A little while ago I attended the press conferences for Woody Allen‘s latest film, Whatever Works. The three stars of the film, Larry David, Patricia Clarkson, and Evan Rachel Wood were all in attendance and ready to ramble. This was definitely one of those situations in which the actors were far more concerned about entertaining than answering the questions. David tended to give one sentence comedic answers, Wood would chime in here and there with a witty remark, and Patricia Clarkson was probably the most on point and ready to talk about the film.
Check out the interview below where they all reminisce about being terrified of Woody, whether or not anyone wants to see David have sex, the recent vampire craze and a whole lot more…
Points covered in the interview:
- The awkward relationship between David and Wood’s characters. Where was the sex?
- Working with Woody: The fear, the insults, and the faint praise.
- David on how he did not intend to “do” Woody.
- Back to their Southern Roots.
- Negative Vs Realistic
- Vampires and Hannah Montana
- What’s Next for Everyone
- BONUS: You’ll have to keep reading to find out!
The title of the film Whatever Works, describes Boris’ life philosophy, how closely does that align with your own philosophy?
Larry David: It’s actually in conflict with my own philosophy which is Whatever Doesn’t Work.
Evan Rachel Wood: That the sequel
David: That’s pretty much what I subscribe to. Anyone who finds me unattractive, that’s the one I want. Unappealing, yea, that’s who I go for.
Even though they’re married in the movie, you don’t really think of the characters having sex ‘til she mentions Viagra. Were there any love scenes that were cut of should there have been? (laughter)
Larry David: Well yes, of course, there should have been. (laughter) But, no there weren’t any. That was, that was it. I don’t think anybody wants to see me having sex with anyone in the movies. (laughter)
Patricia Clarkson: Oh, Larry.
David: No, it’s true.
Evan Rachel Wood: I don’t know. I know a lot of people who seemed very excited about the idea but… That was the first question my sisters asked me. “Is there a sex scene?” I was like, “Really? Well there’s a ‘fade to black’.”
Larry and Evan, can you talk a little about your chemistry? Was it very immediate or did you have to spend a lot of time together before shooting?
Wood: Well he’s such an unlikeable person.
David: I have an immediate chemistry with pretty much everyone, whether it’s good or its bad. I can tell right off. I really can. It doesn’t take me long to get to know somebody. There’s a very visceral reaction, very quickly. We were very comfortable with each other.
Wood: Yeah, we got together and rehearsed a lot. It was fun.
David: But I find that with you, I have a reaction to you. I can tell what I can say to you and what I can’t tell. You know, I can go out and talk to people, I know just by looking at people if I say something nasty to them how they are going to react. And if I can kid around with them, if they are going to get it or not. I mean, I have a sixth sense like that.
Evan, your character didn’t really seem to have an issue with their age different and you have played similar characters in the past…
Wood: It does seem to haunt me everywhere I go.
And had do you feel about that?
Wood: It’s very innocent and sweet, you know? I liked it. I didn’t think it was quite (don’t know word) but I always compare it to Harold and Maude more than anything and even that was more romantic. You’re not a very romantic person, in the movie.
David: Yeah, In life too.
Wood: Yeah, but you know when else would I have the chance to be married to Larry David so you know it was cool. I enjoyed it. I felt fine about it.
Can you talk a little bit about working with Woody Allen, what’s his approach towards working with actors?
Clarkson: It has theatrical roots. I mean he does very big long takes. You have to be prepared, you have to do your homework. You have to know your lines, you have to be able to improv. There’s no short takes. He does a scene, let’s say it’s a 10 page scene. He will shoot that entire scene from beginning to end. Let’s say you’re in the 2nd to last line and you screw up. On, “No, No”. You go back to line one.
David: Back to base. You go back to home base.
Wood: It’s not like you say, “Can I take that line again.” No. It’s like can I take that scene again.
Clarkson: You don’t take a line again.
David: Patty said to me one day. She said, “Honey, I’ve done Blanche DuBois at the Kennedy Center but nothing’s harder than this” (laugher).
