In the latest Popcorn Diaries, Chris Sullivan talks about love, life and astrology with Woody Allen and Freida Pinto...
I’ll admit I was never a big fan of Woody Allen, until I saw Broadway Danny Rose in 1984. The story of a hopeless New York talent agent, who represents a one-armed juggler, a stuttering ventriloquist and Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte) - an overweight Italian-American prima donna lounge singer from The Boroughs.
Springing from one of the funniest scripts ever written, what follows is a priceless gem that has made me watch every Woody Allen film since in the hope that another might measure up.
Hannah And Her Sisters came close, Bullets Over Broadway was superb and Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a triumph. The latest contender is You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, a film that sees the Woodster hit inner-city London, its inhabitants and their social mores bang on the head.
The story begins when wealthy Alfie Shebritch (Anthony Hopkins) wakes up in the middle of the night and starts to think that he hasn’t got long to live.
“Alfie starts to get antsy,” says writer/director Allen, “He wants to start eating health foods and doesn‘t want to hear from his wife that he‘s not a young man anymore.
“So he gets rid of his wife, Helena (Gemma Jones), and embarks on a different life, catapulting everyone into different states of chaos.”
For Alfie, this entails joining a gym, moving into a bachelor pad and buying a sports car.
Consequently after a failed suicide attempt, his wife consults a fortune teller (Pauline Collins) and finds comfort in the utter shit the clairvoyant spews forth. Meanwhile, their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is having problems with her American husband Roy (Josh Brolin) who, after publishing a good first novel, cannot produce another.
“Roy doesn‘t have sufficient talent to get beyond that first novel," says Allen. “At first he didn‘t mind trying but it‘s starting to occur to him that maybe he‘s a one-book phenomenon, a flash in the pan, and this is a very unpleasant thought.”
Roy’s been writing his latest book for seven years partly because he spends a lot of time staring out of his office window where he spies the entrancing Dia (Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto), who sits in her window, wearing a red dress and strumming a guitar.
“He‘s having a tough time,” says Allen. ”And when he sees this breath of fresh air across the yard, he becomes intrigued and eventually she becomes a seductive fantasy for him.”
While Dia is engaged to be married, she still embarks on an affair with Roy. “I don‘t think that Dia went out with Roy with the intention of having an affair but just for the prospect of meeting someone new and having a conversation," says Pinto.
“But she is a confused girl, trying to figure out what she wants in life, and when he gives her such flattering compliments, she is definitely lured into wanting to know what might be. And somehow she realises that what she has is not what she wants.”
For the first half of the film, Dia is only visible through the window at a distance. “When you finally do see her, it bowls you over. She is so remarkably beautiful,” adds Allen. “She‘s probably had a more complex life because of her unusual beauty.”
Pinto loved playing such a mysterious character. “It allows you to have more freedom,” she says. “Still it was a bit of a challenge, as it was only my third film, and here I was working with Woody and Josh. Everyone was so encouraging, though, and I got over it in a few days.”
Dealing - or rather coping - with reality is central, says Allen: “It opens and closes with a line from Macbeth: ‘A tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. All these characters are running around trying to find meaning in their lives, and find ambitions and successes and love.
“They‘re all running around, bumping into each other, hurting each other, getting hurt, making mistakes. But in the end, after a 100 years, everybody on Earth along with them will be completely gone.
“And after all of the ambitions, and aspirations, and the plagiarism and adultery, what once was so meaningful won‘t mean a thing.”
You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is released this week.