On Location: Woody Allen embarks on a Roman adventure
Woody Allen, the Brooklyn-born director who defined New York for filmgoers with such hits as “Bullets Over Broadway” and “Annie Hall,” is once again choosing Europe over Manhattan as the stage for his next movie.
Following up films shot in London, Barcelona and Paris -- where Allen set the recently released "Midnight in Paris," his most successful movie in years -- the idiosyncratic filmmaker is now focusing his lens on Rome.
On Monday, Allen began filming his next release, “Bop Decameron,” in the Italian capital, an event celebrated by the city's mayor, Gianni Alemanno.
“Allen deliberately set out to immerse himself in Roman life, and he has been going around to get a feel of the real, genuine Rome," said Alemanno, who invited Allen to his office last week and presented him with a small statue of a she-wolf, the symbol of Rome. “We are collaborating with him in every possible way to give him all the help we can.”
The $25-million movie, which has yet to find a distributor but is scheduled for release next year, is loosely based on a collection of 100 medieval tales written by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio in the 14th century. It will be comprised of four vignettes set in contemporary Rome, with the latter two segments expected to be in Italian. The international cast includes several Italian actors led by Roberto Benigni, as well as Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin and Allen himself.
The director suffered a run of commercial and critical failures at the box office before turning his sights across the Atlantic a decade ago. “Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and this year’s “Midnight in Paris” have all garnered critical praise and financial success, with "Midnight" proving to be the filmmaker’s biggest box office hit in 25 years, garnering nearly $70 million in ticket sales so far.
“Every time has been like making declarations of love for certain places and projecting onto the screen my feelings for the places which have counted most in my life,” Allen said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in March. “I hope to do the same with Rome.”
Allen was unavailable for comment, his publicist said, but in previous interviews he has cited high production costs in New York a key reason for his shift to Europe.
According to Allen’s producers on “Bop Decameron,” the Roman picture is taking advantage of Italy’s 25% film tax credit, which took effect in 2009 and was renewed for three years last February after a temporary freeze. The project is being financed by Rome-based Medusa Film and produced by Allen’s longtime partners Letty Aronson (Allen's younger sister) and Stephen Tenenbaum.
Film officials in Rome are hoping Allen will make the city, famously depicted in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” a character in the film during the two-month shoot.
“Allen is a director who has, perhaps more than others, created a particular relationship of exchange with the cities he uses for his films,” said Cristina Priarone, general manager of the Rome Lazio Film Commission. “The city of Rome will offer Woody Allen the light, the colors and the faces that have always been its cinematographic trademark, offering the director another piece in his personal European mosaic.”
For the record, 2:35 p.m. July 12: A previous version of this post referred to Cristina Priarone as Christina Priarone and Gianni Alemanno as Gianni Alemmano.
Photo: Spanish actress Penélope Cruz (R) listens to director Woody Allen in Piazza Augusto Imperatore in central Rome on June 11, 2011 on the first day of the shooting of his movie "Bop Decameron." Credit: EPA / Massimo Percossi
-- Dima Alzayat