Moviefone cornered Allen at the Toronto Film Festival and found out that what makes it all worthwhile for him is the prospect of working with fresh and brilliant new talents.
How open are you to actors improvising and making changes to the script or character?
I'm very open because I feel that the actors have instincts that you may not have, and when you sit down to write the things, you don't want it to be ruined by yourself. And you're writing and there is no connection to those who will be performing the roles, so you get a lot of things wrong, you make a lot of bad choices, and make mistakes. Then your actors get the material, and get the chance to say the lines and act it out and their instincts come into play. They feel it more then I felt it when I was writing it, so I am very dependent on actors.
You've attracted some of the finest talent to your films. Did you write this film with any of these actors in mind?
I didn't. Halfway through the writing process I spoke to my wonderful casting director Juliet Taylor, and I said that Josh Brolin would be absolutely perfect for this, and it turned out that he was available. I was really lucky. I didn't dare dream that I would get Anthony Hopkins, but he was available. Freida Pinto was available. Lucy Punch I didn't know from a hole in the wall and she beat out a lot of women for this role. She got in on pure talent. I was just like "Who is she?! She's fabulous!"
What was it like working with breakout star Freida Pinto?
She was a pleasure, she was very sweet. I had just seen her one movie, and I thought she would be a perfect obscure object of desire to look at though the window. I withheld any view of Freida for a long time in the film because she is so beautiful that I wanted you to just see her from a distance. I didn't want the viewer to get a good look at her at all until Josh is sitting opposite from her in the restaurant, and you see her face for the first time.
It's so great and has so much impact because it's such a valuable space. It's the first time we really see her in the movie, we've seen her from afar, and her back from across the way. I never had to give her too much direction. I'd have to say to Josh, "You can't play this in a wheelchair!" [Apparently he wanted to...] But they're gifted people, so you get out of their way and try not to ruin them.
After all this time, is it still difficult for you to write movies/screenplays?
Movies, they're all hard to do. None of them is easy. They're all wrapped with anxiety. You know your movie starts off and you're thinking you're going to make 'Citizen Kane' or 'The Bicycle Thief' and you think it's going to be the greatest thing the world has ever seen. And then when you're cutting it together, you just hope people will sit thought it, and all your lofty ideas about those films your felt you were going to make, you find yourself compromising, and you put the end scene in the front, and cutting characters put in a narration, and you're just fighting for survival! So any film is tough. I think the only time I had the least of these problems was 'Match Point.' I was unusually lucky. Very atypical, everything just fell into place. But that never really happens. They're all extremely difficult.
What about finding love? That certainly gets harder.
Certainly since I was in my early 20s I knew that [finding love] is luck. We think we can control it and we think we know what we're doing, but it's largely dependent on luck, and if you're very lucky, you may just have a happy relationship. And if you're unlucky, all logical reasons in the world don't seem to make sense. So you meet somebody, you're attracted to somebody, and the exquisite neurons in the brain mesh properly and things can be wonderful and things are not like homework. You shouldn't have to work at your relationship; it's not like the treadmill. It's pleasurable. But it's hard to hit that jackpot and get lucky. You think that you can control it, but it's not really so.
It gets worse and worse. I see no advantages in age at all. You become shriveled, you become decrepit, you lose your faculties, your peer group passes away, you sit in a room gumming and drooling. I don't see any positives in total annihilation, no hope of resurrection, so it's a bad situation. But as Anthony said, "It's a joke, but without a punchline!"
It's kind of a nightmare actually, and I find the best thing one can do is to distract yourself. And so you go to the movies, you get involved in a meaningless love affair, and the outcome has no meaning in the grand scheme of the universe. You watch Roger Federer, you do all these things to distract yourself from thinking about the tall dark stranger who's coming to get you, despite all your efforts to eat health foods.
'You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger' opens on Sept. 22, 2010.