A company in Barcelona called me and said, "If we put up the money, would you make a film here?" And since I'm always looking for backing — the hardest part of making a film is getting the backing — I thought to myself, "Gee, this is a city I could happily live in for several months." It's not like asking me to go to the Sudan to make a movie! It's Barcelona. There's culture, restaurants, museums; it's beautiful. As soon as I mentioned it to my wife, she said she'd love nothing more than to live in Barcelona for a few months. So I started thinking about it, and I wanted to make Barcelona part of the film. I didn't want to just write a film that I could make anyplace and merely set it there.
That's something that's always been an important part of your films — the city as character — whether the city in question is New York, Venice, London, or Barcelona.
Cities move me. That's why I don't think I could make a film in a place that would appear boring to me, or unromantic. If I'm making a film in Venice, or Paris, I can really do a good job and make the atmosphere part of the story — that's very important to me. Originally, when I was doing this film, I was going to title it Midnight in Barcelona. And then I changed it, because I just felt the film was about Vicky, Cristina, and Barcelona — that it required equal billing. And it is a great town — a sophisticated, fast-moving, charming town that's a combination of old places and contemporary places. It's just great.
You've been thought of for so long as a "New York director" that it came as something of a surprise when you first went to London to make Match Point. And when you made two subsequent films there, and now one in Spain, it surprised some people all the more. Were you yourself surprised at how long you stayed away?
I wasn't. And let me tell you, I would have continued to stay away for several reasons — not that I didn't have a great time working in New York again; I must say I did. But it was so exciting to work in London for several summers. The summers were cool; the light was gray; the crews were great. My family loved being there. It was a great experience for me. Then I made this film in Barcelona, and I found myself living out a young man's dream. When I was young and not even starting out yet in film — before that — we used to worship European films in New York. And I wanted nothing more than to be a foreign filmmaker. I didn't want to be one of those guys who made commercial, studio American films that always had at least one foot, if not both, in entertainment; it just wasn't fashionable at the time. Sure, occasional films would come through — a John Huston or a William Wyler would make something. But the studios were making 500 films at that time, and there would be five or six that were really significant, and the rest would be like television.
When I was really working in Europe itself — that is, in Spain, because London's not technically Europe — I thought, "My God, I'm living out this dream." This film has got a real European flavor to it; it feels like one of those films in the early '60s, when I was watching Godard and Truffaut and the Italian filmmakers. And I thought, "Now maybe I'll make a film in Paris, or make another film in London, or go back to Spain, or Venice, or Rome." Then there loomed the actors' strike, and suddenly it became incumbent upon me to be finished with [my next film] by the end of June or we couldn't get our bonding from the insurance company. So I had to make the Larry David film not in the summertime but in the spring, and because I made it in the spring, my children were in school and I couldn't go to Europe. So I made the film in New York. Probably, for my next film, I will go back to Europe for a while and cash in on this intoxicating feeling of filming there. It's a little present that I'm giving myself.
It's not just the scenery that's different in your European films. The characters are different, too — distinctly more WASP-y than the urbane secular Jews who tend to populate your New York films.
True, because you go with what's believable. Who's in Spain? Who's in London? You go with what the real atmosphere would be to some degree. Also, the new locations are fun. I've done about 32 pictures in New York, and I can still find good locations, but it's not like going to Barcelona and suddenly there's a hundred places that I've never heard of, much less filmed at.
But when one hears "Larry David" and "New York City," that sounds like a much more prototypical Woody Allen movie.
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