Woody Allen has a new film titled You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger which will hit theaters this Wednesday, September 22. The film revolves around two couples who essentially give up on their current relationships for the wrong reasons and explore new relationships. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the couples learn that working through their difficult problems is sometimes easier than running away from them. A few of the cast members – Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones and Lucy Punch – explained to Working Author how they got involved in the film and what it was like to work with Woody Allen.
Whenever Woody Allen directs a new movie it always seems to be a hot commodity among actors. Everyone wants to work with this enigmatic director. Gemma Jones – soft spoken and reserved – was in disbelief that she got the opportunity. “I never imagined such a thing would be possible. I certainly hadn’t anticipated it in any way.” Jones screen tested for Allen and then read two scenes with the casting director before hearing that she got the role. “I was just thrilled when I read it – such a lovely part.”
Lucy Punch had a similar experience. “I went on tape. [Woody Allen] didn’t know who I was,” she says. Allen liked her audition and Punch was ready to fly out to meet him and then she found out that the part had been given away. “I was completely devastated,” she confesses, but the she found out it was given to Nicole Kidman and she was more understanding. “But she dropped out,” Punch explains, “And I did end up doing a number of scenes from the script in the end to get the part…. [It feels] insane [to replace Nicole Kidman] and a bit intimidating. If I ever meet her I’ll have to present her with a bouquet or something.”
Anthony Hopkins – wearing a very flattering grey suit and sipping on tea – had only positive things to say about Woody Allen. He even offered a brief impression of Allen, complete with nervous stutters, gesticulations and trademark hunch. “I’ve now watched him for forty years,” Hopkins says after he comes out of the impression. He lists a handful of his favorite Allen movies, like Hannah and Her Sisters and Play It Again, Sam before continuing. “I think he’s genius, so it was a great pleasure working with him. I don’t know he would appreciate my impersonation.”
On working with Woody Allen the consistent opinion is that he’s a minimalist that knows exactly what he wants. “That took some getting used to,” Jones admits. “He’s just wonderfully honest, really. He’s not really interested in discussing backstory or motivation. He just presumes that he’s working with professional actors that would have done their homework.” For Jones, who’s used to working with directors that communicate more, it was disconcerting at first. Punch echoed those sentiments, relating how she had done a lot of preparation and kept pestering Allen with her ideas. “He was like, ‘Just don’t tell me! Just do it! I don’t need to hear about it!’” she recounts. “But it actually gave me a huge amount of confidence that he put the trust in me and…he really did let me say what I wanted to say.”
Of course not everything was about Woody Allen. The actors did spare a few moments to share their thoughts on working with each other. On Lucy Punch, Hopkins says, “She’s very nice to work with – a lot of fun…. I went on the set and they were doing…wardrobe fitting for the film test.” Punch was getting into a tiny skirt and Hopkins asked who she was. When he was told that she would be playing his girlfriend, Hopkins asked himself, “I wonder what my wife would think of that.” Punch found working with Hopkins “fabulous” though she was scared to work with him. “He’s absolutely charming and a really lovely guy and working with someone like that I had hoped I would learn some secrets…but when an actor is like him and he’s been doing it for so long and he’s so fantastic…it’s completely effortless…. You don’t see the strings. You don’t see what he’s doing.”
Before the interview ended, Hopkins attempted to explain the allure of Woody Allen and his films, stating that Allen is a very big part of American culture, just as Clint Eastwood is an iconic figure. When people talk about favorite Woody Allen films they always speak of them with a deeply personal inflection in their voice. “Annie Hall I absolutely loved,” Jones says. For Lucy Punch it’s Broadway Danny Rose. When You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger opens tomorrow it will face stiff competition for that coveted title among Woody Allen’s impressive breadth of work.