A few weeks ago, I was invited, along with two other movie-critic colleagues – Scott Foundas of Variety and Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York – to meet Woody Allen and engage in a casual conversation centering around Blue Jasmine. I’d met Allen briefly years before, when I was a kid visiting New York and I went to see him play jazz clarinet at Michael’s Pub; he was kind enough to talk to me then and answer my annoying teen-film-geek questions in between sets. But this was the first chance I’d really had to spend some time with him, and he proved – as he did back then – disarmingly friendly and forthcoming, and gratifyingly open about his filmmaking process. It was funny to hear, for instance, that he shot Blue Jasmine in San Francisco for a reason, but that “it wasn’t a good reason.” Basically, he was looking for a city that it would be nice to spend six weeks in.
Scott, Josh, and I spoke to Allen in his editing studio, which is on the ground floor of an apartment building on Park Avenue, the place where he has edited every single one of his features since the late ’70s. It’s a dark, glowy, cozy sort of spacious but windowless chamber, with brown suede on the walls (think suburban rec room with almost no furniture), and from the moment that Allen walked in, talking sports, which is clearly a ruling passion for him, he seemed utterly relaxed and at home. At the time, he was about to turn 78 (his birthday is Dec. 1), but his look, and energy, remain youthful. We spoke to him for about an hour and a half, and there are links to audio excerpts from the interview below (unfortunately, he wouldn’t allow it to be videotaped). At the end, when we were all getting ready to go, having a last bit of chat with Allen about the music in his films, he pointed to an enclosed shelf and mentioned that that’s where his records are stored. We asked if we could see them, and he opened up the shelf, and somehow, those old jazz and blues recordings, the very ones that he and his editors have dipped into for decades every time they need a song (especially for the almost fabled Opening Credits To A Woody Allen Movie), seemed like magical objects.