Four-time Oscar winner Woody Allen made a rare visit to Chicago over the weekend to help boost his upcoming “Magic in the Moonlight,” opening Friday.
While he walked the red carpet at the AMC River East multiplex Saturday night — prior to a private screening for the friends of the movie’s executive producer Ron Chez — Allen admitted Chicago would appeal to him as a potential filming site.
Now that Illinois has improved the tax incentives for filmmakers and Allen has a major investor (Chez), I asked the writer and director about shooting here.
“I would not hesitate,” said Allen. “The problem of finding venues to make a movie is to find a place where me and my family can live in for a few months without it getting boring or being uncomfortable. So I picked very good cities in the past,” added Allen, noting the locations of his recent non-New York movies such as “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Midnight in Paris,” “To Rome With Love,” and “Blue Jasmine” (San Francisco, as well as New York).
“Chicago is a great city for that. It’s not boring. It’s full of excitement. It’s full of good restaurants and museums and bookstores. It’s a great place. I had a lot of good years in Chicago in the past.”
Reminded of him once telling me Chicago is the best city in America to find good Greek restaurants (“The one ethnic food we really don’t have properly represented in New York.”), Allen joked Saturday, “I used to look for good places for ribs here when I was younger. But I’m too scared to eat them now at my age!)
†Also walking the red carpet Saturday was Chez and his banker, Michael Rose, the CEO or Metropolitan Bankcorp. Chez revealed he not only was involved in “Magic in the Moonlight,” but was committed to executive producing three more Allen movies, including the one that just began filming in Rhode Island with Emma Stone (who stars in “Magic in the Moonlight”) and Joaquin Phoenix. Chez described it as “a murder mystery, set on a college campus.”
Not only was “Magic in the Moonlight” Chez’s first involvement in the filmmaking world, but he joked about having a cameo in the movie. “Unfortunately, the entire scene was cut. … I just hope that doesn’t happen with a scene I’m supposed to be in the next movie!”
†Asked about his leading man in “Magic in the Moonlight,” Allen told me, “When I wrote the movie, I told our casting director Juliet Taylor, ‘There’s one person who’s perfect for this — Colin Firth. He’s got elegance. He’s good looking. He’s great poise. He’d be perfect for this.’
“But it turned out he was not available. And then we were looking for other people. And everyone was such a disappointment, compared to Colin. Then — at the last minute — just when we were thinking of hiring someone else, he became available. It was like magic! His other movie was postponed and I got him.”
†Asked about him acting again in one of his films [he does not appear in “Magic in the Moonlight”], Allen said, “I’d love to act again if I can come up with a part that I’d want to play. It’s hard, because I can’t play the romantic lead anymore — and If I can’t play the romantic lead, I don’t want to be left playing ‘Gramps’ or the backstage doorman who looks at the chorus girls.
“I want to be the guy who sits opposite Scarlett Johansson or Charlize Theron — and grabs her across the table. It’s hard to do that now. I’m too old.”