TORONTO—Josh Brolin is one of the few American stars in filmmaker Woody Allen’s latest dark chamber comedy, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. The movie, which also features Anthony Hopkins, Freida Pinto, Antonio Banderas, and Naomi Watts, spirals out from a broken marriage where the husband (Hopkins) seeks the comfort of a younger woman (Lucy Punch) and the wife (Gemma Jones) finds the comfort of a fraudulent psychic.
Watch the trailer for You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.
It’s unlikely that any psychic would have predicted years ago that the former neurotic voice of New York City, who once named a movie Manhattan, would relocate his imagination to Europe—which Allen did in 2005 with the Oscar nominated Match Point. Since then, Allen has essentially become a European filmmaker, setting three of his past five films in England and one, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, in Spain.
In a hotel room, Brolin is promoting the movie’s North American premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Brolin previously appeared in Allen’s Melinda and Melinda, and the actor—who plays a bitter and blocked American writer married to Watts in Tall Dark Stranger—suspects that one reason they mesh is that he’s pretty much the anti-Woody. “Woody and I have both said I could never possibly even pretend to be you, nor could you possibly pretend to be me,” he says. “If there’s two more opposite people on this planet, it’s me and Woody Allen. I think that’s why we work together as well as we do, because we have the same sensibilities. We just have different structures to manifest them.”
Brolin says that part of the appeal of Allen’s movies for him is that he loves language. “I think Woody has created a vernacular that’s pretty amazing. It’s kind of like David Milch in TV. If you ever saw Deadwood, you know. I think that was a fairly genius move to create—can I say a bad word?—a cocksucker vernacular for a turn-of-the-century genre. And I feel the same way about Woody. Woody, you really have to figure it out. Woody would say to me [here Brolin slips into a killer Allen impression], ”˜Hey, man, you know, just make it your own; just make it your own.’ ” Returning to his own voice, Brolin laughs. “Then I’d do a take and he’d say”¦”
Allen returns with his nasal Jewish rasp: “”˜You said cannot.’
“And I’d say, ”˜Yeah?’
“And he’d say, ”˜But it [the script] says can’t. You broke the contraction.’
“And I said, ”˜I thought you just said make it my own?’
“And he goes, ”˜I know, but the script says can’t.’ ”
Brolin says that’s when Allen explained that he could make the part his own in terms of behaviour, but couldn’t mess with the words—no matter in what accent they were written.