Hugo tops Oscar noms with 11 nods

Hugo tops Oscar noms with 11 nods

Hugo tops Oscar noms with 11 nods

Martin Scorsese’s love letter to film, Hugo, led Tuesday’s Oscar nominations with 11, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Score, followed by another tribute to filmmaking, the black-and-white silent The Artist, which received 10 noms, including best picture, best director, best actor, best screenplay, best cinematography and best score.

The two movies are competing in the best picture category with seven others: War Horse, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, The Help, The Descendants, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. 

In the best director category, Scorsese and Michel Hazanavicius are joined by Terrence Malick (The Tree of life), Alexander Payne (The Descendants) and Woody Allen, who picked up his 7th nomination for his 41st movie, Midnight in Paris.

Meryl Streep earns a record 17th nomination for portraying Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She will be competing in the best actress category against Glenn Close (Albert Knobs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo) and Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn).

The Artist’s lead actor, Jean Dujardin, will be challenged by George Clooney (The Descendants), Demian Bichir (A Better Life), Brad Pitt (Moneyball) and British actor Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) in the best actor category. It is Oldman’s first Oscar nomination since he began acting 30 years ago, in a film that was overlooked at the Globes.

Two octogenarian actors, Christopher Plummer (The Beginners) and Swedish Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close) are competing in the supporting actor category. They are joined by Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior) and British star Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn).

Co-stars of The Help, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, will be competing for the best supporting actress, alongside Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), the Artist’s Bérénice Bejo and Britain’s Janet McTeer (Albert Knobs).

The best animated feature category is occupied by Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, Rango, A Cat in Paris and the British-made Chico & Rita. They were selected from 18 eligible pics.

Iranian film A Separation, which recently triumphed in The Golden Globes and other awards, received a nod in the best original screenplay in addition to the best foreign language film category, in which it was joined by Belgian Bullhead, Israeli Footnote, Polish In Darkness and Canadian Monsieur Lazhar.

Several of the nominated pictures have been already recognized by critics, guilds and the Golden Globe, but today’s announcement ends months of speculations about this year’s murky Oscar race that lacked a clear frontrunner.

Notably missing in the nominations are Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar), Michael Fassbender (Shame), Ryan Gosling (nominated in the Golden Globes for both Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love) and Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin). Golden Globe winner, The Adventures of Tin Tin, and Toronto Film Festival winner, Lebanon’s Where We Go Now, failed to make it in the Animation and Foreign Film categories respectively.

The nominations were announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president Tom Sherak and last year’s Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence at 5:38 am at the Academy’s headquarters in Beverly Hills. 

The winners will be announced at the 84th annual Academy Awards show on Feb 26, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. The show will be hosted by Billy Crystal and broadcast live on ABC, reaching over 500 million people around the world.

The full list of nominees is as follows:

 

Performance by an actor in a leading role

 

  • Demián Bichir in A Better Life (Summit Entertainment)
  • George Clooney in The Descendants (Fox Searchlight)
  • Jean Dujardin in The Artist (The Weinstein Company)
  • Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Focus Features)
  • Brad Pitt in Moneyball (Sony Pictures Releasing)

 

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

 

  • Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn (The Weinstein Company)
  • Jonah Hill in Moneyball (Sony Pictures Releasing)
  • Nick Nolte in Warrior (Lionsgate)
  • Christopher Plummer in Beginners (Focus Features)
  • Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Warner Bros.)