Wood: That was the hardest thing I ever did.
Clarkson: But I mean it’s hard, it’s hard but it’s also character building in the true sense of the word in that you do really have to know your character, you do really have to know what your doing when you walk on the set everyday. And we get lazy as actors in film. We walk in, we’ve learned our page of dialogue and we’re like “give me my coffee, give me my slippers, give me a croissant, you know. Maybe I’m ready to shoot.” With Woody you have to be ready.
Wood: We were lucky. We all got together and had time to run our massive amount of lines.
Clarkson: We ran our lines. We would sit in Larry’s room.
David: That was very helpful.
Larry getting back to how scripted Woody is, I know most of your acting on Curb Your Enthusiasm is mostly off the cuff and improvised, what was it like having pages and pages of dialogue?
David: It was hard. It was hard.
Wood: I wish I could have seen the look on your face when you opened that script. I just saw the first page.
The first monologue was like five minutes wasn’t it?
David: I opened the script and saw the first page full of Boris ,and then I saw Boris on page 50, and then I went to the last page…
Clarkson: And there is Boris and again and again.
David: I went, “Oye.” Yeah, so yeah it was kind of daunting to have to learn all that, to tell you the truth. Yeah. As far as the improvising goes, that was another aspect to it that I found daunting because I am used to improvising and kind of making up most of it as I go along and it was challenging, and I don’t care for challenges very much.
E: It was hard not to laugh.
David: Yes that too.
Clarkson: Although we were all terrified of Woody Allen.
E: Yea, I was too afraid to laugh most of the time.
You are all well established but working with Woody Allen there has to be an intimidation factor. Can you guys talk about that a little bit?
Clarkson: There is an intimidation factor. I mean you get over it and you get past it.
David: You want to please him.
Clarkson: You do, ‘cause he is so monoslavic in his response. He is so judicious in his praise.
David: You don’t want to be the one to screw up his movie.
Clarkson: You don’t. You don’t want to be the one to screw up a take. Well like I said it’s a different way of working then most directions who can stop and start and shoot in pieces and you know but…
Wood: It’s unpredictable. If he gets it in one take it’s done.
Clarkson: It’s done and that’s it.
Wood: But if it’s not…
Clarkson: Our scene in the museum was one, yeah.
Wood: It was like 3 takes all together.
As a follow-up that, he is very his praise come sparingly, was there a moment that you were allotted that you can tell us about?
David: He said to me once, “It wasn’t horrible” (laughter)
David: That made my day.
Clarkson: No, he’s very. You know, he’ll say to you, “Oh that was good”.
Wood: My favorite was “that was a lot funnier than I thought it was going to be”
David: He was very sweet.
Clarkson: He is, oh, he was a dear, he has great respect for us actors and there is actually a euphoria when you get through those big takes, you know there is a payoff to it.
One of the great things about Woody Allen’s films is that as actors, you got to really let the acting rip which is one of the things Woody Allen is known for and how was that as oppose to the smaller tiger acting that maybe you do regularly?
Clarkson: Well that’s exactly it. What it is, is the way he shoots and yet he actually puts the camera in the right place. I never saw a camera. He shoots you at the right distance, captures you in the right place, he makes you look good and you don’t realize it in the midst of shooting it. And he gives you breathe and he shoots the body, you know the body never lies. That’s what’s beautiful about Woody, he actually, he shoots you in all your glory. And, films so often are neck up acting nowadays. There is a lot that goes on below you know south of the mason Dixon line that you need to see, you know, no pun intended. I think that he, the very fact of how he shoots it is a, you know, is theatrial in it’s way.
It’s been interesting watching over the years different people sort of channeling Woody Allen. I thought it was an interesting sort of take having Larry David’s Woody Allen. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like for you and how much of if do you bring from that dialogue, that Woody Allen-esque dialogue and yourself as well?
