To bring you the inside scoop behind the magic in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, we attended a special Oscar Series Screening hosted by The Wrap in Los Angeles, followed by a Q and A with Letty Aronson (Woody Allen’s sister and Producer) and Corey Stoll (who plays Ernest Hemingway.) If you haven’t seen this historic piece, it’s a comedy and fantasy starring Owen Wilson (Gil) and Rachel McAdams (Inez) that was filmed in seven weeks for only $18 million.
From the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame Cathedral and Louvre Museum, this Cannes Film Festival 2011 hit is a postcard in every frame. Gill is a novelist, who roams the streets of Paris at night and lives out his fantasy by time traveling back to the 1920s. His new friends include classic artists such as Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Pablo Picasso (Marical di Fonzo Bo), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) and Salvador Dali (Adrian Brody). There are some very funny and awkward encounters with a typical Woody Allen style that make this film a must see.
And the story behind the filming of Midnight in Paris is equally entertaining. When Corey Stoll arrived on set, he described his first scene this way; “It was with everybody, with Owen, Kathy Bates and Marion Cotillard. I think it was the first day of shooting so no one really knew what was going on and what the tone was quite, or what the movie was even about. Owen had read the script, but the rest of us had only gotten our scenes.”
When the audience laughed at Corey not being clear on the story, Letty Aronson explained Woody’s approach as a director, “If an actor is in the entire thing or most of it, they do get the whole script. But otherwise, they get only their piece because Woody feels, and it’s the same reason that we don’t rehearse, that he feels it’s more spontaneous if they don’t know and they don’t prepare for it and right on the set, they have their natural reaction to what’s happening.”
Despite Woody Allen’s desire for spontaneity, Corey prepared for the role of Ernest Hemingway with a passion. He confessed, “I did prepare like insanely. I prepared as if I was doing a 10-part mini-series….I just read and read and read. And emotionally…, I read some biographies, and they were fun, but I sort of got addicted to the muscularity of Hemingway’s prose. I would start to read other things, and it seemed flaccid in comparison so I just stewed in that manly brew and showed up on set and forgot that I was doing a comedy.” And when you see Corey arrive on set, his manly presence is unforgettable.
When asked about her brother’s success as a filmmaker (explained in detail the PBS two-part documentary that is just out about Woody Allen,) Letty spoke about the first signs of his creative success, “Very early on, he did write jokes that appeared in columns and newspapers under celebrity names and he was only 16 when he started that. He was in high school, and at the end of the day, he would go into the city and work at a public relations company writing gags that you would see in like Earl Wilson’s column under some celebrity’s name.” And if you watch the PBS documentary, you’ll learn that Woody has produced a film every year for over 40 years!
On top of the Oscar buzz for Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen is busy editing his next project, Nero Fiddled (2012.) Ellen Page (Juno) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) star in this new film that is set in Rome. Letty shared, “It’s a comedy with 4 different stories. 2 in Italian and 2 in English.” Watch for Midnight in Paris when the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday, January 24th, and Oscar gold on February 26, 2012.
© Liz H Kelly @LizHKelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist, Sunrise Road Media, http://sunriseroadmedia.com