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Woody Allen finished his period drama for Amazon Studios, “Wonder Wheel,” on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, he decided to sit for his first-ever Facebook Live video interview, conducted by filmmaker Robert Weide, director of 2012’s “Woody Allen: A Documentary.” Allen discussed his latest movie, which stars Kate Winslet and Justin Timberlake, and also shared his thoughts on many of his previous films, most of which he believes were mishandled by distributors.
“It’s always, ‘We’ll put this out in the summer because it will be counter-programming to all the big movies’ or ‘We’ll put this out in Easter,’” Allen said, adding that when his movies underperform, distributors always have an excuse at the ready. “There is always a story as to why their plan to really squeeze the last dollar out of the box office of the picture has failed miserably, and the picture is awash in red ink.” Allen even joked that right after delivering his films, distrubtors hold “voodoo meetings where they decide what’s the best way to put the film out to minimize the box office.”
Here are some of the highlights from the more than one-hour conversation:
On “Wonder Wheel”:
It comes out at the end of the summer. It was shot in Coney Island and it takes place in the year 1950 or 1951 — I can’t remember. I grew up near Coney Island and I went to Coney Island frequently, but I was never one to go on any of those rides… I’ve never been on the Wonder Wheel and I’ve never been on the Cyclone.
On working with studios:
When I make a film, I like the people backing the film, sometimes the studios, to put the money in a brown paper bag and then go away. And then six months later I give them film. That’s the way I’ve always been able to work, having complete control of every aspect of the film. I wouldn’t work in the film business in any other way. I would stop working in films if I didn’t have that. So it came to a point where the studios would say to me, “Look, we’re not banks. If you’re asking us for $12 million, we want to read your script, we want to know who you’re casting, and we want to have some input. We’re not just bankers.” I, on the other hand regard them as at best bankers, if not criminals, and I said, “No, you can’t read my script and I’m not interested in your input.” I said this politely… And they said nicely, “Get lost.”
On making films outside the U.S. after “Match Point”:
I went to England and they said, “We’ll give you the money and we’re bankers. We don’t care about input. That’s all for the studios.”…And then I found they wanted me to come back and do another one. And then I got a call from France and Spain and Italy and different countries and they said, “We’ll give you what you want. Make a film here.” So I was riding high. I was going to the great capitals of the world, taking my family — we would spend the summer there living high off the hog — and I’d be making the films I wanted to make. Then we found some suckers in the United States who were willing to play ball with me and put up the money and let me make the films exactly as I’ve always made them, and so I came back to the United States and I’ve been bankrolled the proper way now.
On losing distributors’ money:
I’ve survived through many, many years without every getting into that hit-flop syndrome. I could make three or four films in a row that don’t make any money and still go on to make my next film because I’m working inexpensively, so nobody gets crippled by the amount of money I lose for them. Maybe they lose a few bucks, but usually they break even or make a few dollars. They don’t get rich, either. It doesn’t matter if I have a hit or a flop. I’m not in that game. I make films for a different reason, so I’ve been very lucky.
On working with Amazon Studios:
Amazon is a perfect example of a company that’s so successful that someone like me is peanuts and chump change. These guys make billions. They’re worth billions and billions. So I come along and I make films for a pittance. So they can reach in their pocket and say, “Give it to him and shut him up,” and I make my film, and if it makes a few dollars you don’t even notice it on an Amazon ledger. And if it loses a few bucks they couldn’t care less. And the people up there like the quality of my work. They like the films. Not everybody does, but they do. So they feel no pain with me and they’re happy to give me the money and let me do my thing, and maybe I’ll give them a nice film… A company like Amazon, that falls under the rich, patron-of-the-arts sucker group.
On his track record as a director:
If you had bet on me from “Take the Money and Run” until now, and bet on each of my films, you would have made money. You would not be rich, but you would have made money over the years because most of them in one way or another have eked out a profit. Some have not, but those that have not have not been devastating.
On “Annie Hall” being overrated:
For some reason, that film is very likable. I’ve made better films than that. “Match Point” is a better film. “The Purple Rose of Cairo” is a better film. “Midnight in Paris” is a better film. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is as good. For some reason [“Annie Hall”] has some charismatic inexplicable hold on people. That, and “Manhattan.” All over the world “Manhattan” plays all the time… Through sheer surprise to me, ones that I think are perfectly delightful nobody is interested in, and another one that I think is fine, they’re ultra interested in.
To watch the full interview, check out the video below.