David: Well I know that’s a concern, people would say to me, “well are you going to be doing him?” and I would think they were out of their minds when they would ask me that. “No, why,?” I’m going to try not to do him, it never occurred to me to want to do him and he doesn’t want me to do him. (laughter) He didn’t call me up and say, “I want you to do me, have you ever seen me, can you talk like me.” So, it wasn’t really an issue for me at all. It wasn’t something I thought about or worried about. And I’ve said this in some of my interviews, there was only one time where I was having trouble with a line that he wanted, it was “The Western Word,” and after a few takes I could tell that he was dissatisfied and finally I said to tell, “Just tell me how do you want me to do it, I’ll do it, just give it to me” and he goes “The Western World, The Western World” (with a strong Jewish accent) so we did the next take and I go “The Western World”.
Wood: Do you know what line will forever echo in my head, “and with that they entered the gallery”. How many times?
David: That was another one that he didn’t like. I did that like Howard Corsel. He said go ahead and try it so I did it but he didn’t use it.
Patricia, how was it going back to your Southern roots? I know its been awhile.
Clarkson: Divine. You know it’s always nice to be home. You know, in spirit. And with such a delicious character. It was a character that required all my Southernism in all its glory and all of its…fanaticism. It was very nice. I sometimes have to be careful about my accent, especially when I get tired and have a bourbon or two. Not that I drink on set. But, it was nice. I could just let it all hang out (laughter).
Evan, I thought you did was one of the best female performances for a Woody Allen movie since Diane Keaton. I am just wondering how you come up with that characterization or does Woody work with you on that characterization?
Wood: Luckily I’m from the South too. So I kind of based her off of my step-mother, slightly. Not IQ wise. But just that sweet Southern hospitality, just seeing the good in everything. It was hard. I didn’t want her to be annoying, I wanted her to be endearing. I wanted my accent to be right cause I’m Southern, and it’ll drive us crazy if its’ wrong. No, it just happened.
Clarkson: And Woody wanted us to have, you know very broad Southern accents.
Wood: Yeah, that was the main direction I always got. Broad Southern, more Southern. “You should be in a potato sack with bear feet,” whatever that means. So I did the best I could. But, no, once you get the hair going and the nails and the outfit, it’s hard not to become that different person. The tan was the hardest part and the boobs weren’t mine.
Larry, do you feel that the character Boris is negative or realistic?
David: Both, both. I think to be realistic is to be negative.
Larry how are you similar to Boris and how are you different?
David: Well, we’re different in that, I am way more normal than he is. I enjoy life, I play golf. I like having sex. I have normal wants and needs. He’s insane, really. He’s really on the edge. Like I was telling someone earlier, I don’t wear shorts. I am a much better dresser than he is.
Wood: I will give you that.
David: Yes, I thnk that’s the main difference.
David: Yes, there are some similarities. We both have the some disdain for the human race. We both come from similar roots. And we probably have a, well we were both bar mitzvahed I’m sure.
Do you think that happiness and intelligence level goes hand in hand and possibly the happier you are the less intelligent you are?
Wood: Ignorance is bliss.
David: I think that’s true. I think religious people are happier than atheists.
Clarkson: Yeah, but we get to have sex. I don’t think there is a correlation. I think there are brilliant people who are happy and there are really stupid people who are very unhappy. You know what I mean, I think happiness is not intellect driven. I think it is driven in many ways. I do. And I think that is what Woody is saying, a lot in this film.
Wood: Sometimes, I’ve known people to be so smart that they’re stupid. Like, they just get so smart and caught up in themselves that they miss out on so much. And it’s a shame. Boris.
Evan, you character is someone who is just thrust into the city life and is really naïve but in your real life you’ve been working since you were so young and in the media spotlight for so many years. And I’m wondering in your real life relationships what do you find difficult about the fact that everything you do in your personal life romantically or otherwise is scrutinized by so many people?
