You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Trailer
Woody Allen's London-set romp follows a pair of married couples, Alfie and Helena, and their daughter Sally and husband Roy, as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble.PT1M37S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ci3o 620 349 January 10, 2013
Woody Allen likes to make a film a year and has pretty much done so since 1966. Whether they're successful or not, according to him, is a matter of luck. His luck has clearly been with him of late, as 2011's Midnight in Paris was the box-office hit of his career, earning more than $150 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
His 2012 film To Rome with Love (Allen's seventh set in a prominent European city) has done well, too. Now again able to raise finance in the US after a lean spell, the director, who turned 77 on December 1, has shot his latest film, Blue Jasmine, in San Francisco, fulfilling his long-held desire to work with Cate Blanchett.
From the day I started doing movies ... people thought it was autobiographical. This movie is made up.Woody Allen
One Allen film that Australian audiences missed out on was 2010's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. It wasn't released here as no local distributor in that post-global financial crisis era saw it as a viable proposition, especially given Allen's track record at that time. Hollywood Ending (2002), Anything Else (2003) and Cassandra's Dream (2007) all went straight to DVD here.
On a role ... the filmmaker returns to the limelight. Photo: Reuters
But it all changed after Midnight in Paris, and Melbourne's Umbrella Entertainment picked up the film in Cannes in May. The timing is right, with three of its stars appearing in other releases: Anthony Hopkins has the title role in Hitchcock (out now), Josh Brolin plays a 1940s cop in Gangster Squad (also showing), while Oscar hopeful Naomi Watts is in the tsunami movie The Impossible (January 24).
Focusing on the difficulties of finding love and happiness, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is darker than most Woody Allen movies and features even more foolish characters. In Allen's usual style of overlapping vignettes, Sally (Watts) and a beefy Roy (Brolin) are struggling to keep their marriage afloat. Roy's a one-book American novelist who can't come up with a decent follow-up and has an affair with his young neighbour Dia (Freida Pinto), while Alfie (Hopkins, playing Watts's dad) hopes for a more joyful life in his new marriage to a gold-digging young hooker (Lucy Punch).
While we might imagine Hopkins's character's marriage to a younger woman could reflect Allen's own experience, he's adamant it doesn't. ''From the day I started doing movies in 1965, no matter what kind of movie I did, people always thought it was autobiographical,'' he says.
Woody Allen maintains his prolific output. Photo: Getty Images
''This movie is completely made up. The older man with a young woman is a good theme for a writer because you can make very good jokes with that kind of thing.''
Indeed, Allen's marriage to his former partner Mia Farrow's adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn (who is now 42), has been happy and stable, even if initially the relationship did harm to his career. Allen admits his prior romantic entanglements had been fraught and it didn't help that he was involved with his leading ladies, Farrow (13 movies) and Diane Keaton (eight movies), still a close friend.
''I've been most happy in recent years and this is an accident, as most people are happy when they're younger,'' Allen says. ''This is the third time I have been married. I first married when I was 20 years old and that was wrong. I married years later to a wonderful, wonderful woman [comedy actor Louise Lasser] whom I am still friendly with, but that was wrong.
''Now I am married to a much younger woman, who was the daughter of the woman I was seeing, and that was in the newspapers all over the world.
''That was a problem.''
His so-called problem led to him needing to finance his subsequent films in Europe, where he has long enjoyed a huge fan base. (Close to half of his box-office takings have long come from France, with a substantial amount coming from Italy and Spain.) Initially, he made films in London with mixed results. Match Point did well, while Scoop and Cassandra's Dream were flops. Then he moved to Barcelona and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, his third movie with Scarlett Johansson, was a hit. Penelope Cruz also became a fan and came back for more in To Rome with Love. Tall Dark Stranger also reflects his uncanny ability to attract talented, beautiful actresses to his movies.
''Woody is so fresh and sharp,'' Watts says. ''He doesn't miss a moment … on the set. Every time we would have a little pause for a lighting set-up or something, we would stay on the set and just absorb him. It might be half an hour of jokes, more jokes, more entertainment. It's like a separate Woody Allen film.''
As for working with Australian actresses (Radha Mitchell also starred alongside Brolin in 2004's Melinda and Melinda), Allen marvels at what he terms a cultural explosion in the movie business in Australia. ''It's like a renaissance. Australia is a faraway country-continent and nobody had any particular thoughts and all of a sudden Naomi Watts comes out and Hugh Jackman [a British aristocrat in Scoop] and the beautiful one who was married to Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman. Judy Davis is a great actress who I worked with [three times] and now there's Cate Blanchett. It's incredible.''
Butt of a joker
Josh Brolin has gone from strength to strength since breaking through in the Coen brothers' 2007 adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel No Country for Old Men. Woody Allen, his director for 2004's Melinda and Melinda, was quick to cast him in 2010'sYou Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Brolin says he was prepared to do whatever it took.
''All I care about is mixing it up and it was like, 'Here is another asshole. What about Josh Brolin? Let's call Josh!' It's funny because people see my movies and then when they meet me they expect me to be heavy and so serious and I don't take myself seriously at all.''
Brolin gained 20 kilograms for the role, as a grumpy writer who can't come up with a good idea, so takes it out on his long-suffering wife, played by Naomi Watts, who was well aware of the actor's sense of humour.
''I'm big-boned, which sucks, so I have to gain a lot of weight to look bigger,'' he says. ''I ate six huge muffins and a pizza every day. Naomi would text me these funny things and she would have herself hysterical. Like commenting on my stomach and how massive my arse looked, how it was like its own country … Or she would say, 'Hey, how about another muffin?'''
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger opens on Thursday.