 

Performance by an actress in a leading role

 

  • Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs (Roadside Attractions)
  • Viola Davis in The Help (Touchstone)
  • Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony Pictures Releasing)
  • Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady (The Weinstein Company)
  • Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn (The Weinstein Company)

 

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

 

  • Bérénice Bejo in The Artist (The Weinstein Company)
  • Jessica Chastain in The Help (Touchstone)
  • Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids (Universal)
  • Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs(Roadside Attractions)
  • Octavia Spencer in The Help (Touchstone)

 

Best animated feature film of the year

 

  • A Cat in Paris (GKIDS) Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
  • Chico & Rita (GKIDS) Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) Jennifer Yuh Nelson
  • Puss in Boots (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) Chris Miller
  • Rango (Paramount) Gore Verbinski

 

Achievement in art direction

 

  • The Artist (The Weinstein Company) Production Design: Laurence Bennett, Set Decoration: Robert Gould
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Bros.) Production Design: Stuart Craig, Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • Hugo (Paramount) Production Design: Dante Ferretti, Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
  • Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) Production Design: Anne Seibel, Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
  • War Horse (Touchstone) Production Design: Rick Carter, Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

 

Achievement in cinematography

 

  • The Artist (The Weinstein Company) Guillaume Schiffman
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony Pictures Releasing)Jeff Cronenweth
  • Hugo (Paramount) Robert Richardson
  • The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight) Emmanuel Lubezki
  • War Horse (Touchstone) Janusz Kaminski

 

Achievement in costume design

 

  • Anonymous (Sony Pictures Releasing) Lisy Christl
  • The Artist (The Weinstein Company) Mark Bridges
  • Hugo (Paramount)Sandy Powell
  • Jane Eyre (Focus Features) Michael O’Connor
  • W.E. (The Weinstein Company) Arianne Phillips

 

Achievement in directing

 

  • The Artist (The Weinstein Company)Michel Hazanavicius
  • The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) Alexander Payne
  • Hugo (Paramount) Martin Scorsese
  • Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) Woody Allen
  • The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight) Terrence Malick

 

Best documentary feature

 

  • Hell and Back Again (Docurama Films) A Roast Beef Limited Production,Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Oscilloscope Laboratories) A Marshall Curry Production, Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory An @radical.media Production, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
  • Pina (Sundance Selects) A Neue Road Movies Production, Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
  • Undefeated (The Weinstein Company)A Spitfire Pictures Production, TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

 

Best documentary short subject

 

  • The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement A Purposeful Production,Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
  • God Is the Bigger Elvis A Documentress Films Production, Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
  • Incident in New Baghdad A Morninglight Films Production, James Spione
  • Saving Face A Milkhaus/Jungefilm Production, Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
  • The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom A Supply & Demand Integrated Production, Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

 

Achievement in film editing

 

  • The Artist (The Weinstein Company) Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
  • The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) Kevin Tent
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony Pictures Releasing) Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • Hugo (Paramount) Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Moneyball (Sony Pictures Releasing) Christopher Tellefsen

 

Best foreign language film of the year

 

  • Bullhead A Savage Film Production, Belgium
  • Footnote (Sony Pictures Classics)A Footnote Limited Partnership Production, Israel
  • In Darkness (Sony Pictures Classics) A Studio Filmowe Zebra Production, Poland
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Music Box Films)A micro_scope Production, Canada
  • A Separation (Sony Pictures Classics)A Dreamlab Films Production, Iran

 

Achievement in makeup

 

  • Albert Nobbs (Roadside Attractions)Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Bros.) Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
  • The Iron Lady (The Weinstein Company) Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

 

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

 

  • The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount) John Williams
  • The Artist (The Weinstein Company) Ludovic Bource
  • Hugo (Paramount) Howard Shore
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Focus Features) Alberto Iglesias
  • War Horse (Touchstone) John Williams

 

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

 

  • Man or Muppet from The Muppets (Walt Disney) Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
  • Real in Rio from Rio (20th Century Fox) Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

 

Best motion picture of the year

 

