Los Angeles. After the success of last year’s “Midnight in Paris,” filmmaker Woody Allen is back again with a European-set comedy, “To Rome With Love”, in which he also stars.
With a cast featuring Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page and others, the film portrays intertwining stories including that of an young man (Jesse Eisenberg) in the love triangle of his youth, a middle-aged man (Roberto Benigni) who becomes an overnight celebrity and an undertaker whose operatic voice only comes alive in the shower.
Allen talked with Reuters about the movie, his own singing abilities and why he never has family night at home.
Jesse Eisenberg seems to be playing a younger version of a role you would have once played on screen. True?
I would have played Jesse’s part if I was young. I’m a very limited actor but that’s one of the things I could play well. I would have been able to be stuck with (actress) Greta Gerwig in a nice relationship but also having the sexually precocious, mysterious guest (Ellen Page) in the house.
“Midnight in Paris” became your highest grossing film at the box office. Which actor played you most effectively on screen. Owen Wilson in “Paris,” or Jesse in “Rome?”
Owen pulled off a part that I would have played years ago, but not playing it like me. Maybe because Owen is such a cowboy – he’s from Texas. He’s a surfer and beachcomber. He’s so unlike me that he could play that part, and you wouldn’t think of him doing me. Jesse is urban and very much like me. I would have played that part like Jesse (played it). Maybe not as well because he’s got that fast, very skillful delivery, but Jesse could play characters that I play very, very effectively.
You have two adopted daughters with your wife Soon-Yi who are now 12 and 13. Do you guys ever gather for family nights and watch your films?
No. First of all, it’s never family night. I’ve shown my older daughter Alfred Hitchcock films, and I’ve shown some Marx Brothers movies. I’ve never, ever shown them my films.
The less I make it a show business family, the better. I should be a regular father. I don’t want them to think of me as their dad the celebrity. And they don’t. They think I’m a loser. They’ve said it in no uncertain terms. ‘Oh dad, you’re such a loser!’ I feel better about that than if they go to school and say ‘Oh, dad’s picture grossed $12 million the first weekend.’
What’s it like raising a teenager and near-teenager?
It’s almost as if someone gives them a license to say, ‘I’m a teenager now, I can become terrible.’ And they become terrible. They’ll come back eventually, but they won’t come back for years. And you can’t fathom that those little kids who were so dependent on you – and you were having so much fun with – they’re going to be terrible. Or that you’re going to be an embarrassment for them. They won’t want you to come to school to get them. They won’t want you in the room with their friends.
Sounds like that could be a plot point for a future film?
I see that as a top of $2 million dollars at the box office. Nobody wants to see that movie.
In the past, you’ve said you don’t care about box office.
I don’t want to see that movie. It’s like pulling pictures of your kids out. Nobody wants to see them. They all pretend and say ‘Oh, beautiful.’ The truth is, nobody cares about your kids, or stories about them, or things they said or did the other day. I don’t inflict that on people. I’ve never carried pictures of my kids around.
[Allen's iPhone rings with a Marimba ring tone]
That was my wife. She wanted to spend money on earrings. She wanted to know if she could get them. They were not terribly expensive, but expensive enough to check on. It’s rubber stamp time. I’ve never, ever said no to her.
So who has you wrapped around their fingers? Your daughters or your wife?
Both. Three women and they’re all difficult in their own way, all demanding, and I never say no to anybody for anything.
I’m a pushover. I mean, my wife calls from a store and says she wants to buy earrings. What am I going to say? ‘No, that’s a little steep?’ That’s not the life I want her to have.
At 76-years-old, any regrets?
I have a million regrets. Instances where I should have been more aggressive but didn’t have the confidence to be more aggressive. Things might have been very, very different. And others where I was aggressive and had no business being aggressive. But fewer (of the latter). Mine are more errors of omission, more than commission.