As published in the The New York Times
August 20, 2008
By Woody Allen
Received offer to write and direct film in Barcelona. Must be cautious. Spain is sunny, and I freckle. Money not great either, but agent did manage to get me a 10th of 1 percent of anything the picture does over $400 million after break even.
Have no idea for Barcelona unless the story of the two Hackensack Jews who start a mail-order embalming firm could be switched.
Met with Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. She’s ravishing and more sexual than I had imagined. During interview my pants caught fire. Bardem is one of those brooding geniuses who clearly will need a firm hand from me.
Offered role to Scarlett Johansson. Said before she could accept, script must be approved by her agent, then by her mother, with whom she’s close. Following that it must be approved by her agent’s mother. In middle of negotiation she changed agents — then changed mothers. She’s gifted but can be a handful.
Arrived Barcelona. Accommodations first class. Hotel has been promised half star next year provided they install running water.
Shooting got off to a shaky start. Rebecca Hall, though young and in her first major role, is a bit more temperamental than I thought and had me barred from the set. I explained the director must be present to direct the film. Try as I may, I could not convince her and had to disguise as man delivering lunch to sneak back on the set.
Work finally under way. Shot a torrid love scene today between Scarlett and Javier. If this were a scant few years ago, I would have played Javier’s part. When I mentioned that to Scarlett, she said, “Uh-huh,” with an enigmatic intonation. Scarlett came late to the set. I lectured her rather sternly, explaining I do not tolerate tardiness from my cast. She listened respectfully, although as I spoke I thought I noticed her turning up her iPod.
Barcelona is a marvelous city. Crowds turn out in the streets to watch us work. Mercifully they realize I’ve no time to give autographs, and so they ask only the cast members. Later I handed out some 8-by-10 photos of myself shaking hands with Spiro Agnew and offered to sign them, but by then the crowd had dispersed.
Filmed at La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece. Was thinking I have much in common with the great Spanish architect. We both defy convention, he with his breathtaking designs and me by wearing a lobster bib in the shower.
Dailies are looking good, and while Javier’s idea to add a massive Martian invasion scene complete with a thousand costumed extras and elaborate flying saucers is not a very good one, I will shoot it to make him happy and cut it in the editing room.
Scarlett came to me today with one of those questions actors ask, “What’s my motivation?” I shot back, “Your salary.” She said fine but that she needed a lot more motivation to continue. About triple. Otherwise she threatened to walk. I called her bluff and walked first. Then she walked. Now we were rather far apart and had to yell to be heard. Then she threatened to hop. I hopped too, and soon we were at an impasse. At the impasse I ran into friends, and we all drank, and of course I got stuck with the check.
Once again I had to help Javier with the lovemaking scenes. The sequence requires him to grab Penélope Cruz, tear off her clothes and ravish her in the bedroom. Oscar winner that he is, the man still needs me to show him how to play passion. I grabbed Penélope and with one motion tore her clothes off. As fate would have it she had not yet changed into costume, so it was her own expensive dress I mutilated. Undaunted I flung her down before the fireplace and dove on top of her. Minx that she is, she rolled away a split second before I landed causing me to fracture certain key teeth on the tile floor. Fine day’s work, and I should be able to eat solids by August.
Dailies looking rather brilliant. Probably too early to start planning Academy campaign. Still, a few notes for an acceptance speech might just save me some time later.
I suppose it comes with the territory. As director one is part teacher, part shrink, part father figure, guru. Is it any wonder then that as the weeks have passed, Scarlett and Penélope have both developed crushes on me? The fragile female heart. I notice poor Javier looking on enviously as the actresses bed me with their eyes, but I’ve explained to the boy that unbridled feminine desire for a cinema icon, particularly one who wears a sneer of cold command, is to be expected. Meanwhile when I approach the set each morning bathed and freshly scented, between Scarlett and Penélope there is a virtual feeding frenzy. I never like mixing business with pleasure, but I may have to slake the lust of each one in turn to get the film completed. Perhaps I can give Penélope Wednesdays and Fridays, satisfying Scarlett Tuesdays and Thursdays. Like alternate-side parking. That would leave Monday free for Rebecca, whom I stopped just in time from tattooing my name on her thigh. I’ll have a drink with the ladies in the cast after filming and set some ground rules. Maybe the old system of ration coupons could work.
Directed Javier in emotional scene today. Had to give him line readings. As long as he imitates me he’s fine. The minute he tries his own acting choices he’s lost. Then he weeps and wonders how he’ll survive when I’m no longer his director. I explained politely but firmly that he must do the best he can without me and to try to remember the tips I’ve given him. I know he was cheered because when I left his trailer, he and his friends were howling with laughter.
Made love with Scarlett and Penélope simultaneously in an effort to keep them happy. Ménage gave me great idea for the climax of the movie. Rebecca kept pounding on the door, and I finally let her in, but those Spanish beds are too small to handle four, and when she joined, I kept getting bounced to the floor.
End production today. Wrap party as usual a little sad. Slow danced with Scarlett. Broke her toe. Not my fault. When she dipped me back, I stepped on it.
Penélope and Javier anxious to work with me again. Said if I ever come up with another screenplay to try and find them. Goodbye drink with Rebecca. Sentimental moment. Everyone in cast and crew chipped in and bought me a ballpoint pen. Have decided to call film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Studio heads have seen all the dailies. Apparently they love every frame, and there is talk of opening it at a leper colony. It’s lonely at the top.
Image via Imdb
.....The mind reels.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is set for an Australian release on December 26.