Wood: It’s not my problem. I don’t care. I’m going to be, who I’m going to be and if someone’s got an issue with that. I’m sorry. I’m happy. I mean yeah it is hard. I mean it’s harder you know that my friends and family have to read that, it actually affects them more and that’s what makes me angry. But you know life’s too short, so…
This question is for Rachel and the rest of the cast, so you’re doing a guest spot on True Blood and Vampires seem to be really big right now, do you have any comments to make about why vampires are so popular right now?
Wood: I love me some vampires, you know it comes and goes in waves but vampires there’s always a craze somehow. I’ve been waiting to play a vampire since I was 5.
Do you think that there’s a reason, like why now?
Wood: It’s romantic. Why now? I, I don’t know. There hasn’t been one in, a vampire in quite some time.
Clarkson: I don’t know why vampires are so hot right now.
Wood: Because they’re sexy and scary at the same time.
Clarkson: Yeah, they’re sexy.
Wood: And teenage vampires. It’s like the whole Lost Boys thing, you know. Which I liked more but…
Clarkson: I told Larry I want to play a vampire in Curb your Enthusiasm. (laughter)
Wood: Great idea. You would make a killer vampire. No pun intended.
Larry, do you have a comment on the teenage vampire craze?
David: I don’t.
Wood: Please do!
David: I’ve been thinking about it. I can’t really come up with anything. I don’t quite get it. My kids went completely into it. They read all the book, the Twilight, that whole series, they read all that. I went to see Twilight with them.
Wood: (whispers) Sorry.
David: No, I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to part two. Whenever that comes out. I watch all the kids stuff with them.
Wood: You went to Hannah Montanna, didn’t you?
David: I did. I was at a Hannah Montana. What kid of dad am I huh? Lucky kids.
For all three of you, are you writing anything new for television or what’s next for you?
David: Well I just finished shooting Curb Your Enthusiasm and I’m editing that right now.
Ok, any plans to write something new?
David: Yes, but I don’t know what that is right now.
Ok, and it’s called...
David: I’m pretty sure it will be….
Clarkson: It’s not your take on Medea
Wood: Oh, God. I would love to see that.
Clarkson: I should have said a new translation, it’s not a new translation of Medea?
What are you doing?
Clarkson: What am I doing? I have some other films coming out this year with Martin Scorsee and a beautiful film called Cairo Time. And I just finished shooting a film called Main Time, Horton Foyle’s last film that he wrote that with Ellen Burston. And, I’m not quite sure what’s next which is a good place for me to be in.
Is there anything you’re longing for specifically that you love to do?
Clarkson: I have a movie about Tallulah Bankhead that we’re in the process of getting going.
Wood: Let’s see, what am I doing. I’m doing a couple of episodes of” True Blood”, playing a vampire queen. Then, I’m playing Mary-Jane in Spider-Man on Broadway.
Clarkson: I will be there opening night.
Wood: Yeah, you will. That should be up and running by February, I think.
David: Spider-Man is going to be on Broadway.
Wood: Yeah. It is amazing.
David: Sorry, I didn’t know Spider-Man was going to be on Broadway.
Do you plan on playing more leads in movies now?
David: Well, I think that would depend on the people who are producing the movies. I have’t been inundated with offers yet.
Is Woody Allen one of the only directors to get you to want to play the lead in a movie?
David: No, I don’t think so. If there was something that appealed to me, I would definitely consider it.
Whatever Works will be in theaters on June 19th.
This was a press conference and the person asking this question has some trouble with the English language, and was not getting the question across to Larry. Normally I would cut this out, but I just found it too funny.
Did you prepare anything? Watching Woody Allen’s movies?
David: No, no, no. I didn’t want to do Woody Allen. I didn’t want to do Woody Allen but…
Did you hang our with a lot of Jewish people to prepare for the role?
Clarkson: I mean you never do that.
David: I’ve never done that. So, yes, that aspect was really unusual. I tried to find as many Jews as I could and be-friend them and talk to them and see what made them tick.
Clarkson: Didn’t you go back and you were bar mitzvah-ed again?
David: Oh, my God (laughing). I went back to Brooklyn and walked the streets and interviewed people, what’s it like being a Jew? How do you behave?