Woody Allen Discusses Soon-Yi, ‘Café Society,’ and How He Tried to Prevent ‘Manhattan’ from Being Released


Woody Allen doesn’t frequently read tabloids, reviews, or even his own interviews. He also doesn’t often give interviews — perhaps for fear of being asked a series of uncomfortable questions about some of the, well, particularly uncomfortable aspects of his life. In the Hollywood Reporter‘s talk with the director about his upcoming film and Amazon series (a 60s set “domestic comedy”), Allen was asked questions about everything ranging from the films of his he’d discard (oddly, he mentions he tried to stop Manhattan from being released) to mortality to his upcoming 47th film, which is debuting at Cannes, to his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn to his former relationship with her adopted mother Mia Farrow (who alleges that Allen molested their adopted daughter, Dylan — as does Dylan herself).

First, on his upcoming film, Café Society — set in 1930s Hollywood — Allen says that he “wanted to do kind of a novel on film, about a family and the relationships of the members toward one another, and the protagonist’s love relationship.” For those who recall Bruce Willis allegedly being “fired” from the project, the interviewer asks Allen about the reshoots with Steve Carrell playing Willis’ character, to which Allen says that the combined pressure from that and his role in the Broadway production of Misery (for which co-star Laurie Metcalf was just nominated for a Tony) “was just too much for him,” and so they recast the role.

The interview quickly delves into the expected personal aspects, with writer Stephen Galloway segueing by asking whether Allen’s process was at all stymied by the media scandal surrounding the initial news of his relationship with Soon-Yi. Allen says he “worked right through that, undiminished,” and that he “made films all through those years and at the same rate [he] was making them.” He adds, “I am very disciplined and very monomaniacal and compartmentalized.” When asked about whether Soon-Yi has “changed” him, Allen first responds by talking about how he’s changed her, with a very odd and even condescending bit regarding how he’s improved her life:

Oh, well, one of the great experiences of my life has been my wife. She had a very, very difficult upbringing in Korea: She was an orphan on the streets, living out of trash cans and starving as a 6-year-old. And she was picked up and put in an orphanage. And so I’ve been able to really make her life better. I provided her with enormous opportunities, and she has sparked to them. She’s educated herself and has tons of friends and children and got a college degree and went to graduate school, and she has traveled all over with me now. She’s very sophisticated and has been to all the great capitals of Europe. She has just become a different person. So the contributions I’ve made to her life have given me more pleasure than all my films.

From “living out of trash cans” to seeing Europe! Trash cans! Europe! When Galloway asks the question again, twice, about whether she’s changed him, he says:

Well, she’s given me a lot of pleasure. I adore her, and she’s given me a wonderful life…She has given me a stable and wonderful home life and great companionship. I guess whenever you meet somebody and they’re the right person for you, there is a great emotional contribution they make to your life.

Across the rest of the interview, the glut of superhero films is brought up, and he responds to the question of whether or not he watches them with a simple “No.” His own bounty of forgettable movies (amidst his very excellent, memorable ones) is also discussed, and when asked if he could erase any film he’s made, the director who notoriously makes a film a year says he’d “erase all but a few” — Purple Rose of Cairo, Match Point, Husbands and Wives, Zelig, and Midnight in Paris being some of the exceptions he names on the spot. Questioned about whether or not he’d keep Annie Hall or Manhattan, he says:

I don’t have the same affectionate feeling for them as the public had. When I made Manhattan and saw it, I was very disappointed at the time. And I spoke to Arthur Krim [the head of United Artists] and said, “If you don’t put this film out, I will make a film for you for nothing.” He said: “You’re crazy. We like the film and we have an investment. We borrowed money to make [it]. We can’t just spend a few million dollars and then not put a film out. It’s insane.” So they put it out, and it was a very big success.

Perhaps its subject matter was too personal.

Here’s the THR cover:

Read the full interview here.