Saturday, August 16, 2008

Seconds later, stars shine in “Barcelona”

Two minutes and 40 seconds. That’s about how long it took a pair of international superstars -- Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem -- to find out they would be in Woody Allen’s latest film.

Let’s let Bardem, 39, the recent Oscar winner (in the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men”), tell his tale before we hear from Cruz, whose energetic supporting performance in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” certainly puts her in this year’s awards mix.

“As a lot of people in the world are, I’m a huge admirer of a lot of movies – a lot of masterpieces – so, to me, Woody Allen is like (up there) with the Coens,” begins Bardem (shown sharing a moment with the director and co-stars Cruz and Scarlett Johansson).

“Of course, you are from Spain and you don’t ever dream – not even dream – of the possibility of working with Woody Allen. Then you hear that he is coming to Spain to make a movie and you take for granted that it's going to be a movie for American actors. Then you have a phone call saying, 'No, I want you to do this.' And you have a hard time. Yes, he is Woody Allen. The conversation is then no more than two minutes. That was the way it went.”

And, what happens when you meet him?

“I didn't even have that (opportunity),” Bardem says. “I had only this script. I read it and I said, 'Of course, thank you.' All right, I have the script. I called, I said, 'This is pretty good, but I have some questions.' 'OK, so we shoot in a month.' Click, beep, beep, beep.

“Then you show up on the set, it goes all right and then they say 'Action!’ That is Woody Allen, who is kind of unique. Especially working in a foreign language. You have to do your homework because you hear that he is fast and precise. You don't have time to waste."

The fast-talking Cruz had a similar – if even less lasting -- experience. “I think my agent called him and said, ‘We heard you're shooting in Spain, do you want to meet Penelope because she would love to work with you?” the 34-year-old beauty explains.
"Something like that happened, and then we met in New York and we had a 40-second meeting. That’s it! He told me he saw ‘Volver’ and loved it, and, ‘I'm writing something, and if it keeps going in this direction, it could be great for you. I'll let you know in a few weeks. Thank you very much.’

“There is no BS with Woody, which I love,” Cruz continues. He did say ‘Good morning, it's very nice to meet you.’ But, as soon as I started getting to the, ‘Oh my god, I loved “Deconstructing Harry.” “I love all your movies,” he just said, ‘Mmmmm.’

“A month later, I was in Paris and I got this phone call that said, ‘Woody wants you to make the movie,’ and I was very, very happy, and even happier when I read the script.”

(For more on “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” see my Woody Allen piece in this week’s Sun News. Then look for Allen and Johansson singing each other’s praises in my post on MovieZen.)

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