Woody Allen Never Felt He 'Had Depth' to Be an Artist

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The "Midnight in Paris" director also admits he had reservations about Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams' "Wedding Crashers" past.

Woody Allen might be regarded as one of cinema’s auteurs at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, where his latest movie Midnight in Paris has the honor of being the opening night film, but at a press conference before the festival’s official opening, he disavowed any claims to being a great artist.

“I consider myself a completely lucky filmmaker,” he said. “I aspire to be an artist, but I never felt I had the depth or substance.”

The subject came up because in his newest movie, Allen pays homage to the Paris of the 1920s, with its concentration of greats like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso and Gertrude Stein.

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Allen, the writer, even puts words into the mouths of some of the 20th century’s most important artistic voices, but he said that challenge didn’t give him pause since “I was writing about these people in a satirical way.”

Allen’s latest film stars Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams as a soon-to-be-married couple whose lives diverge during a visit to Paris, and the two actors, who previously costarred in 2005’s Wedding Crashers, joined him at the press conference.

Allen admitted that “I didn’t like the fact that they had worked together in a picture before,” but that in assembling the cast, he chose to overlook that fact since he wanted to work with both performers.

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Wilson plays Allen’s surrogate in the movie, although the filmmaker rewrote the lead to make Wilson’s character a Hollywood screenwriter rather than one of his usual neurotic New Yorkers, to better fit the actor.

“It was great to see Owen do it because Owen is the opposite of me,” Allen said. “He gives the character an enormous dimension that I could never have given it.”

McAdams said she didn’t mind that her character has an annoying edge. (The real love interest in the movie is played by French actress Marion Cotillard.) Since she’s usually asked to play the ingenue, McAdams said she was excited when Allen told her that she wouldn’t be playing “the object of desire” but that her character would be “a lot of fun.”

One questioner wondered whether Allen, in coming up with the premise of the movie, was returning to the theme of his 1977 short story "The Kugelmass Episode," about a man who finds himself in the fictional world of Madame Bovary, but Allen dismissed that notion out of hand.

“No I wasn’t thinking of that story that I wrote years back,” he said. “I was just struggling to come up with an idea.”