At 76, director Woody Allen is still reaching new heights in his 42 years as a filmmaker. With a staggering 47 films under his belt, Allen could easily be installed in the Mt. Rushmore of American filmmakers alongside Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone. But until now, Allen has never allowed a documentary to be made about his work. The man who finally convinced him was Robert Weide. As Allen’s most recent release, “Midnight in Paris” becomes his biggest box office success, PBS airs “Woody Allen: A Documentary” on “American Masters.” Metro asked Weide how he got Allen to relent.
Woody Allen has famously never let a film be made about him. How did you do it?
His reluctance to this kind of thing over the years has not been based so much on his fear that somebody would do something outside of his control. I think his problem with it has always been his self-deprecating streak, where he just doesn’t understand how anyone would be interested in doing a documentary on him or why anyone would be interested in watching it.
He and I actually had a $10 bet, which I need to collect on. When he met me, I could never get [this film] financed. And then once I did, his thing was, “No one’s going to put this on the air.” Of course, “American Masters” jumped at it. Now his thing is, “Well, no one’s going to watch it.”
His romantic relationships with Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow are epic in the public consciousness. Did you have a hard time getting as much info as you wanted from them?
No. That stuff is of minimal interest to me. We do hear a little bit about him and Diane Keaton and Keaton talks about how she had a crush on him right from the beginning. Then with Mia he talks about the genesis of the relationship. Then I deal with what lead to their breakup. ... But I covered that to the extent that I had to because it is part of his narrative. I tried to deal with it honestly and give the information that I thought would cover it.
Because his films are so personal, Woody Allen fans may feel they know him. What will this documentary reveal that we didn’t know?
This guy has a work ethic like nobody else I’ve seen. By the time one film comes out, he’s already shooting the next film. I tried to round out the picture as much as I can. It’s not a psychological study; but when you look at the arc of his life and his career, I think it puts a few things into perspective.