Woody Allen’s filming a newie. Surprise! About young love. More surprise.
Woody: “No title yet. If it comes out good, it’s an aggressive title, maybe ‘Poets of New York.’ If it’s not good, it gets a quiet nothing title like ‘Rain in the City.’ “While you’re shooting you can’t tell if it’s a winner. Every day you see dailies. Looks good. But strung all together, after sitting through 20 scenes, it’s sometimes not so charming. That’s why trailers always look perfect.”
Location, Central Park. They told me “Beau Bridges” — like Lloyd Bridges’ son. Enter 72nd and Fifth, up the road, go left, down stone stairs, past the lake, another left, — me on heels — three more thickets and brambles and I could’ve reached Wyoming. The location was “Bow Bridge.”The action? Jesse Eisenberg kissing Kristen Stewart. Then, cut. More kissing. Another take. Again, kissing. Some dog two trees away barked. A baby cried. Kiss No. 46. Cut. Then: He kissed her, she kissed him. Each kissed. Afternoon light, fading. A plane overhead. And being right in the path of three terminals, plus a helipad, it was aircraft-after-aircraft sounds.
Woody: “I hate this steady noise interruption. And people think doing this is easy. Central Park has maddening problems. You really need police protection. We have a park permit and we give the park a donation, but you can’t shut it down nor ban walking pedestrians. Our crew keeps them away, but bystanders sometimes get into the shot.”
Letty Aronson, Woody’s sister: “It needs patience. Not how Woody likes to work.” Woody: “We’re lucky. It only rained twice. The meter’s going, costs rise, you spend vast amounts of money for hours and hours to get 45-second increments. If I rage impotently, it wouldn’t help. This is a New York love story in the ’30s. You can’t set a romantic scene at Grant’s Tomb. I originally picked a boat in the East River, but skyscrapers clashed with the ’30s. So, it’s the park.
He likes to be comfortable:
Woody’s outfit? The omnipresent wardrobe he wears even at black-tie events: rumpled chinos, cotton shirt, same battered hat you can buy off a pushcart on Canal Street. Another jet overhead bound for someplace like maybe Poland, and Jesse and Kristen asked about that night’s wrap party.
“I’m not going,” said Woody. “I’m going home. To bed. To watch the Cubs and the Mets.”
Jesse, who told us, “My father once was a waiter at Kutsher’s Hotel in the Borscht Belt,” asked: “If tomorrow night at your house is still on, can I bring my mother, who wants to talk to you about your old movies?” Answer, yes. The movie’s about reliving an old romance. She eventually married his boss. But as passion’s rekindled they schlep about in a horse carriage and sip wine. (“Ginger ale. On this budget we can’t afford wine.”)
And it’s a wrap!
A stand-in walked over while elves made up Kristen in a chair off in some cluster of mulch and bent twigs.
Woody called: “Cover the tattoos. All these beautiful young actresses have tattoos.”
Asked where’s the porta-potties, he said: “How do I know? I’m not in charge of trivia. No idea where everyone pees.”
He and Letty stood with earphones. He gave me his director’s chair. “If I sit, I’ll fall asleep. Also, if you stand you live longer.”
“Our schedule’s 41 days. Today’s the final day, says Woody.
“The crew has other jobs. If we don’t finish, we may have to change the scene, reassemble tomorrow or return in future for a pickup shot. Some actors are fresher at the beginning and not as sharp after many takes. Old-timers might complain, ‘Why can’t you pick a goddamn location where we can work?’
But Jesse and Kristen are really good-natured. “We started 6 a.m. Because light’s fading we’re actually shooting backwards. We did the ending early. The master shot. Now close-ups. You can do seamless color correction later. Piece together a minute of one take with a minute of another.“Editing doesn’t take long. It’s music and sound effects that take months.”
Woody, appreciating his lady star: “No junk makeup on her eyes and lips. The light’s soft on her. She’s good-looking, and we’re better getting shots early so makeup people don’t rush out, fix this, add that and put too much junk on her.” I finally went home. I think they’re still there.