Woody Allen confesses affinity for Hitchcock and murder fantasies

Woody Allen

In a press conference for his forthcoming movie Irrational Man, the director said that Alfred Hitchcock taught him everything he knows about crime

“Murder is the most common denominator through history for getting something done effectively,” Woody Allen observed during a New York City press conference for his new film, Irrational Man.

It’s not as though he was endorsing it, but he confessed that sometimes, when he’s lying awake at 3 o’clock in the morning and can’t sleep, he likes to fantasize on how to commit the proverbial perfect crime. “First you inject cyanide into the tomato ...” he mused before trailing off.

Getting away with murder forms the central plot to Irrational Man, in US cinemas this Friday (11 September in the UK), starring Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix. (Neither the leading man nor leading lady joined him at the conference, but supporting players Parker Posey and newcomer Jamie Blackley were on hand.) “As a kid my obsessions were magic tricks, baseball and crime. I knew the name of every member of Murder Incorporated. Who was who and what they were in for,” he recalled with great gusto. Indeed, during much of the midday, midsummer press conference, Allen looked as thrilled to be answering the same old questions like as you might expect. But thinking about crime fiction perked him up. “I learned it all from Alfred Hitchcock movies.”

Allen volleyed back other answers in his usual self-deprecating manner. He described the character Posey plays, a philandering professor in an unhappy marriage, as “bland” on the page until she took it and added flair. He also confessed that he considers this new movie to be totally serious and, much like with Match Point, was surprised to hear people laughing at its Cannes film festival screening. “Maybe they give me credit for being amusing when I’m really being inept,” he wondered, before adding: “Hey, if it gets a laugh, that’s great. It’s how I set my table.”

Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw’s review from Cannes called Irrational Man “amiable but forgettable”, but other critics were a tad more kind.

Despite Allen’s typical smokescreen, it’s clear that he is proud of the film. While he has dabbled in crime stories before, both in a comedic manner (Manhattan Murder Mystery, Take the Money and Run) and more seriously (Match Point, Crimes and Misdemeanors), and he said he hopes his work has a little more richness than just an airport read or a whodunnit. Phoenix’s character, Abe, a philosophy professor at rock bottom, is someone who only feels joy when he finds something to believe in, which is killing someone. “He can smell perfume and taste wine again, but only when he’s committed to doing something crazy.” Although, to the character, this particular act of vigilante justice is completely justified.

The 79 year-old director will commence shooting his new as-of-yet-untitled picture in August – which will be his 46th theatrically released feature film – and has assembled a terrific cast in Bruce Willis, Blake Lively, Kristen Stewart, Jennie Berlin and Jesse Eisenberg. “There’s a lot of major talent out there, and not a lot of work. We don’t offer the money or recognition of a blockbuster. We offer them scale and no frills, but a chance to act. If there’s an opportunity that’s more than just running and ducking, they’ll take it. These are artists.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jordan Hoffman, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 15th July 2015 22.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010