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Woody Allen on Aging, Filmmaking and Escape

At 72, Woody Allen says he has learned to ignore the "peripheral nonsense" of the movie industry.  "Just shut up and make your movies and that really works fine," he says.
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At 72, Woody Allen says he has learned to ignore the "peripheral nonsense" of the movie industry. "Just shut up and make your movies and that really works fine," he says.

Though he is considered the quintessential New Yorker, filmmaker Woody Allen has made his last three films in Europe. His latest project, Cassandra's Dream, is set in London and tells the story of two brothers who resort to desperate measures when faced with financial woes.

Scott Simon talked with Allen, now 72, about his current project, his past work, and his trademark mixture of comedy and neurosis. His 2006 film, Match Point, earned some of the strongest reviews he's gotten in recent years. The new film, Cassandra's Dream, stars Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, Tom Wilkinson and Hayley Atwell.

"They're not wildly deluded," Allen says of the ambitious brothers in the film. "Of course, as with most people, most of our dreams don't really work out."

Yet Allen says that he has been surprisingly lucky in this regard — most of his dreams have been fulfilled: from being a comedian, to working as a film director, to playing New Orleans jazz all over the world with his band despite his self-described "utter mediocrity."

Through it all, Allen remains drawn to filmmaking.

"When I was a child, films were a great escape," he says. "When I grew up, I found that I could escape on the other side of the camera ... I'm able to fabricate the dreams myself and then participate in them."

Allen says he hasn't learned very much during his lifetime in show business, but he has learned how to ignore the "peripheral nonsense" of the movie industry and keep his "nose to the grindstone."

"Don't read your reviews," he says. "Don't believe them when they tell you you're great; don't worry if they tell you you're no good ... Just shut up and make your movies and that really works fine."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.