Tuesday night in New York, Hollywood A-listers and socialites gathered in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art to marvel at a nearly 75-year-old Manhattan original: Woody Allen.
At first slow and sheepish in the museum for the New York premiere of his latest film, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," Allen squinted at the glare from the paparazzo's cameras and held his wife, Soon- Yi Previn's, hand for support. But once surrounded by admirers like Martha Stewart, Alec Baldwin, and Stanley Tucci, and many adoring members of the movie's cast, including Josh Brolin, Gemma Jones, and Lucy Punch, it didn't take long for Allen to light up the room.
"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" is a dramedy about two couples (played by Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones and Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin) who struggle with disappointment, fantasy, and anxiety in their marriages. Allen, who wrote and directed the film, won't deny that the two male protagonists in the story are autobiographical.
"Well you know they say...all the characters in everything every author writes are part of the author in some way. I can never see it myself but you know it's been said so many times over centuries that...it's possible that it's true," Allen told Abcnews.com.
In the film, Josh Brolin's character Roy fantasizes about a mysterious guitar player, Dia (Frieda Pinto) who practices in an apartment outside his window. But in real life Allen's quick to confirm that Dia's character is completely fictional. "I've looked out my window many times. I live in Manhattan," Allen said. "I've never seen anything close to an apparition like Freida Pinto..If I see anything at all it's guys working on computers."
For the actors in the film, working with Allen was both a dream come true and a learning experience. Brolin gushed while relating his experience filming the movie, "Woody's fantastic. You know, he's eccentric, he's unique, he understands who he is, which is a breath of fresh air...and I'd work with him again and again."
But, before he started filming Brolin sent Allen a nearly three-page e-mail arguing that his character should be in a wheelchair. "He wrote back 'no.' Brolin laughed. "It was pretty simple. Pretty straightforward."
Jones agreed with Brolin's opinion of Allen, adding that working with him "...was a great privilege...[and though Allen's process] is quite enigmatic he's very trusting of his actors and he watches [them]...closely and it's... pleasant and good-natured and really a nice way to work."
Newcomer Lucy Punch, who plays Anthony Hopkins' call girl, admitted that working with Allen was "exciting and intimidating...[but] since getting cast in [the film] I've had this wonderful year... I've done a number of movies and it's really thanks to Woody."
The films' lengthy title is more than a mouthful for Allen. "It has an ambiguous meaning," Allen said. "Interestingly in other countries they don't have that phrase. It's not a cliché of fortune tellers. So I've had to deal with many... other titles in other countries. But in the United States, 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' instantly evokes fortune telling. However there is another type of tall dark stranger…waiting for us all."
For Allen, death has always been an obsession. "You know I've never been able to shake [it] and it appears in my films...Since I'm a comic filmmaker there's always a tension between that kind of grim seriousness and the film," Allen said.
"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" is set in London, thousands of miles from Manhattan -- a city once synonymous with Woody Allen movies. But Allen is quick to admit that shooting a movie in New York is too costly. "For me I work on a low budget and it goes further in some of these European countries," Allen said. "I can get more shooting days in, so it's easier for me. Here [in New York] it's been a little tough. But you know I prefer New York always because I live here and I love it. I'd love to make some films here."
"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" opens in theaters on Sept. 22.