Woody Allen, Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood & Others Discuss 'Whatever Works'
Mike: When Larry David was cast, did you re-write anything to take advantage of Larry's comedic style? And, also, Larry, when you were filming a scene was there any time that you thought, "That sounded too much like Larry David from "Curb Your Enthusiasm," let me redo this as Boris Yellnikoff?
Woody Allen: I didn't rewrite anything for Larry. When I took the script out of the drawer I did have to re-write the script because it had been laying there, you know, for a long time. Dormant, sort of. And I had to freshen it up and jazz it up a little bit to make it more contemporary. But I never changed it for Larry. Larry just seemed to fit it like a glove. As soon as [Casting Director] Juliet Taylor said, "Larry David," it was like a light lit up and it seemed, "Yes, of course! Larry David!"
[From the Audience]: And Larry, about the Boris and "Curb Your Enthusiasm Question"?
Larry David: That wasn't your question!
Larry David: What was it? I already forgot!
Mike: Well, did you ever feel like you were doing a scene and thought, "That sounded too much like my character on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and not like Boris. Because you're so used to doing that other character...
Larry David: No, no... when I was doing those lines it felt like Boris. Though, I tried to convince [Woody], at some point before we started shooting, that he should change (starts laughing) the character's occupation to a former [Chess] Grandmaster. (Laughs) I didn't want to be a physicist because I didn't think I would be able to improvise because the character is so much smarter than I am.
Other highlights from the press conference included:
Considering this was written in the 70's, how much work did it take to bring the script up to date?
Woody Allen: It took work ... the original material all remained the same but references... the concerns of the picture remained the same. Those will never change, ever. But the social and political things, many of them had to be changed and freshened up.
The tone of the humor is pretty judgemental, particularly aimed at the people in the interland and, I was just thinking, and this is a little wide of the subject, but, the last couple of weeks has seen a couple of ugly murders from the right wing loony end. Somehow, the movie seems less misanthropic to me now in the wake of that. I was wondering if you had any thoughts or reactions to these two murders that have happened.
Woody Allen: (Shakes head confused) I personally was against the murders.
Woody Allen: I never think of it as misanthropic even though that sounds funny because that is the source of the humor. But, it seemed to me, that it's a realistic appraisal of life. Life is quite terrible and you can see by what goes on. So, this is fiction and it can be read as misanthropic and being interpreted that way but I don't think it is; I think it's simply realistic. The real world is as horrible or actually much more horrible than the world Boris envisions. He has compassion and feels bad about this. You can't pick up the paper in the morning without [seeing] the atrocities: two young women are thrown in prison in Korea, some guy enters the Holocaust Museum and kills the guard... This is the average stuff we live on every morning. In sense the movie is almost mild to the ugly brutality that's just a part of your morning Cornflakes for breakfast.
There was a recent article about Woody's humor and Larry's humor reflecting a certain era or style of Jewish humor. Do you think it does reflect that?
Larry David: Me? [Audience laughs] I don't know. I don't quite agree with that. Well, obviously, comedic styles do change. Comedy isn't the same now as it was in the 50's or the 70's, I suppose. It still has to be funny and I guess that's the bottom line. I guess it's a little grosser now. You kind of watch movies now and I'm a little shocked by what I'm hearing but I suppose that's the biggest change.
Woody Allen: I'm not a big believer in this sense that Jews have a monopoly on comedy. They've made a contribution, for sure. But, Bob Hope was not Jewish; Buster Keaton was not Jewish; W.C. Fields was not Jewish; Jonathan Winters is not Jewish. You could go on... Robin Williams... Much has been made of this but I never think of it as an ethnic focus ... Some people are funny and some people are not funny ... the ones who are not authentically funny? You know, your body may not know how to articulate it. You may laugh at them and get a certain amount of enjoyment but when your asleep at night, and you wake up at three in the morning, and you're alone in your bed, you know who's really funny. [Audience laughs].
