On Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, journalists at a news conference for “Café Society” refrained from asking writer-director Woody Allen about the elephant in the room: the publication earlier that day of an essay by Allen’s estranged son Ronan Farrow about the media’s approach to allegations of abuse by daughter Dylan Farrow.
That changed Thursday, as a series of lunch roundtable interviews with the director saw the question posed. Maybe it was the passage of a day, or the group in question, or maybe just the fact that journalists were given much freer rein than at a Cannes news conference, where a moderator calls on specific people and leaves many with their hands raised.
Whatever it was, the opportunity finally came up to raise the elephant. And Allen addressed it. Sort of.
“I never think about it,” Allen said. “I made my statement in the New York Times a long time ago,” referring to a much-read op-ed several years ago. “They gave me a lot of space.”
“I think it’s all silly,” he added. “The whole thing — it doesn’t bother me. I don’t think about it. I work.”
That followed a question from the Washington Post, in which a “Cafe Society” joke about an in-family romantic relationship of sorts evoked thoughts in many audience members of Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi Previn. How did the director feel that the audience was laughing with that meta understanding in mind?
“I just thought it was a funny line,” he said of the joke, then elaborated. “I’m OK with what gives the audience pleasure.” Whatever moves them, he said, was a “godsend to me.” (For a not dissimilar exchange at a different table, see this post at Variety.)
For what it’s worth, “Cafe Society” star Kristen Stewart had an opinion about the lack of any questions at the news conference the day before: “I was shocked,” she said simply, when asked about it by The Times.
She said the actors had not really discussed it before the news conference. But Stewart, who is no stranger to reporters using junkets to ask about entertainers’ personal lives, was aware of the piece when she came with Allen and her castmates to the podium and was expecting at least a question.
Meanwhile, Allen on Thursday was keen to talk about the film. Though “Cafe Society” is a romantic dramedy set in 1930s Hollywood, he said it was the love triangle in the film that preceded the setting.
“Originally it could have been Wall Street or the garment district. And then it occurred to me to give it the Hollywood atmosphere.”
He said his next movie, which he’s written and will begin casting imminently, will be set in an amusement park and could possibly be shot in New York — maybe even Coney Island, if he could work out the logistics.
Other “Cafe Society” stars, meanwhile, were eager to talk about its themes, including how the filmmaker has tackled female characters.
“It’s amazing what Woody has written for women,” said Blake Lively, who plays a Midwestern woman of some elegance, noting a series of complicated female characters dating back to the 1970s.
Lively said any news coverage of Allen’s personal life did not register as she was making the movie.
“It’s very dangerous to factor in things you don’t know anything about,” she said. “I could [only] know my experience. And my experience with Woody is he’s empowering to women.”