Early on in the shoot for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Woody Allen’s latest exploration of love and neurosis, star Josh Brolin told the director he wouldn’t try and play a thinly disguised version of Woody Allen in the movie, like Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity or even Scarlett Johansson in Scoop.
“I know some people have tried to (play the Woody Allen character),” he says. “I don’t understand why. Everybody writes from who they are, but I think because Woody has acted in his films, and is choosing not to act in this film, therefore you are taking his place. I didn’t see it that way.”
The director was fine with that, in fact, he told Brolin to make the role his own. “Then I’d do a take,” says Brolin, “and he’d say, ‘You changed a word. You said cannot. The script says can’t.’ I’d say, ‘You’re not serious are you?’ and he’d say, ‘Yes, you broke the contraction.’ I said, ‘I thought you just said to make the part my own.’ He said, ‘I know. But the script says can’t.’”
Such is life on set with a genius.
Brolin, however, does have what most people would consider the Woody Allen role in the film; the part Woody might have played if he was 30 years younger. As a novelist with writer’s block and a taste for women, the Roy has the bulk of the film’s funny lines and best scenes, but Brolin says he couldn’t play Allen if he tried.
“Woody and I both said, ‘I could never pretend to be you nor could you possibly pretend to be me.’ If there are two more opposite people on this planet it is me and Woody Allen. For various reasons; which is why I think we come together and work together as well as we do, because we have the same sensibilities. We just have different structures.”
Brolin, who has made two films with Allen, says when he watched You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, he wanted to slap Roy. “To me he is pathetic. He’s not the most redeeming character out there. The grass is greener on the other side and he is constantly looking over there for notoriety and fame and all that. It’s a strange character and when he asked me to play it, I was like, ‘Why? Why me?’ But I’m very happy I got to do it.”