  • The Artist (The Weinstein Company) A La Petite Reine/Studio 37/La Classe Américaine/JD Prod/France3 Cinéma/Jouror Productions/uFilm Production, Thomas Langmann, Producer
  • The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) An Ad Hominem Enterprises Production, Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Warner Bros.) A Warner Bros. Pictures Production, Scott Rudin, Producer
  • The Help (Touchstone) A DreamWorks Pictures Production, Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and    Michael Barnathan, Producers
  • Hugo (Paramount) A Paramount Pictures and GK Films Production, Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
  • Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) A Pontchartrain Production, Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
  • Moneyball (Sony Pictures Releasing) A Columbia Pictures Production, Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
  • The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight) A River Road Entertainment Production, Nominees to be determined
  • War Horse (Touchstone) A DreamWorks Pictures Production, Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

 

Best animated short film

 

  • Dimanche/Sunday (National Film Board of Canada) A National Film Board of Canada Production, Patrick Doyon
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore A Moonbot Studios LA Production, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
  • La Luna (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Enrico Casarosa
  • A Morning Stroll (Studio AKA) A Studio AKA Production, Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
  • Wild Life (National Film Board of Canada)A National Film Board of Canada Production, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

 

Best live action short film

 

  • Pentecost (Network Ireland Television) An EMU Production, Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
  • Raju A Hamburg Media School/Filmwerkstatt Production, Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
  • The Shore An All Ashore Production, Terry George and Oorlagh George
  • Time Freak A Team Toad Production, Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
  • Tuba Atlantic (Norsk Filminstitutt) A Norwegian Film School/Den Norske Filmskolen Production, Hallvar Witzø

 

Achievement in sound editing

 

  • Drive (FilmDistrict) Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony Pictures Releasing) Ren Klyce
  • Hugo (Paramount) Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
  • War Horse (Touchstone)Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

 

Achievement in sound mixing

 

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony Pictures Releasing) David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
  • Hugo (Paramount) Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
  • Moneyball (Sony Pictures Releasing)Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
  • War Horse (Touchstone) Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

 

Achievement in visual effects

 

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Bros.) Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
  • Hugo (Paramount)Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and  Alex Henning
  • Real Steel (Touchstone) Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox)Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

 

Adapted screenplay

 

  • The Descendants (Fox Searchlight)Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
  • Hugo (Paramount) Screenplay by John Logan
  • The Ides of March (Sony Pictures Releasing) Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
  • Moneyball (Sony Pictures Releasing) Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin Story by Stan Chervin
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Focus Features)Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

 

Original screenplay

 

  • The Artist (The Weinstein Company) Written by Michel Hazanavicius
  • Bridesmaids (Universal) Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
  • Margin Call (Roadside Attractions) Written by J.C. Chandor
  • Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics)Written by Woody Allen
  • A Separation (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Asghar Farhadi

 

 

 

 

Owen Wilson drives into the past

Owen Wilson drives into the past

Owen Wilson drives into the past

One of the comedic icons of Hollywood, Owen Wilson began his film career collaborating with his college roommate Wes Anderson on a short-turned-feature Bottle Rocket in 1996. Although the film bombed in the box office, it was critically praised, winning Wilson notice, both for his keen scripting and his relaxed, assured screen presence.

Husam Asi with Owen Wilson

Unfortunately, due to his twice-broken nose that marred his good looks, the blond actor faced resistance to casting him in lead roles, but thanks to his enviable timing, mastery of dialogue and his ability to mine throwaway lines for comedic gold that he demonstrated in playing small roles, he gradually climbed the Hollywood ladder, starring in a number of the most successful stand-out comedies of the 21st century including Shanghai Knights, Wedding Crashers, Cars, You, Me and Dupree and The Royal Tenenbaums, which garnered him an Oscar nomination for Screenwriting.

“It’s a natural thing for me to look and see what’s funny about something but not necessarily like slapstick, but just kind of human moments that can be funny, awkwardness or insecurity,” Wilson tells me when I met him at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood.

Laid back and easy going, the native Texan exudes a child-like innocence and a carefree demeanour, which is incongruous with the fact that he has suffered mental depression and even reportedly attempted suicide in 2007 after his break up with actress Kate Hudson.

