The NY Times interviewed Woody Allen about his new film You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, and he had some characteristically thought-provoking (and gloomy) things to say. Nothing we haven’t heard from him before, but nonetheless notable:
Q. The ideas of psychic powers and past lives, or at least people who believe in them, are central to your latest film. What got you interested in writing about them?
A. I was interested in the concept of faith in something. This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t.* I’ve known people who have put their faith in religion and in fortune tellers. So it occurred to me that that was a good character for a movie: a woman who everything had failed for her, and all of a sudden, it turned out that a woman telling her fortune was helping her. The problem is, eventually, she’s in for a rude awakening.
Q. What seems more plausible to you, that we’ve existed in past lives, or that there is a God?
A. Neither seems plausible to me. I have a grim, scientific assessment of it. I just feel, what you see is what you get.
Q. How do you feel about the aging process?
A. Well, I’m against it. [laughs] I think it has nothing to recommend it. You don’t gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you’d trade all of that for being 35 again. I’ve experienced that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and you start to think about your own mortality and envision it, and it gives you a little shiver. That’s what happens to Anthony Hopkins at the beginning of the movie, and from then on in, he did not want to hear from his more realistic wife, “Oh, you can’t keep doing that — you’re not young anymore.” Yes, she’s right, but nobody wants to hear that.
Q. Were you prepared for the firestorm of media coverage you set off by casting Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in your next movie, “Midnight in Paris”?
A. I was very surprised at the level of journalism that occurred in relation to her. She has a small part in the movie — a real part, but it’s a small part. And I shot with her the first day, and then all the papers said she was terrible, and I did 32 takes with her. Of course I didn’t even do 10 takes with her. This was just a magical number that some guy created in a room. Then they printed that her husband came to the set and was angry with her. He came to the set once, and he was delighted. He felt she was a natural actress and couldn’t have been happier.
Q. That would make a good blurb for the movie poster.
A. For some reason, the press wanted to say bad things about her. I don’t know if they had something against the Sarkozys, or it was a better way to sell papers. But the fabrications were so wild and so completely fake, and I wondered to myself, Is this what happens with Afghanistan and the economy and matters of real significance? This is a trivial matter. That’s a longwinded answer to your question: I was not prepared for the amount of press that was attached to the picture because of Madame Sarkozy.
*Woody’s on pretty solid ground here, at least according to the recent study by The National Academy of Sciences, “High Income Improves Evaluation of Life but Not Emotional Well-being.” Buried in that document is the utterly fascinating finding that religious belief is correlated to happiness, but not to lessening worry. Anyone care to hazard a guess why? The report also claims that $75k is the salary mark at which happiness peaks. That is, according the write-up in the Times, “beyond household income of $75,000 a year, money ‘does nothing for happiness, enjoyment, sadness or stress’ – another entry for the already over-stuffed everyone-knows-but-no-one-believes file.
P.S. If you missed Woody Allen interviewing Billy Graham the first time we posted it, today is the day you correct that mistake. [Videos now working again!]