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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Woody Allen's Cannes caution
Woody Allen
This will be Allen's first time at Cannes
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By Peter Bowes
BBC News in Hollywood
line
Woody Allen says he is nervous about his first ever appearance at the Cannes film festival.

The veteran director and actor will open the event on Wednesday with his new comedy, Hollywood Ending.

"I'm anticipating a mad-house," he says.


My films have shown at Cannes for 25 years and I've never gone - I thought I should make a gesture and go

Woody Allen
"Everyone tells me, 'oh you're going to Cannes, it's a mad-house, you're going to need security, the streets are crowded you can't walk any place.'

"I'll probably just do interviews there. I may never leave my hotel room for all I know."

The normally reclusive star has been unusually visible in recent months. In March he made a surprise appearance at the Oscars and last September the New Yorker visited London where he took questions from an audience at the National Film Theatre.

"I did the Oscars because it was a chance to do something for New York and they wanted me to and I felt I had the film here to reciprocate the French who have done nothing but support me and have been nice," explains Allen.

Woody Allen on set
Critics say Allen on screen is no different to the real man
"My films have shown at Cannes for 25 years and I've never gone. So this time I thought, I should make a gesture and go."

Comeback

In Hollywood Ending, Allen plays a washed-up film director who has been reduced to making commercials for television.

He gets a chance to make a comeback when his ex-wife, played by Tea Leoni, persuades a Hollywood studio boss to employ the eccentric director.

His comeback is thrown off course when he is struck down by tension-related blindness.

While the lightweight comedy appears to be tailor-made for an excitable first-day crowd at Cannes, Allen says he will do his best to duck out of the screening.

"I won't be there for that," he says.

"I will go in and have to say 'hello' and then I can go away while the movie is on - mercifully. Then I have to come back at the end and say 'thank you' for liking it - whether they liked it or not - so I probably won't see the film in Cannes."

Allen's ambivalence towards the festival and his starring role is entirely in character.

Hollywood Ending poster
The film took a battering in the US
"I never see my own movies," he says. "If I am turning around and I see myself I go right past it. I don't want to hang in there because that's really cringe time for me. I only see the worst when I see myself - I see all the things I screwed up."

Similarities

For some US critics, Allen's character in Hollywood Ending is too close to the real thing.

He has a penchant for much younger women, is neurotic and has enjoyed better days as a film-maker.

On the question of personality, Allen brushes aside any similarities.

"I'm not a hypochondriac and the character is. I'm an alarmist, which is a completely different problem," he says.

"I do not imagine that I get illnesses but should I wake up one morning with chapped lips, I think I have cancer. I go right to the worst possible permutation on something."


I live in such an ivory tower that I never read my reviews - I keep myself ostrich-like

Woody Allen
While the fictitious director suffers from years of pent-up anger and bitterness towards Hollywood, Allen reckons he has never experienced any problems from the studio moguls in Tinseltown.

"I've had total freedom on every picture I've made. I've never had to show a script to anybody or get casting approval and always had final cut - so I have no frustrations with them at all," he says.

'Philistines'

However, Allen does share his character's exasperation with the current state of film-making in the US.

"When I want to see a movie on a Saturday night and I can't find anything good - I feel it's because philistines run the studios and spend hundreds of hundreds of millions of dollars and come up with very few decent films."

Few US critics say they enjoyed Hollywood Ending and the film performed dismally at the American box office.

Woody Allen
Allen's character goes temporarily blind in the film
Allen is unlikely to be phased by the bad press.

"I never know because I live in such an ivory tower that I never read my reviews," he says. "I never look at anything about myself - I keep myself ostrich-like."

He admits that his reclusive nature can be a double-edged sword.

"It's got a wonderful protective quality and I'm able to work for years and never spend a second thinking about anything but my work - but you also give up a lot of pleasure.

"You never get the joy of reading good reviews about something you did - or having an opening night party of celebration for what you did."

He adds, "I prefer to do it that way."


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