Woody Allen's iconic characters are pretty much defined by their sex. To quote him: "Men are dogs and women suffer." It is ever thus in his latest relationship comedy 'You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger,' but as we have come to expect, Allen imbues his characters with equal parts heart, soul, hope, wit, and witlessness.
Lucy Punch plays a ditzy young gold-digger and sexual gymnast who bewitches Anthony Hopkins' aging Lothario. 'Slumdog Millionaire''s international beauty Freida Pinto plays the innocent object of desire across the courtyard from Josh Brolin's overly-aroused character. Hopkins and Brolin certainly play dogs, but it's a lot of fun watching them mate even if they are leashed to their wives.
Moviefone caught up with the stars of 'You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger' at the Toronto Film Festival.
Anthony and Josh, your characters don't have too many redeeming qualities. Is it fun to play that?
Hopkins: Yeah, I'm just a year younger than Woody, and I think I have reached a happy state of mind. I don't have any expectations anymore. I'm glad I'm not young anymore, I feel at peace, I've more than enjoyed my life. My wife actually suggested that we buy a Porsche, and I couldn't even get into the damn thing! She said that it's a chick magnet or something. But my character gets caught up in this nightmare, he makes a big mistake and that happens in life. Men are dogs! Never trust a man. I think it's just part of the male psyche, the more successful you get. My favorite line is from a T.S. Eliot poem, he says "I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, and I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker. And in short, I was afraid."
I think that's the most eloquent statement on death and life. And you know what I find looking back on life, is that there is solace in knowing that it is actually all a joke. It's fun, but as I think someone said, "It sucks and then you die." And you know what? That's it!
Josh, can you pick up on that?
You were saying that you couldn't stand your character.
Brolin: Well, to me, he's pathetic; I had asked Woody if he could be in a wheelchair and have a Slavic accent, and that was something that didn't work. There's this great story about Robert De Niro where he was doing a play and people were flipping out during the rehearsal process because people couldn't hear what he was saying. And then came opening night and he was brilliant, and people kept saying, "Why were you doing that?" So that's I was doing with the wheelchair -- I was flipping out, I didn't know how to play this character. He's not the most redeeming character out there, so that's why I gained some weight. There's something soft about him. I felt something soft and squishy and vulnerable about him. When I watch it I just want to slap him. Sure, the grass is greener on the other side, so he's constantly looking for something over there for notoriety and fame. It's a strange character. I'm always asking why. Why does he do that?
What was it like working with Frieda?
Brolin: She's incredible. I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who comes out of a best picture situation and then works with Woody Allen. I think that takes a lot of courage and she worked really hard. She won't tell you, but she used to get sick from nerves coming to the set every day. She was nervous working with us. I know we seem nice, but we're not. But she did extremely well. She was very courageous.
Freida, your character is being watched through the window by Josh's character. She became somewhat of an exhibitionist, and I wonder, in your opinion, are all women closet exhibitionists?
Pinto: I know that Dia is meant to be this mysterious character, but I never meant to be concentrating on that as much as concentrating on the idea that she is really confused and she never really knew what she wanted. What she has wasn't what she wanted and the grass really was greener on the other side. What she got from Roy seemed to entice her, so I think she just went with it. I think she enjoyed attention, and she was getting involved with someone like her. I don't think that all women are closet exhibitionists, but I do think that this was something that was bound to happen for her character. She was finally getting some attention from someone she could relate to.
How was it playing the writer's muse, and how did working with Woody change you in any way?
Pinto: When I walked into the first meeting when I was reading the script, Woody said he really doesn't like it when people start acting when they hear the word "action." That's the best advice anyone could give an actor; you should make it a little more organic and natural. Josh said that if you really want to do something with conviction, you have to keep it visual. I think it's great that I had such great mentors on the project. I've never been a muse. Nobody's ever told me that I'm a muse to them, but I think it's very flattering compliment to a woman, that somebody is inspired by them to paint or write or sing.
Lucy, your performance was so exuberant and physical and tarty. Obviously, that's not how you normally are, so how did you get into this character aside from the script and Mr. Allen's direction?
Punch: Well, the wardrobe helped a lot. All the make-up, the padded bra and long fake fingernails. I went to the gym a lot and was in the best shape I've ever been in. I just wanted to feel all loose, and let it all hang out, and I got very fit, and was very hungry during the time of filming.
'You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger' opens on Sept. 22, 2010.