Woody Allen

Match Point

Interviewed by Stella Papamichael

“If anything the weather is better here, the skies are grey and that's very good for photography ”

Perhaps most fondly thought of for his "earlier, funnier films," quintessential New Yorker Woody Allen has made a career out of being neurotic. Amid a slew of Oscar nominations, he won two gongs for romantic comedies Annie Hall (1977) and Hannah And Her Sisters (1986), otherwise he rarely ventures to Hollywood. Instead he's fled his native Manhattan for London - the setting for his dark crime drama Match Point, starring Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.

Luck is a big theme of this movie. Do you really believe that luck can shape a person's life so profoundly?

I believe that luck plays a much bigger part in life than people like to admit. There's a tendency to feel that we're in control of our lives to a much greater degree than we really are. People think that if they exercise and eat well and don't smoke they are in control of their health. You can help yourself of course, but in the end you really have to be lucky.

If you work hard in life, that's no guarantee of anything. You really have to catch a break, and it is more important to be lucky than good finally because people who are good may or may not succeed at what they're doing. But people who are lucky can have a much better time of life than people who are simply good at something. Being good does not guarantee any kind of accomplishment or happiness or fulfilment. Being lucky does guarantee a happier life.

Do you consider yourself lucky?

I personally have been very lucky my whole life. I've had good health and good fortune and much of my success is dependent on luck. Much of Match Point's success, for me, was dependent on good luck. I'm not sure I could duplicate it again - everything fell in so perfectly.

Some people are calling this film a return to form. Are you aware you had lost your form?

I'm never aware of anything. I'm so out of it I can't tell you. I live in New York and stay in my room and work and I'm never cognisant of what's going on. I never know how my films do financially, how they're reviewed, if people like them or don't like them. People always impute to me a calculation that I made this film because the last one was a comedy so this one is a drama, or I'm making a film for a certain reason like it resonates in my private life. But none of those things are ever true. I make a film for the fun of making a film and I hope that people like it when it's finished. If they don't, there's nothing you can do about it because it's over. And then I go on to the next film, and whatever idea I get, I go with. I never participate in the business in any significant way. And that's a plus and a minus. It's a plus because it keeps me free of any of the encumbering nonsense of publicity or criticism or studios interfering with my work. I just keep by myself.

On the downside it leads to a certain isolation. You don't get the communal joy of making a film. Colleagues make films, and they have fun and they dine out with the actors and they make friendships and they have opening night parties that they enjoy. If they are well reviewed they like to read the reviews, and they enjoy that part of it. They enjoy winning awards and lecturing at schools. I don't get any of that pleasure. It doesn't pleasure me and it doesn't interest me. So that's the downside. The upside is that I'm free to work and able to be productive and make a film every year and not get caught up in the win-or-lose, hit or flop syndrome or the show business aspect of filmmaking.

Was there any culture shock involved with working in London?

There isn't a culture shock. The cities are totally comparable. London is just like New York. They are two big metropolitan centres full of culture, museums and theatres and restaurants and traffic, mixed populations. There's not a huge difference working in London and New York. If anything the weather is better here, the skies are grey and that's very good for photography. And the weather is cooler here in the summer, so it was very nice.

Match Point has a flavour of more traditional English films. Are you a fan of that style?

England has an enormous history of important filmmaking. When I was a younger man we idolised the British film industry. Many of the great British films that we were seeing in New York were made in England, in London. British filmmakers set the trend so they're more than equipped to do whatever you need to do. British cameramen traditionally have been among the best in the world. So it was not hard at all to make film. It was very pleasurable - so pleasurable that I came back and made another one the next summer [Scoop] and I'm thinking of doing it again this summer. It's great.

Match Point is released in UK cinemas on Friday 6th January 2006.