Wilson attributes his charming on-and off-screen persona to his upbringing in Dallas. “Growing up in Dallas, there is maybe a way that you speak and politeness that contribute to it, but I think that if I was from New York or Boston my voice would have a different sound to it, maybe more abrasive,” he laughs.

Wilson has recently reprised voicing the role of the race car Lightning McQueen in the pixar-animation, Cars 2, in which he gets entangled in an international espionage adventure when he heads oversees with his friend, tow truck Mater, in order to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car.

Wilson does not conceive the story of Cars 2 as merely about international racing and adventure. “This is a story of the friendship between Mater and Lightning McQueen that is very funny but there is a sweetness to it,” he says.

Invoking his friendship with director Wes Anderson, Wilson thinks that friendship is one of the great things about life that helped him a lot both in his professional and personal life.

“We met in college and he’s still one of my best friends. That friendship means so much not just with creativity but also as somebody that you can call and somebody that supports you.”

Also a friend of the environment, the Santa Monica resident drives a hybrid car, a Prius, which he has had for 6 years. “It’s just a very easy car to get around in. You can go to the beach. You don’t have to worry about it or about dog jumping in, muddy and stuff…” he quips.

The other motivating factor to having a Prius was to get free metered parking in Santa Monica, but recently his parking tickets have been piling up, because he is still unaware that the city has rescinded those parking privileges to Hybrid cars.

“What am I doing with Prius then if I am not getting any perks anymore,” he cried. “Might as well go to a Humvee,” he moaned, laughing.

In Woody Allen‘s upcoming movie, Midnight in Paris, Wilson goes on a nostalgic journey into the past as he plays Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter who aspires to be a novelist. While on a holiday in Paris, Gil journeys into the early twentieth century where he gets to meet his literary and art legends such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald Patrick, Picasso, Bunuel and others.

Inhabiting Gil’s character, Wilson had his own personal nostalgic journey to his past. “I can go back to Dallas and drive by where I went to school and I look out and I think ‘Oh, that was incredible back then,’ and you can do that a lot with your life.”

“I think the word nostalgia means something like a wound. I think that’s a common syndrome that you think that happiness is never really right now. It was always just back there.”

Wilson leapt at the opportunity to work with Allen when he received his script, but he was surprised by the legendary director’s methods, who is notoriously known for his hands-off directing.

“Woody didn’t really give a lot of direction. We had never spoken on phone and we didn’t meet until the camera test 3 days before the shooting and he asked me how my flight was and I said it was good,” he laughs.

And in the first couple of weeks of shooting, Allen and Wilson hardly talked to each other. “He was always polite and wasn’t attached to anything. He said, ‘If there’s something that I just want it to sound natural and if you want to change something then that’s fine. Just make it believable.'”

Wilson also dismisses the notion that Allen had rewritten his part in order to suit his personality. “He rewrote the part for me but all I can see is that he changed it so the guy was from Pasadena,” he quips.

This has been my first close encounter with Wilson and frankly, judging from the character he usually plays, I was expecting a wilder guy, but I found him slightly subdued and mallow. Probably he has been tamed by the recent arrival of his first son or perhaps by the inherited stress of stardom.

“There’s a lot of things that you don’t anticipate when you’re sort of starting out that would go along with becoming recognizable,” he muses.

Nonetheless, the 43-year-old actor, who grew up in a house, where creativity was encouraged from an early age, considers himself lucky to be able to make a living doing something creative.

“I feel most alive when I am trying to come up with something on Cars or Midnight in Paris, when there’s a scene that doesn’t seem to be quite working and I start brain-storming trying to come up with ideas for it,” he enthuses.

Whatever brain-storming Wilson invests in his work, he is so natural and affable his performance invariably seems effortless. And in spite of the reported misfires in his personal life, audience still flocks to see him on screen. In fact, he is so popular, his movies have made over 2 billion dollars in the box office. But I’ve got the feeling that Wilson, like Gil in Midnight in Paris, wants something else in his life!

