In a conversation with Alec Baldwin livestreamed on Instagram, Woody Allen said he plans to direct “one or two more” films, but also said “the thrill is gone” because of the decline of the theatrical experience.
Without revealing details about the project, Allen said he will direct a film that will shoot in Paris in the late-summer or early fall. His last film was Rifkin’s Festival, which grossed just $2.3 million, reaching the U.S. in a limited release earlier this year but making little impact.
MPI Media Group handled that film, stepping in for Amazon Studios, which yanked its $80 million distribution deal with Allen in 2019. The filmmaker has seen his career options narrow in recent years amid increased scrutiny around allegations of sexual abuse. Book publisher Hachette also canceled publication of his memoir in 2020.
Even before Covid, Allen said, the challenging environment for traditional theatrical releases was starting to weigh on him. “When I started, you’d do a film and it would go into a movie house and movie houses all over the country, and people would come by the hundreds to watch it in big groups on a big screen,” he said. “Now, you do a movie and you get a couple of weeks in a movie house, maybe six weeks, four weeks, whatever. And then it goes right to streaming or right to pay-per-view, and people love sitting home with their big screens and watching it on their television sets.” As a result, he continued, “It’s not as enjoyable to me.”
As Covid combined with growing backlash in the industry to sideline Allen in recent years, he said he came to like the new normal. Baldwin, himself going through a period of professional limbo and public scrutiny over his part in the fatal shooting on the set of Rust, last interviewed Allen in 2020 for his radio show and podcast, Here’s The Thing. During the conversation he called Allen’s films “a warm bath” he turns to often as a respite from “the doldrums.”
Over five decades, from the 1960s through the 2010s, Allen averaged about a film a year, writing and directing more than 50 features.
Allen said in his new day-to-day routine, “I don’t have to be cold in the winter or hot in the summer or up at 5 o’clock in the morning, making decisions all day long. I’m home and there’s nothing I can do but exercise, practice the clarinet and write. I was home writing a lot. I wrote a lot of plays. … I thought to myself, ‘What if I didn’t make film? This is a nice way to live.’ And I thought, ‘Well, maybe I’ll make one or two more.'”
The half-hour chat did not feature any direct discussion of the Rust shooting or the allegations against Allen. which resurfaced in HBO documentary series Allen v. Farrow in 2021. The series featured interviews with family members, friends and investigators, including Allen’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, who maintains that Allen sexually assaulted her in a summer house in Connecticut in 1992. No criminal charges were ever filed, but the case gained new momentum in the public arena during the #MeToo era, with a number of industry figures backing away from Allen.
Allen said he would not write screenplays for others to direct — something he has done only a couple of times before. Instead, he would prefer writing novels. He said he wrote two plays during the pandemic though he did not express much optimism about trying to get them produced on Broadway.
“I have the same whining complaint about the theater” as with the state of the movie business, Allen said. “When I was younger, you’d go to the theater district and it would be lit up and it would have one interesting play after the other, and it was just fun to go. There was a tremendous amount of variety.” In more recent times, he said, the Broadway theater district has become “a dreadful mall” and “all the shows are musical revivals and shows where you’ve got to get a star” due to the ballooning costs of production. As a result, “there’s no more Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams or William Inge or Edward Albee.”
Baldwin said the theater world is “mirroring the movie business,” with its focus on tentpoles and A-list talent. He took the glass-half-full view of the landscape, though. “The good news is,” he said of revivals like The Music Man with Hugh Jackman, “a lot of people go to work, a lot of people get jobs. … I’m always in favor of these shows economically because a lot of people get employed.”