How he was cast: I got a call that Woody wanted to meet me, so I went — it was a few blocks from me — I went to his office and I was just, I just wanted to meet him. To me, I always had very low expectations. I just thought, “I’m gonna get to meet Woody. He won’t pick me, and I’ll get to meet him before he dies,” so this is what I was thinking. So I went to his office and it’s this very nice little office and he’s got pictures of him with Muhammed Ali and all these people through the ages and I’m looking at that wall and waiting to meet him and his hat was sitting on his table, like I think he takes his hat off and puts it on the table upside down, and I’m like, “I’m looking at Woody’s hat that he wears to work, and even if they tell me he’s too busy and I never meet him, this was worth it.”
And then I went into this room and there he was and I remember thinking, “He looks just like Woody Allen.” He was so nice to me, and he said, “I like your stand-up and I know you can act, but I don’t know if you can be this guy, because this is a very tough guy, it’s a mean, tough guy, and so I need to see if you can be that guy.” So I went into the other room and I read a scene that he gave me, and I thought, “I can’t do this guy.” I mean, I can — I’ve never really been in a fight or anything, and this is, you know. I’m big and I’m not afraid of a lot of people, but I’ve never been in a fight. So I thought, “I can’t really be this guy, so I’ll just read it as myself and not get the part.” I just didn’t, you know what I mean? I wasn’t gonna be like, [classic tough guy voice] “’Ey.” Anyway, so I just read it as me, and he went, “Oh, well, okay,” and I knew I didn’t get the part right away. He was like, “Well!” It was like one of those things where somebody just wants to say “Well! That happened, that you read that.”
So I left and thought — and I think I cried, I was so emotional about it — “I just met Woody, he was nice to me, I didn’t get the part, and I’ll never see him again,” and then I heard that Dice had got that part and I thought, “That’s so perfect.” I was so happy for Dice; he’s a good guy. And that was the end of it to me, and then I got a letter, and somebody said someone who works for Woody is coming to your house tomorrow with an envelope, and a young woman came to my house, gave me an envelope, and said, “I have to take this back with me, so you can have it for 40 minutes,” and I opened it, and it was a letter from Woody saying “You couldn’t do that guy, but here’s another guy you could do,” and there was three scenes in it, and they just made me laugh and I thought, “This guy’s a total jerk-off, but I can totally play him.” And so he wrote and said, “Please do the part,” so I wrote back and said yes, and that’s how I got the part.
On doing someone else’s movie: I never go out for movies and stuff anymore. I don’t really, I have my life in a pretty good rhythm of doing stand-up and then doing my TV show and I spend time with my kids, and so I never really want to go live on somebody else’s movie set, so I don’t. And I never get the part, so I just never, I don’t go out for stuff. So it came out of nowhere. I had no interest in being in anything… I get offered stuff sometimes, and I usually just, yeah, I don’t want to do it. You’ve got to go live in, like, Shreveport, Louisiana for half of these movies, and I just don’t think that that’s worth anything, and I have custody with my kids for half the time and I want them to count on being with me.
On working with Woody: I wanted to be as little trouble as possible. I think you have to have a sense of proportion, and I knew that Cate and these guys were making a movie and I was in it. I figured if Woody… I should try not to have him need to focus on me at all. That means that I’m basically doing what I was hired to do… so I was happy when he didn’t say anything, because I figured that meant it’s fine, or he’s going to cut me out and I didn’t cause too much trouble. But then some days, he would really say to me, “You kind of dumped that one. You could try that one better.” He would give me a little something, just basic. One thing he said that always sticks with me is he said, “That pause was too long for the audience,” and that told me that Woody always, the audience is with him. He’s already in the seats watching it with the crowd, because he’s a comedian, because he came from that, so I think that he tried to help us do it right for the crowd, for the crowd that’s going to watch it. But otherwise, he’s very humane about movies. Some people are kind of crazy how they direct, I think, and he’s very humble too, like he kind of says, “I think this is maybe what works.” That was my experience.
On his character, and deception: Well, yeah, my guy’s a liar, but he’s just trying to get something. He’s got, from what I understand, the guy I’m playing, he works in a stereo store and he meets a very terrific girl and he’s married and he just wants to eke out to this little place where he gets to go to hotels and have romantic sex with Sally Hawkins — which I would like to do if I had that kind of life — but I think that he’s just trying it to make something better out of his life. Most people have such, they’re very shackled by everything they have to do, so when life gets really… I don’t know all the words you can use for how dreary it can be or so much not like a dream come true, you get outside of reality.
I think that’s why most people deceive or lie, because they’re trying to get outside of reality, so you try to say you’re something else or try to find someone who will believe you, that there’s something else that’s true, then there is, so I think you can play somebody who’s deceptive with sympathy, because I think in most of Woody’s movies, everybody’s just trying their best and they’re failing. They’re trying their best they can at living a life and being a little bit happier than they seem to have been meant to be, and that usually means lying. It’s a way to get out of your thing.
On co-star Sally Hawkins: Sally’s awesome. Sally’s very — [Cate Blanchett interjects: “I don’t know if I’d like to take her to a hotel and have sex with her, but many would.”] Sally’s got this infectious smile and she’s a very silly person. She lives in the moment a lot and then, also, she’s extremely dedicated and breaks herself into pieces to get the thing right. She was very, she just works so hard, and then she was easy to be around. Yeah. I was really happy to work with her. I felt really lucky.
On the “glass is half empty” paradigm: I just wanted to say one thing about optimism and pessimism, because it’s just interesting because I have this conversation with my kids about it, that they say the pessimist says that the glass is half empty and the optimist says it’s half full. But my kids and I figured out that there’s a third kind of person, and I don’t know what you call them, but it’s somebody who sees that the glass is always full because it’s half full with water and half full with nothing, so that’s the third kind of person. I don’t know what it is.
Blue Jasmine opens Friday in limited release.