Woody Allen in Spain: "I Don't Think of Political or Social Movements"

Woody Allen Spain press conference photo 2 - H 2019
Courtesy of Quim Vives

The director and key castmembers presented the film with the working title 'Rifkin's Festival' in San Sebastian, Spain, on Tuesday.

Woody Allen discussed some details of his latest feature in San Sebastian, Spain, on Tuesday, including the working title Rifkin’s Festival, but also was questioned about the political climate in the U.S. and whether he had any plans to retire.

Filming for the romantic comedy will begin in and around San Sebastian on Wednesday and run through Aug. 23. The movie is a Spanish production of The Mediapro Studio with Allen's Gravier Productions and is set in San Sebastian. The film stars Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, Gina Gershon, Wallace Shawn, Elena Anaya (Wonder WomanThe Skin I Live In), French actor Louis Garrel (Little WomenGodard Mon Amour) and Sergi Lopez (Dirty Pretty ThingsPan’s Labyrinth). All except Waltz and Garrel were on hand at the press event in San Sebastian.

Mediapro chief Jaume Roures unveiled Tuesday that his studio and FilmNation will be handling international distribution.

Back home in the U.S., the director is embroiled in a $68 million lawsuit against Amazon Studios for breach of contract, brought about when the studio moved to end its multi-film agreement with the director amid a renewed outcry over sexual abuse allegations against him. Allen denies the allegations.

Allen was asked about calls for a "boycott" and the #MeToo movement at Tuesday’s press conference. "My philosophy has always been, from when I started many, many years ago in show business, to just keep focused on my work and keep working, no matter what happens in my life, with my wife, with children, with current events, with politics, with illness," he said. "No matter what is happening, I focus on my work and I keep focusing."

Added Allen: "I don’t think of political movements or social movements. I’m just not equipped mentally to have any deep insights on those things. I deal mostly with human relations and people and comedy. And as long as I stay focused, I don’t think I’ll ever retire. I’ll probably die in the midst of setting up a film shot one day on a set making a movie."

Asked about a possible "boycott" of Allen and the lead actresses' decision to work with him, Gershon said, "I personally think that you really have to look at every single situation and really, between you and you, decide how you feel about this situation. And I can say with a very clear conscience and so much excitement that I am so thrilled to be here. This feels kind of like a dream come true."

She added: "While I think there’s a lot of good that’s coming out of all these different movements, I just feel it’s really important that people really take a look at every situation and really make up their own minds about it."

Anaya also spoke on the issue. "As an actress, I am responsible for the work that I choose to do,” and “once again I’ve chosen a project for the actors that will accompany me in the project and above all for the script," she said. And she added that she felt lucky “as a woman and as an actress” to work with “one of the best directors in the world.”

Allen's new film focuses on an American couple traveling to the San Sebastian International Film Festival, where the two are enamored with the event, the town and the country. She falls for a brilliant French director, while he is smitten by a beautiful local Spaniard. Rifkin is the name of one of the main characters in the story.

The film marks Allen’s fourth collaboration with Mediapro after Midnight in Paris, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It also marks Allen’s fourth collaboration with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

"I’d like to convey to the world my view of San Sebastian the way I conveyed my view of Paris or New York to people," Allen said. "The movie is basically a personal story of relationships, a made-up story of relationships and hopefully an amusing situation and a romantic one," he noted, adding that "of necessity, there will be a certain amount of homage to cinema because that’s what film festivals started out to be and that was my experience of the San Sebastian Film Festival."

Allen has a longstanding relationship with Spain and San Sebastian. He presented Vicky Cristina Barcelona at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in 2008 and received the fest’s lifetime achievement award in 2004, opening San Sebastian that year with Melinda and Melinda.

In May, Allen released a trailer for his last film, A Rainy Day in New York, on his Facebook page. Amazon holds rights to the picture’s U.S. distribution, but Lucky Red plans to release the film in European territories, starting with Italy on Oct. 3. Italy was the top foreign earner for Allen’s Wonder Wheel, also through Lucky Red.

Asked about the release of the film, Allen said, “In the U.S., there are no plans at this moment to release it, so I don’t really know what will happen, it’s out of my control.” But, he added, “we haven’t been pursuing that too assiduously because it’s going to open and start to roll out all over Europe in the next few months. In the U.S., either a distributor will come forward and distribute the film or not, I have no control over that and I can only make the film.”

He said he was “optimistic” about the film’s reception in Europe. “I’ve been very lucky over the years that I’ve had a very good public in Europe and they have enjoyed my films.

Mediapro also has a relationship with Amazon Studios as a co-producer on the behind-the-scenes Spanish soccer documentary miniseries Six Dreams, winner of two Daytime Emmy Awards.

At Tuesday’s event, Shawn also raved about Allen, whom he credited with "discovering" him and setting him on a path to becoming an actor. "We’re all constantly searching for things we can do that we can be proud of. As actors, certainly in my country, it’s always hard to find those things," he said. "Working with Woody can be a very peaceful, almost dreamlike experience, unlike any I’ve ever had with anyone else. It’s his dream and we sort of wander through it in a very pleasant way as if we were dreaming. I would do it as a full-time job if it were available."