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Woody Allen: “Suddenly, death does not seem so bad to me”

At the age of 82, Woody Allen releases his new film ‘Wonder Wheel’. In an interview with Israeli Ynet News website, he talks about New York, about Judaism and explains why he no longer plays in his films: “I am too old to get the girl.”

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By Shirit Gal, Paris

At the age of 82, Woody Allen releases his 48th film, but who counts? “I’ve never done a count, but it makes sense. So now I’m about to finish working on the 49th movie and start writing the 50th movie,” He says in an interview with Ynet in Paris on the occasion of his new film ‘Wonder Wheel’. Even if you are not among his fans it is impossible not to be amazed at this number, which includes some of the great films of the 20th century.

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But before settling down to interview Woody Allen, we must agree to some preconditions. “Household management” as they call it in professional jargon. Any question about the Harvey Weinstein affair, which his son, journalist Ronan Farrow revealed for the first time in the New York Times, will lead to the immediate termination of the interview. Also, questions about his marriage to adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, is off-limits; As well as the accusations of his stepdaughter Dylan Farrow, who alleges Allen sexually abused her as a child – something that Allen vehemently denies and claims that his ex-wife, actress Mia Farrow, planted the idea in revenge for his affair with Soon-Yi.

Apart from these “trifles”, you can talk about everything, but loudly. “Speak out loud,” he asks as he sits facing me in a green sweater and his glasses adorn his face. “I do not hear well, especially in my left ear, you know, I’m an old man,” Allen smiles.

Celebrate your 50th movie?

“You know, ‘Wonder Wheel’ is already a history for me. I filmed it two summers ago and I have no interest in it anymore. That’s how I am with all my films – I never watched them. I’ve never seen ‘my romance with Annie’ or ‘Manhattan’ or any other movie after I finished working on them. I know it will frustrate me to watch them, see them and think I could do something much better. If for example, I practice on a treadmill and on the television screen one of my films are being shown, I immediately change the channel. I don’t have copies of them, I don’t watch them and I don’t participate in panels for my films. I don’t want to talk about how things used to be. I think this is a big mistake.”


Kate Winslet in Wonder Wheel. Amazon Studios


Still mind what people think about your work?

“The funny thing is that I never really cared. I have nothing to do with this information, and since my sixth or eighth film I have not read a word about what they write about my films.” At first I would look at the reviews, in America there were piles of newspapers with reviews, Everyone had an opinion, and I thought to myself that this is ridiculous, nothing of that can help me, I do not have anything to do with all this information, so I did not really care if my films made money, which hardly happened, and I did not care if Visitors or audience liked them or not.”

You always create and always move, it comes out about a movie a year, does not it?

I do not like to go on vacation, go to the beach or go to nature – it does not interest me, so I sit at home for about two days and then start To write again, because that’s what I like to do, it’s like a hobby for me, like playing music, it looks like a lot of work but it’s not, people think I work a lot but I do not. ”

According to Allen, he has never experienced a writing crisis and perhaps this is the secret to his fertility. “It may have taken me a while to think about a new idea for a film I really like, but it’s not a writing barrier that has prevented me from writing for many months.”

What does your agenda look like?

“I get up early in the morning, write, exercise and then have lunch with my wife and go back to writing again in the afternoon, sometimes practicing a clarinet, maybe going to dinner or staying home watching basketball or baseball. “He said.

Do you find that with age the things that interest you change? For example, the character of Jeannie, the heroine of ‘Wonder Wheel’, is a middle-aged woman. Would you write it in your thirties, too?

“My obsessions have not changed much, I have not grown up or developed too much or changed too much, and things that interested me in the past interest me even today, so do the characters.”

‘Wonder Wheel’, released on Thursday, Dec. 7th, takes place in the 1950s and tells the story of four people whose lives intersect against a large theme park on Coney Island. Ginny (Kate Winslet), a sensitive and unstable ex-actress who works as a waitress in a clam restaurant; The empathy (Jim Belushi), Ginny’s rough husband, who makes a living by running a carousel in the park; Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a good lifeguard who dreams of being a playwright; And Caroline (Johnny Temple), the home of Humpty, who is looking for shelter in her father’s house from her gangster husband and his gang.

Places Allen bases his films in are another character in the plot. He explains that he chose Coney Island because he has childhood memories of the place. “I grew up not far from there,” he says. “As a child, I always loved the place and used to ask my father to take me there.


Soon-Yi Previn and Woody Allen at the Tribeca_Film Festival

“When I grew up, I realized that Coney Island, which was a very colorful place, is actually a pretty depressing place, and people did not realize that under the color and excitement and the party and popcorn there lived people who were very difficult. The terrible life of circus people – they live in tents, move from one place to the other, so does Coney Island, and I thought it was the right place to place this specific story. ”

Most of Alan’s films take place in New York, but after filming “Meeting Point” in 2005 he found himself leaving her and moving to other places. “The story behind it is simple,” he explains, “I did not stop liking New York like the legend says, what happened is that I came to England and they offered me to film a movie there under my own terms and money.

Then they wanted me to come back with another one (“Scoop,” “Cassandra’s Dream”). Then I received a phone call from France (“Midnight in Paris”), Spain (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Italy (“To Rome with Love”). I went to the big capitals of the world, took the family, spent the summer there, and filmed movies I wanted to do.

