In the December issue of Harper's Bazaar, Cate shares her thoughts with Woody about her new film and balancing work and family life. Woody also shares some anecdotes about his casting couch, how his children call him a ‘loser’, and talks about nearly casting James Gandolfini in Blue Jasmine. Some highlights below...
On Woody Allen’s unusual casting style:
CB: Can I ask about the casting couch that people barely get to sit on? Why do you bother? What are you looking for in the five seconds that you meet people for a role?
WA: I bother because [the casting director] Juliet Taylor makes me. If I know the person, there is no problem. I don’t have to meet Alec Baldwin. But let’s say it’s someone she’s introducing me to. She shows me a film, I’ve never heard of that person, I see them on film, they look right for the part. But then she says: ‘But I don’t want you to cast that person until you meet them…she wants to know that I’ve hit it off with them, whatever that means. So I have to go through the excruciating process of meeting someone I don’t really want to meet and who I am happy to cast without meeting. They come in, I have nothing to say, I am embarrassed, they are tense because they want the job, we already want them; the whole situation is awkward.
On nearly casting James Gandolfini in 'Blue Jasmine'
CB: He (James Gandolfini) was an amazing actor. You never worked together did you?
WA: No, but we came within a hair of casting him in Blue Jasmine. The last day before we cast, it was between him and Andrew Dice Clay for the part of Jasmine’s brother-in-law. We thought Andrew Dice Clay would be a fresher choice. If we had picked Gandolfini – the poor guy died just as the film was coming out – it would have been terrible.
On balancing work and family:
WA: To me, family and work are two divorced things. Work is work, with or without family. It doesn’t matter. Coincidentally, on Blue Jasmine, it was my wife who had the idea for the picture. I was having lunch with her and she told me about this woman who had lost everything. In this case, my family was very influential on my work, but otherwise, whether I am single, dating or with a family, work has remained separate and compartmentalised.
CB: After I had children, I think by necessity, I became a lot more economical in a way that I worked. My first question when my agent calls is: ‘Who’s directing and when are they shooting?’ I always ask: ‘How long do they need me?’ Which sounds banal, but it helps keep you rational.
On Woody’s children with Soon-Yi being unimpressed with his career:
WA: My children have expressly said: ‘Dad, you are such a loser’. I am quoting directly there. They are totally unimpressed with what I do, or by me.
CB: Have you forced them to watch your films?
WA: I’ve made 45 movies or so, and I think one of the girls has seen two of them, and that’s it. They go to the movies with their friends and see the drivel that their peer group watches. You know they’re nice kids but they have no interest in me. They see me as an idiot savant who can make films but can’t change his typewriter ribbon.
CB: Do you take your kids to films?
WA: I’ve tried, but they never want to go. I’ve shown them one or two Marx Brothers movies and Shadow of a Doubt, but they have no real interest. I could put all the riches of the celluloid world at their disposal and they wouldn’t exhibit the slightest interest in any of it – or in me, for that matter. They love me but they are very underwhelmed by me.
On being uninhibited in front of the camera:
WA: Well, you [Cate Blanchett] are not inhibited at all. You can’t act at the level that you do and play people who are mad and hysterical and electric if you are inhibited. It requires a personality that opens up. Inhibition is something I notice in hamstrung actors all the time. They can be wonderful up to a point and then they become very self-conscious.
CB: I think that’s the trickiest thing about performing: allowing yourself to be looked at. Some people feel very comfortable. Maybe because I am not from the social-media generation, I don’t really engage in all of that. That sense of constantly wanting to present myself is not something I do. It took me a long time to feel comfortable on-screen because the camera sees everything. It is so interesting when you meet an actor in real life and they look completely different. The camera sees something in their face, the camera loves them and they come alive.
Cate was honoured at the Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards, in association with Estée Lauder, Audemars Piguet and Selfridges & Co at Claridges, London
Full interview in the December issue of Harper’s Bazaar – on sale 7 November.