“There’s a few different kinds of things I can act credibly,” he continues. “I can play an intellectual or a lowlife.”
The downside of developing such a strong alter ego, of course, is that when people meet Woody Allen, they expect to meet Woody Allen: an extension of his speech patterns and personality, to be sure, but also a character he has created over years on stage as a stand-up comic and as an actor in his movies. “I’m not as crazy as they think I am,” he says. “They think I’m a major neurotic and that I’m phobic and incompetent, and I’m not. I’m very average, middle class. I get up in the morning, I have a wife and kids, I work, I’ve been productive, I practice my horn, I go to ballgames, it’s a normal kind of thing. I have some quirks, but everybody has some quirks.”
By “they,” Allen is referring to his fans, who tend to be rabid, able to quote lines from every Allen film going back to “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” with impeccable accuracy. They’re the filmgoers who have stuck by Allen throughout his one-movie-a-year production pattern (despite the ups and downs such consistent output inevitably entails), who kept coming even at the height of romantic controversy and who made last year’s “Midnight in Paris” the biggest commercial hit of Allen’s 47-year career.
Allen won his fourth Oscar for “Midnight in Paris,” for best original screenplay (his films have won 11 in all). As always, he declined to accept the accolade in person. “They always have it on Sunday night,” he says of the Academy Awards ceremony. “And it’s always — you can look this up — it’s always opposite a good basketball game. And I’m a big basketball fan. So it’s a great pleasure for me to come home and get into bed and watch a basketball game. And that’s exactly where I was, watching the game.”
Did he at least flip? “No, I wasn’t flipping. I had no idea of anything that happened. When the game was over I was exhausted and I went to sleep.”
Allen’s career has been so workmanlike and regularized, his references to his past films so offhanded, that it’s easy to forget: This is the man who made “Bananas” and “Sleeper” and “Love and Death” and “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” and “Hannah and Her Sisters,” whose career phases include a musical (“Everyone Says I Love You”), austere dramas (“Interiors,” “Another Woman”) and, most recently, city symphonies paying homage to London (“Match Point,” “Scoop,” “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”), Barcelona (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Paris (“Midnight in Paris”) and now Rome.