Hollywood pariah Woody Allen filming in Paris

Undesirable in Hollywood, Woody Allen has just packed his bags in Paris. The time to shoot his fiftieth feature film there, a black comedy in the spirit of “Match Point”. He is counting on this film, with a 100% French cast, to reconcile him with an audience that has long been won over to him.

He landed at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, his eternal bob on his head. He was accompanied by his wife, Soon-Yi. Were they going to join the Ritz, one of Woody Allen’s favorite hotels in Paris, or dine at the Grand Véfour, one of his favorite tables? This time it will be the Bristol. Paris is not a discovery for the genius of “Manhattan” or “Annie Hall”. The city inspires him almost as much as New York, his home port. He likes to walk there, stroll in Parc Monceau, search the booksellers’ boxes on the banks of the Seine, seek inspiration during night walks on the Champs-Élysées.

This French passion dates back to the early 1960s, when he wrote the screenplay for “Quoi de neuf, Pussycat?” » in a room of the George V. « I have always considered myself a French director of American nationality… » With this striking formula, the 86-year-old filmmaker declares his love for France and its culture. Perhaps also because it is one of the rare countries where his films enjoy constant success. Woody Allen set up his cameras in Paris in 1996 for “Everyone says I Love You” and, fifteen years later, for “Midnight in Paris”, with his slew of French actors, from Marion Cotillard to Léa Seydoux and Audrey Flower. This time, he pushes the cursor again. His fiftieth feature film will be in French.

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Niels Schneider, Valérie Lemercier and Lou de Laâge would be the heroes of this Parisian treasure hunt

Code name: “Wasp 22”. Is it related to the famous bestseller “Catch 22”? This new project is no exception to the usual rule: the less you know, the better off you are. A tiny part of the veil was however lifted, last summer, during the promotion of “Rifkin’s Festival”: it will be a thriller in the vein of “Match Point”, the success of 2005, a romance which, against a backdrop of English bourgeois satire, turned into an amoral thriller. We know the cast, one hundred percent French.

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On the banks of the Seine with Melvil Poupaud, who plays one of the four main roles in the film.

© Bestimage

Or almost. Niels Schneider, Valérie Lemercier and Lou de Laâge would be the heroes of this Parisian treasure hunt. At their side, an eclectic cast: Elsa Zylberstein, Melvil Poupaud, Grégory Gadebois and Guillaume de Tonquédec. In the sunny bays of the Palais-Royal or a stone’s throw away, rue des Petits-Champs, in front of the Café of the time, Woody Allen canned a sequence. He loves this neighborhood with its majestic arcades and its unique light, a natural movie set. Onlookers readily recognize Valérie Lemercier, less Woody who hides behind the camera, discreet as usual.

In the technical team, partly French, not everyone could read the entire script

Some loyal followers of the Allen galaxy have once again responded, such as the immense director of photography Vittorio Storaro, who worked with Coppola and Bertolucci, or the production designer Alain Bainée… Not very talkative on the set, Woody Allen is renowned for shooting quickly (a few takes at most) and avoid long discussions with its actors. With them, even if it means destabilizing them, he does not dwell. The script should suffice. In the technical team, partly French, not everyone could read the entire script. They signed a confidentiality agreement. Why so much hiding? Because of a controversial personal history? Not really, if we are to believe the executive producer, a specialist in American filming in France: “It’s a common practice in Hollywood, and the controversy surrounding Woody Allen has nothing to do with it. »

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On the set with Melvil Poupaud. Woody Allen does not speak fluent French but knows how to make himself understood.

On the set with Melvil Poupaud. Woody Allen does not speak fluent French but knows how to make himself understood.

© AGENCY / BESTIMAGE

The subject of controversy, the repeated accusations of sexual assault of his daughter Dylan when she was a minor, certainly disputed by the person concerned, seems, however, to say the least embarrassing. No press releases announcing that such and such will turn with him, as he would have gloried in the time of his splendor. Low profile. Requests for information or confirmation remain unanswered, even if it is difficult for some actors to refuse a Woody Allen. We accept but discreetly. Or we refuse, less discreetly. Like Timothée Chalamet, who flatly denied him.

Her adopted daughter, Manzie Allen, now 22, stars in the new season of the Netflix series ‘Emily in Paris’

This new project dates back almost two years, but it has been postponed several times, due to the pandemic. The shooting was to take place in the spring, so that Woody and his wife could watch over their adopted daughter, Manzie Allen, now 22, who appears in the new season of the Netflix series “Emily in Paris”. The vagaries of production decided otherwise. The easiest thing was not to unearth the necessary funds for filming: producers and distributors, particularly French, are no longer in a hurry.

Once upon a time, Hollywood snubbed him; now he rejects it

In the United States, it is even worse. At home, the director of “Hannah and her sisters” has become an outcast, fallen from paradise into what looks like, at the very least, purgatory. Hollywood celebrated Woody Allen, but never really understood him. He had just enough power to get over the habit of not attending the Oscars ceremony, since he had the excuse of playing the clarinet the same evening and at the same time in his club. New York jazz… Today, it’s over. Hollywood refuses to get along with him. For the cinema industry, it is all the easier since its films have never sparked at the American box office.

She used to snub him; now she rejects him. The Dylan case has been dragging on for thirty years, but in 2017 the testimony of Ronan, the only son of Woody Allen, drove the point home. A few months later, in January 2018, Dylan reiterated his accusations, for the first time facing the camera. Since then, this dark affair has given rise to a disturbing documentary series on HBO but has not led to any legal questioning of Woody Allen, who continues to fiercely deny. He knows, however, that his romantic relationship and then his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, has blurred his image.

The end of a blessed era between Woody Allen and France seems to have been recorded

“The heart has its reasons that morality ignores”, he reacted in a nebulous way in an interview with “Time” magazine in 2001, contributing to durably tarnishing his star as a once adored filmmaker. Jeff Bezos’ company, the Internet giant Amazon, with which he had signed a profitable deal, even gave up releasing “A rainy day in New York”. Allen sought $60 million in damages before entering into a confidential settlement. Four years later, “Rifkin’s Festival” could only be released on the sly in the United States. The film is available on a streaming platform.

France, on the other hand, seems more measured, even if it is divided between intangible defenders and accusers. The Memoirs of Woody Allen, which the Hachette group had given up publishing in the United States, were thus able to appear at Stock in 2020. But France is no longer quite the welcoming land it once was, less box office. Where “Blue Jasmine”, one of his last great films, had attracted 1 million spectators, “A rainy day in New York” saw its admissions drop by half in 2019. Worse, this summer, “Rifkin’s Festival”, remained on the shelves for many months, did not reach 100,000 admirers. The end of a blessed era between Woody Allen and France seems to have been recorded. The prolific and brilliant director has long had the favor of Thierry Frémaux.

If Woody Allen had to hang up the gloves, he is nevertheless teeming with projects

But who knows if, in 2023, the Cannes Film Festival will still dare to program out of competition what could be its last stunt before retirement? The filmmaker hinted at it in a half-word in a Spanish daily, before limply denying it. If Woody Allen were to hang up his gloves, he is nevertheless teeming with projects: a play, a collection of short stories entitled “Zero Gravity” for which a French publisher has acquired the rights… And a tour of American clubs with his jazz band. Rediscovering his first passion, since everyone no longer tells him I love you…

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Hollywood pariah Woody Allen filming in Paris