starred in films and actors on screen that have created so many, dozens and dozens of memorable moments on screen- Jack Nicholson comes to mind as someone who the force of their performances made their films great films. But you add to that another layer where that man who is acting those roles also wrote and directed the films himself and with Woody you have someone responsible for more memorable moments on every level, writing, producing, directing, acting, than anybody else that is in film. When you think of the countless dozens of films, and even Woody Allenís less successful efforts are better than most of the films you see. When you see the greatest films he has made, theyíre some of the greatest films youíve ever seen. So when he calls you and asks you to be a part of this, if youíre available, you go. You want to hitch a ride on that and be a part of that because this is a guy whoís on an island of his own in terms of film making.

Penelope Cruz : Iíve been very lucky to work with him twice. The first time I was terrified because you hear all these stories about him and my first meeting with him was so peculiar because I went into his office and immediately you feel like youíre in Woodyís world because everything is so unique. The meeting was 30 seconds long and he told me it was nice to meet you, youíd be great in this role, Iíll see you in a bit. And I left and I never saw him again until we were on set. I was terrified of being fired, really, really nervous. I was trying to look at him and forget all the admiration and respect and beautiful moments Iíve experienced through his work, because if you donít put that aside and try to focus on your work, I would be starstruck the whole time. It still happens to me sometimes when Iím with him. I find him so fascinating that it goes beyond. Heís just so unique. And it goes beyond likeÖ I like that I get to be directed by someone I admire so much, but I also like that I get to hang out with him, and spend time with him, and hear him speak and laugh all day long. I feel really lucky that I get to spend time with him.

Greta Gerwig: love his films more than I love any films. I grew up watching his films over and over again and I spent so much time imitating characters from his movies, I learned what books to reads by what references he makes. I read that because it was mentioned. I wouldnít live in New York if it wasnít for his movies and I wouldnít have wanted to be an actor if it wasnít for his movies. I was very nervous, I still am very nervous, I canít believe this moment is happening.

Ellen Page : I felt really similar to Penelope. When this opportunity arose, I felt very very nervous. I was probably more nervous and intimidated than I ever felt before for a film. Also the role itself was a bit of a departure for me. That opportunity was wonderful, but also intimidating. I was afraid I wouldnít be able to pull it off. But the opportunity to work with him was wonderful. It felt liberating in a way because I felt able to explore. Itís about working with material thatís so wonderful that you create something natural and organic, and as an actor thatís a really beautiful day.

Alessandra Mastronardi: I was in shock, and I think Iím still in shock. Everything was new and weird for me. As an Italian actress, it felt amazing that Woody Allen was in Rome shooting a movie with Italian actors. So it was a pleasure to be there with all of them. The first day I was so silent, I was just looking at the floor. Youíd be the same. We didnít speak to each other the first day. I was really nervous, but after the first day it was wonderful. You really feel that he trusts you and you really feel that you are free to act. I can speak in Italian and say everything. Iím lucky to be here. Heís the best director in the world. NYC MOVIE GURU : Ellen, are you comfortable going outside your normal range?

EP : Thatís where nervousness and intimidation can come into play. It was hard for me to see myself in the way Monica was being described, but I think for any actor, to have the opportunity to feel scared and work through that and feel challenged and go in as open as possible and hopefully pull it off, but maybe you wonít, itís more exciting to push oneís self than not. Things would get a little dull. Itís always a pleasure to do things a little different, and even work can be a lovely pleasure, as an actor. Let alone to be able to go to different worlds.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Woody, were you thinking of any particular Italian movies or movies about Rome while making this?

WA: I did think of Italian films when I was making the movie. One of the films that I was thinking of is one of my favorite films, which is the Fellini films, The White Sheik., which I could see as an influence on me for the story Alessandra was in. I just love Italian cinema so much, that that stuff creeps into your pores that you do it without thinking about it. I donít sit and do it consciously. But when I sit back and look, I can see it clear as a bell.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why was some of the film in Italian? How were you able to judge what the actors were saying?

WA : Those stories could only be told in Italian. Obviously Alec and Greta were Americans abroad and I was an American abroad with my family, but Alessandra, Storie were Italian people, and Benigniís family were Italians, so they spoke Italian. It was automatic, I wouldnít have thought of it any other way. I donít speak any Italian, myself. I know a little Spanish because I shot a movie in Spain, and a smattering of French from a French film, but you donít have to know the language. When you go to a film and see an Italian film or French film, you see an actor, you know theyíre great, but maybe some other actor isnít as effective. I can tell. You can tell. You see them acting and theyíre clearly convincing and their body language and everything about them is good. Itís not hard to direct someone in a different language. I mentioned this before, but when I did Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Javier Bardem and Penelope were ad-libbing all over the place. I didnít understand any of what they were saying, but I could see they got it right. They were acting in the correct fashion for that moment. It wasnít important what the actual words were, the emotions were correct.

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