Just a Minute With: Woody Allen for "Vicky Cristina"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Woody Allen has long been considered a genius of U.S. cinema with a list of writing credits dating to the 1960s and “What’s New Pussycat,” as well as directing “Sleeper,” and “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

Woody Allen, director of the film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", poses with fans at the film's premiere in Los Angeles August 4, 2008. Picture taken August 4. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

He won the best director Oscar for 1977’s “Annie Hall” and was nominated for writing 2005’s “Match Point.”

In recent years, critics have spurned much of Allen’s work. But that is not true of his newest romantic comedy, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which opens in the United States on Friday and has earned good reviews.

The movie tells of the romantic affairs of two American tourists (Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall) and two Spanish artists (Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem). Allen took a few minutes to talk to Reuters about the film and his life.

Q: You used to shoot only in New York and more recently have filmed in London. So, why the change to Barcelona?

A: I had a germ of the story and I knew it could work in an exotic city. Barcelona started saying, “We’ll finance a film. Come and do it.” I bet the story would work fine in Barcelona. It doesn’t have to be Paris, doesn’t have to be Rome. Barcelona is now one of the most enchanting cities in Europe.

Q: And Penelope Cruz came to you about her role as the eccentric -- some might say crazy -- artist.

A: She came by my work and said she knew I was doing a movie in Spain and that she’d love to participate. She’s so beautiful and such a strong actress. I thought I should sign her now while she’s interested before she changes her mind.

Q: Has getting out of New York and working in cities like London and Barcelona broadened your storytelling?

A: It has, because just going to a foreign country and having a completely different atmosphere. The fact that, in this one, you are dealing with people who don’t speak your language, it forces you to come up with ideas that are very different. I couldn’t have done “Match Point” in Spain.

Q: Part of what the movie is about is people living with unfulfilled wishes. Do you think most people live that way with desire for things they wanted to do or should’ve done.

A: Yes, A large number of people want something more out of life, and they don’t know exactly what it is. They know there’s got to be something more out there, something more interesting, something more romantic, more passionate, more fulfilling.

Q: It’s sad.

A: I always have had a very sad view of everything -- that’s always been a criticism, for better or worse, of my comedies. When I was a stand-up comedian, there was some kind of melancholy element. Certainly when I started making films, it was always pointed out that it had a sad element to it.

Q: Do you see yourself with any dreams unfulfilled?

A: Certainly I have some regrets in my life. I was lucky that I got into a good relationship -- the best relationship of my life -- in my later years. (In 1997, Allen married Soon-Yi Previn, who was the daughter of Andre Previn and Allen’s long-time companion, Mia Farrow)

But all my early years were brutal. I went from one relationship that didn’t work out to a marriage that didn’t work out to another relationship that didn’t to another marriage that didn’t. Finally through no planning of mine and sheer chance -- the most preposterous chance -- I found myself in a relationship with the unlikeliest person and it worked out very, very well for me.

Q: And you took a lot of criticism for that.

A: The public has no relation to my life. I don’t owe the public anything for my personal life. Who are they to give me any flak over my personal life? It would be like me going to their home and giving them my opinion on their marriage, or giving my opinion on how they raise their children. They are not interested in mine and I’m not interested in theirs.

Q: The reception for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” has been good. That must be gratifying.

A: If you didn’t bring it up now, that’s something I would never know about. I finished this film month and months ago, and when I finish a film, I really have no more interest in it whatsoever. I have gotten great reviews on pictures that haven’t made a dime at the box-office. I’ve gotten poor reviews and it’s never meant anything. Because they call you great, doesn’t make you great, and because they say it’s terrible, doesn’t make it terrible.

I remember years ago coming home after a great triumph with “Love and Death” and the girl in the apartment across still wouldn’t go out with me. I was home by myself eating Chinese food out of a bucket, with nothing to do, watching television. It never means anything.

Editing by Leslie Gevirtz