Woody Allen Journeys Into The Past

Woody Allen Journeys Into The Past

Woody Allen Journeys Into The Past

Dressed casually and looking as bright and sunny as the weather outside, Woody Allen marches into a room in the Lowe Regency Hotel in New York City, ready and eager to shower us with the fountain of his wisdom and preach against reality, the reality he has been exploring in his movies for over 43 years, without seemingly finding a positive or optimistic resolution.

I’ve always been an outspoken opponent of reality,” Allen exclaims. “I think we live in a very, very cruel existence. I am greatly in favour of escaping reality in any way. The problem is: It’s very difficult to escape reality. You can’t really escape reality without going crazy. So as long as you’re stuck in reality, I think the best thing you can do is maybe distract yourself from it, but I don’t think in the end you can finally escape from it. I wish I could. I would be the first one out of here, ” he laughs.

In Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris, the lead character, Gil,escapes the reality of the present by embarking on a nostalgic journey into the past. Allen, however, insists that time travel is not the subject of this movie, but is merely a narrative tool to transport the audience into a different world, giving them the “fun” of exploring what it would be like to be back in that kind of situation.

“I myself am not interested in time travelling. It’s not possible and it’s silly to daydream about it. But what does interest me in fiction is bringing together colourful characters and getting them in situations that could not really be possible in the everyday world. There are certain limitations in a realistic movie; you don’t get anything out of it that you can’t get from living day to day. But when you can get into something like time travel, for example, you can create for the audience an experience that’s quite different than what they’re used to.”

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a successful Hollywood screenwriter, who is not satisfied with his well-paid, monotonous job and aspires to be a novelist. One night, while on holiday in his beloved Paris with his fiance’e Inez (Rachel McAdams), a car from the 1920’s, carrying a group of charmingly cheerful people pulls up and takes him on a journey into the early twentieth century, where he gets to meet, socialise and party with his idols, such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald Patrick, Picasso, Bunuel and others.

It took Allen months to come up with this romantic idea, after he was asked to make a movie in Paris, his favourite city in the world after his hometown of New York. “It’s strictly made up. I myself would not get into a car if people pulled up,” the notoriously neurotic director quips. “I just wouldn’t do it. I’d be afraid I’d wind up in a basement in Darfur,” he laughs.

“I am not that adventurous or romantic. But I have the characters I write about do anything ’cause it’s fiction,” he adds.

And he is not even fond of the idea of going back in time. “When you think back nostalgically, you tend to extrapolate all the nice things. So when you think of the 20’s, you think of horses, carriages and beautiful women, but you don’t think that when you go to the dentist, there’s no Novocain, drill and air-conditioning,” he jokes.

“Once you’ve lived with a certain amount of contemporary conveniences and advances, it would be very painful to really go back. So I don’t think I would want to go back. Maybe for a day, every now and then, to dip in to visit and enjoy it.”

And he wouldn’t want to meet Gil’s idols either, describing Hemingway as difficult and obnoxious, Picasso as mad and Scott Fitzgerald and his wife as crazy. His choice of characters, he says, was dictated by the period of the 20’s. “These were the ones that are most ubiquitous in the writing about that era.”

Allen also confesses that in the course of his life he has invariably eschewed meeting his own idols, because he prefers beholding them through the eyes of his imagination: inflated and supernatural.

“I don’t want to know that they exist in real life, and that they are hungry and bored and annoyed and they have a headache,” he exclaims, throwing his hand in the air.

Yet, Allen admits that he wrote the movie for a character like him, “A kind of eastern, more scholarly, kind of guy.” But, there was a catch.

“When I write a film and I look at it and I figure ‘Ah, there’s nothing in it for me’ I move on and cast it. I couldn’t have played Gil ’cause I’m not young enough and I couldn’t think of anybody like me,” the 75-year-old quips.