A lot has been made about you going to Europe for your last four movies and you're going back for your next one. Can you talk about that?
Woody Allen: That's strictly a function of finance. It's very expensive to make movies in New York. I work on a very low budget and can't afford to do it. I'd like to do it ... New York and California are too expensive. I was going to make my next film in New York and I couldn't afford to ... so we shifted to London and made the cast British, just as we had done with "Match Point." I had written that for New York and the Hamptons and Palm Beach and really as an American story. I anglicized it because, to make it in New York, was a fortune of money.
There's been a trend recently of films being turned into Broadway musicals. Have you ever thought of transforming one of your films into a Broadway musical?
Woody Allen: Well, I myself would have no interest in that whatsoever. None. Producers call all the time and they want to make "Bullets Over Broadway" into a musical and "Purple Rose of Cairo" into a musical. And they do propose these thing and I don't care. If they want to and they make some deal, they can. But I have no interest in it; no interest in writing it, seeing it... knowing about it.
They would make good musicals in the right hands. The books to some of those thing would be potentially good musicals. The odds of bringing it off are hugely against it of doing a good musical -- even if you have a book that's viable to begin with -- the odds are not in your favor. So, what would probably happen is they would get the rights to one of my movies and make it into a musical and it would be a terrible musical and everyone would be angry at me. [Audience laughs].
Larry, is there going to be a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" musical?
Larry David: (Shakes head disgustedly) Okay, yeah. Yeah, right...
"Whatever Works" is really about the magic of New York. I just want to know what New York has done for everybody here.
Evan Rachel Wood: I did what [her character] Melodie did and I moved to New York when I turned 18 when I was filming "Across the Universe." I was filming on the streets of New York for the first time and singing Beatles songs; it changed my entire life. I don't know what I would have done if I would not have made that movie. This city really does something to you.
Larry David: Well, I grew up in Brooklyn. Then I lived in Hell's Kitchen from the time I got out of college until I moved to L.A. in my ealry 40's. So, I remember very distinctly the smell of urine [audience laughs] as I left my front door. I remember having to take my shoe off after I came in my apartment to kill the thousands of roaches that were in my bathtub. I have very fond memories... shall I go on? [Audience laughs].
Patricia Clarkson: The first place I lived was the YMCA because at Fordham university they didn't have dorms so I was at the YMCA. I was at the YMCA. [Audience laughs]. On 63rd and I remember on Friday nights there were a lot of nice young boys around and I thought, "Oh, they just returned from like a YMCA camping trip?" No.
Evan Rachel Wood: I heard it's fun to stay at the YMCA. [Audience laughs]
Patricia Clarkson: (Laughs) I'm a New Yorker now, I guess. I love Downtown, I never tire of it walking my dogs on the street... ever.
Larry David: I remember fighting with people every day because I couldn't get change for a dollar to get on the bus! [Audience laughs] Nobody wants to give you their change!
Woody Allen: My memories of New York are unrealistic. The New York I grew up loving was, ironically enough, the New York of Hollywood movies. Where people would live in penthouses with white telephones ... this was the New York that I knew. I grew up in Brooklyn, not that far from Larry, and I never knew New York as it really existed. For that you have to speak to Spike Lee or Martin Scorsese. I only knew New York the way it appeared, you know, with popping champagne corks and people dressed in tuxedos and making very witty banter and elevators rising into the apartments, directly [audience laughs].
So that's the New York that I have depicted in my life and have tried to live in my life, really, and (laughs) it's caused me a lot of grief.
Larry, what was your first reaction when you were offered the part?
Larry David: This is not a good thing! This is not going to be a very good idea. I was intimated and I don't really like challenges. I don't like to be out of my comfort zone which is about half an inch wide. I called Woody and said, "I don't know about this."
When you played "The Producers" part in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" you had the anxiety scene where you were saying, "I can't do this! I can't do this!" Was it like that for this role?
Larry David: No. That was pretend.
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit reader questions for celebrites to Mike on Twitter.
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