Then we found investors in the United States who wanted to invest in me and let me do the movies I wanted to do I returned to America. “It is worth noting that Alan’s next film, which is already in advanced stages of editing, is called “A rainy day in New York.” It turns out that there is no place like home.

You used to play in your movies and being the narrator of the story. In recent movies, you do not play or tell the story. What happened?

“I can’t get the girl anymore, I’m too old for the girls then it’s not fun to play in a movie. I don’t feel like playing the old servant or the doorman in the building, if I can’t play the title role, I’d rather not play at all.

“For the storyteller, if it’s necessary for me to be the storyteller I’ll do it, but most of the time it’s not the case. Every script offers a different number … I like movies with narration and I will not hesitate to do it, but for example, in this film, it’s clear that the number should be Mickey the lifeguard.”



When Justin tells the story, you can hear clearly. Is that deliberate?

“The moment I write this, he will hear like me, and even the fact that I have the same failed ambitions that Mickey has of it contributes to that, and I would also like to be Sophocles or Chekhov or Eugene O’Neill. I identify with this feeling very much and therefore it is written in my dialect.”

Although his recent films focus mainly on women, Allen reveals that it has not always been easy for him to write female roles. “Everyone has a feminine and masculine side, as I’m sure I have, but when I started writing I could not write roles for women, I only wrote to men, and then I went into a relationship with Diane Keaton and we lived together for a few years. We stayed close friends. She impressed me so much. She’s just a bigger person than life. Because of her, I started writing to women.

I began to see the feminine perspective through her eyes, and I also enjoyed it. So I found that female characters are usually more interesting to me. They are more complex and have a broader range of emotions.”

The characters in this story are very romantic and all believe that love can save the day? Is that so?

“There’s the illusion that you’ll be saved by a romantic event, that’s usually fantasy, or something will change your life – but it rarely happens.”

Are you a romantic?

“I think I have always been a romantic. Much more than the women I was with. All of them are wonderful women. I was lucky. All the women in my life did a great deal to help me. My first wife was a very young age, my second wife, Louisa Lesser, I was a little older. Diane Keaton, who contributed a lot to me. Soon-Yi, my current wife. I am friendly with all of them and they are a great part of my life, but I have always been romantic in my relationships.”


Woody Allen


Are you nostalgic?

“For me, always, and this is a very tempting and dangerous trap, and you must be careful not to get carried away nostalgically.”

If you could, where would you go back to?

“I would probably return to the period I was in at the height of my physical fitness. Not many know but I was an excellent athlete when I was young and I was happy to return to the field and play baseball as well as I did when I was a teenager.”

Despite his aversion to the media, during the interview, Alan cooperates. Sometimes he pauses a little with his answers as he sets the glasses on his nose. So it happens that we dwell on the subject of death, which appears regularly in his films. From watching his films it was always clear that death is one of the things that frighten him more and that for him death is the tragic flaw of humanity. But from a place so clear, comes a surprise.

“There is no doubt that death is a bad thing,” he says. “Although I have to tell you that I’m starting to think, ‘Is this really such a bad thing?’, I look at the world today, what we become and where it goes, and it is not certain that it will be terrible to make a quiet exit. I had a colonoscopy test during which I anesthetized for a few minutes, which is very nice, feels good. You don’t have pressure, fears, thoughts, and dreams – I thought that’s how it feels when you die. Horrible”.

Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn, New York. His grandparents emigrated to the United States from Russia and Austria and spoke Yiddish, Hebrew, and German. Languages on which the young boy was educated. According to Allen, he was a very active child, who played a lot of sport and fell into a lot of trouble. “The guys and I stole a little, broke some windows, started small fires to roast potatoes and marshmallow. I was not a bad boy, but I was a bad student.”


Allen with the Broadway cast of Play It Again, Sam (1969).


The character of the very Jewish family, as well as the place where it grew up and the people around it, take up a large place in his writing and are expressed in many of his films, but the truth is that Judaism itself is of no importance to him. “I grew up in a Jewish family, I went to Hebrew school for many years, they made me a bar mitzvah, but nothing related to organized religion was important to me,” he explains.

“I always thought religion was a stupid thing. That it was a well-oiled machine for making money. I was an atheist. I never had any interest in it. On the contrary, any religion that is imposed on you as a child, as you are forced to know, is not a good thing. I went out after school or played on Saturdays with my friends, but my parents forced me to go to a Hebrew school and synagogue – which was not a great pleasure for me.

Nevertheless, Judaism is an important part of his films. “If I write about a family, I make it Jewish because that’s what I know from home … I could not write what is going on in the home of a black, Irish or Italian family … I know the nuances in a Jewish home. I saw it, I experienced it, I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. My friends were Jewish – besides, it never really interested me.”

Have you ever visited Israel?

“No, I’m not a traveling person. My wife is the one who travels between us. I do not like it. I didn’t even like to go to Paris for these interviews. It’s a burden for me. I don’t enjoy packing, flying, taking all my medicines, all my clothes, going into the hotel, taking showers in places that are foreign to me.

Have you encountered antisemitism lately?

“I personally have not encountered any manifestations of anti-Semitism, even though I have friends who claim that anti-Semitism has increased,” Freud once said when asked about the subject: “Anti-Semitism will always be because people are a poor breed.”

By Ynet News 




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