Failing to find an actor in reality who would inhabit the character of his fancy, Allen succumbed to the persuation of his casting director and rewrote the role for the comedic Hollywood star Owen Wilson. “Owen is not like me. He is very laid back and very California. He’s like a beach boy with a surfboard who could be combing the beach. He’s like a guy who would live in California and make a fortune writing movies, but also play a character who wants to do better than that.”

Known for casting the best actors in the world in his movies, the Oscar-winning director raised some eyebrows when he cast France’s first lady, Carla Bruni, who plays a tourist guide in this movie.

“When I first met Carla, she was so beautiful, and I said, ‘Would you be interested at all in doing a small part in a movie? Just for fun and it would not take much of your time. Maybe two or three days maximum.’ And she thought about it and said ‘Yes, it would be fun. Maybe someday to show my grandchildren that I was in a movie.’ and she came and did it effortlessly.”

Like many of Allen’s films, which invariably dwell on metaphysical and philosophical issues, Midnight in Paris is imbued with literature and art references, which could potentially alienate a large section of the audience, but the legendary director is indifferent, insisting that he makes films for the educated and literate who want something sophisticated that does not cater for the lowest common denominator, like car crashes and bathroom jokes.

“I always have a limited audience, no matter what movie I do,” Allen enthuses. “I am not an intellectual. I never went to college and I always take it for granted that the audience knows as much as me.”

Having two young adopted kids at home, whose icons are not the masters of literature and art, but rock stars such as Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, the aging director knows that his audience is shrinking. “They have nothing but contempt for me, for trying to educate them. They feel that I am an ancient, out of it, a know-nothing and an embarrassment as a father,” he laments, laughing.

Indeed, the days when moviegoers, young and old, eagerly awaited and religiously attended Allen’s movies are long gone. Ten years ago, pecuniary constraints squeezed the native New Yorker out of his beloved hometown, where he had shot all his movies, turning him into a nomadic director, shooting films in different cities around the world, including London, Paris, Barcelona and soon in Rome, where he has found a comfortable financial cushion and supportive authorities.

“New York is a very expensive place to shoot. I’d love to be able to shoot here all the time, but what happens is my money doesn’t go as far,” Allen explains.

Suddenly, Allen’s eyes glint behind his thick glasses as he nostalgically recalls the good days of the 70’s, when his backers, United Artists, granted him free rein in making his movie, without vetting his scripts or interfering with casting or demanding a final cut. The prolific filmmaker, who has made 47 movies during his career, believes that many filmmakers who emerged in the 70s would not be able to emerge today because of the current financial, economic structure.

“The 70s, when I came along, were very good creative times,” he effervesces. “Now there is a different dynamic, because the film companies discovered that it’s to their advantage to spend $100 million on a film and make $300 million. They want to gamble for bigger stakes. They couldn’t care less about making good films. They’re interested in making huge profits and they found a way to do it. Even if they make five films for $100 million and they’re all failures and they have one success, they make so much money that it covers it all. They are businessmen and we are not. So we have different goals.”

Later Allen tells me that even if no one would hire him for anything and he had to wash dishes for a living at some place, he would come home at night and he would write. Writing for him is not merely a vocation, but also a pleasure.

“It’s something I could always do. I could always write, even before I could read, I could write. When I was a little boy, I could always make up stories and I could write. I can just do it and when you have the ability to do something, it demands expression. It’s just natural, a born-interest,” he smiles.

In spite of his gloomy, tragic outlook at life, Woody Allen is truly inspiring and thoroughly entertaining. His charm stems from his ability to eloquently articulate his dark thoughts with a blithesome honesty, transforming sorrow into joy and melancholy into passion. He has evidently succeeded in negotiating a safe path with his inner demons to a placid existence via leading an active life.

Before we parted, I told him that he should form a cult to give direction to so many lost souls, but he responded with a dismissive laughter followed by a typical Allen stammer. This kind of self-deprecation is what really makes Woody Allen great.