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Evan Rachel Wood, Larry David and Patricia Clarkson Discuss ‘Whatever Works’

Writer/director Woody Allen’s latest comedy, Whatever Works, features a May/December

Evan Rachel Wood and Larry David in ‘Whatever Works.’Evan Rachel Wood, Larry David Whatever Works

© Sony Pictures Classicsromance between a cranky intellectual and a sweet young girl, as well as the transformation of a proper Southern lady into an uninhibited wild woman. Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm plays the smart guy who finds himself curiously attracted to a woman decades younger (Evan Rachel Wood). Patricia Clarkson, who worked with Allen on Vicky Cristina Barcelona, co-stars as Wood’s mother who travels to New York to see her daughter but soon finds she’s inexplicably drawn to the bohemian lifestyle she encounters there.

At a press conference in LA in support of Sony Pictures Classics’ Whatever Works, the threesome talked about what life was like on the Woody Allen set.

 

Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, and Patricia Clarkson Press Conference

You were very reticent about doing the film. How did Woody Allen talk you into doing it?

Larry David: “First of all, I am reticent about everything so it is not unusual for me to be reticent. But, yes, I was reticent because…I don’t know? It was something unusual for me, I had never done anything like that before, playing a character, memorizing material…”

Evan Rachel Wood & Patricia Clarkson: “A lot.”

Larry David: “A lot of material. And I have a lot of self-doubt and negative feelings.”

Patricia Clarkson: [Laughing] “How do you really feel, Larry?”

Larry David: “And I thought that I should communicate that to him, which I did. He said, ‘No, you’ll…I’ll be fine.'”

In the monologue that’s probably a couple of pages long – where you speak to the audience – did that frighten you? Did you have to memorize that?

Larry David: “That was a very daunting prospect. Yes, I did have to memorize that. I was kind of thinking when I first saw it, ‘Oh, maybe they’ll just get a teleprompter.’ [Laughing] Then I thought, ‘Yeah, Woody Allen might not use a teleprompter…’ So, I had to work on that and I memorized that. But after I memorized it, it was actually okay. I found it easier to talk into the camera than I did talking to these two, to tell you the truth.”

Did you ever have a relationship with Woody where you could go up to him and say, “No, maybe not,” or did you just go with what was on the page?

Larry David: “He was very open to us, right? He was open to us changing…”

Patricia Clarkson: “Changing things, improvisation…”

Evan Rachel Wood: [Laughing] “I was too afraid to change anything.”

Patricia Clarkson: “Yeah, he was pretty open.”

Evan Rachel Wood: “But we really didn’t want to change it.”

Larry David: “Once I tried to change it, and I remember it was a scene with you. I tried to improvise something and he just looked at me like I was insane. I thought, ‘I am never doing that again.'”

Evan Rachel Wood: “Yeah, I tried to do it once, I think, at Grant’s Tomb. And I got lost and completely didn’t know where I was, and so I didn’t do it again after that, either.”

Evan, you’re a bright, young woman, so how hard or fun was it to play someone so clueless?

Evan Rachel Wood: [Laughing] “I don’t want to sound pompous saying it, but it was really hard playing dumb. And I was worried that she was either going to be really annoying or really daring, so it was a fine line there that I didn’t want to cross. But I think she’s sweet. [Laughing] I had fun, actually. It was kind of nice to not have to come to the set and cry everyday.”

Larry David: “It was interesting because she played someone who was much dumber that who she is and I play someone much, much smarter. So, we were at both ends.”

Did you look at the history of Woody Allen’s young leading ladies and what they might have had in common or different over the years?

Evan Rachel Wood: “No, I just wanted to make her my own. I’m very honored to be in that group of women now. I never thought that I would be starring in a Woody Allen movie, having grown up with actor parents and my mother going, ‘This is Diane Keaton. Watch, learn, live it, love it.’ And now I’m one of the girls, it’s pretty cool.”

Larry, how different is this character from the Larry that you play on Curb Your Enthusiasm and the real Larry?

Larry David: “Do I have to fill in the real Larry? Well, let’s see, the character on Curb is normal, I think, compared to this guy, because the character on Curb actually wants relationships and sex and things like that. I don’t know. He seems very normal compared to this guy. This guy is way out…this guy wears shorts. Never would the character on Curb wear shorts or would the person talking to you right now wear shorts. So I think that’s a very disturbing thing right there.”

Patricia, most men want two women, but you had two men. How did you feel about that?

Patricia Clarkson: “Finally. Finally. [Laughing] How do I feel? I’m thinking about trying it myself. I’ve never done it, but I never say never. The night is young. Yes, it was terrific. I thought it was exciting and sexy. I had two delicious actors and men, and I was fortunate that he let my character have that.”

You’re from the South, so was this Southern woman you play based on someone you might have known?

Patricia Clarkson: “No, but I certainly have known women like Marietta. But she is just kind of a mix of many women I have known through my lifetime with Southern women. I’ve met women from every spectrum in the South. In my family, there is a woman of every spectrum. I have four older sisters and a mother, and we are all very different Southern women. Woody wrote such a stunning character, so I just showed up in some ways. But I brought things of my past for us to play with.”

 Whatever Works Patricia Clarkson

Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, and Patricia Clarkson Press Conference

Can you talk about working with Woody Allen? He works in a very quiet way, where apparently he doesn’t interfere with what you’re doing. As an actor, do you want more from him or do you like the way he works?

Evan Rachel Wood: “I almost had a panic attack the first day. I was certain I was going to get fired because I just wasn’t used to it. You ask him, ‘Was that okay?’ and he says, ‘Yeah, that was fine.’ I don’t know what that means, but I guess it’s good. I ended up liking it, and I kind of get what he was going for after watching the movie. I don’t think he wants to distract you or make you think about it too much; he wants it to be as natural as possible. His favorite takes were when we messed up.”

Patricia Clarkson: “I think his genius, his craft, he has such trust in you as an actor, it’s a beautiful thing. You walk in and he doesn’t feel the need to say much, and I like that because he steps in at just the right moment.”

Larry David: “Yeah, you’re doing something wrong, he lets you know about it.”

Patricia Clarkson: “He lets you know it, but he lets you go. And I think also indirectly you have to know your character so well with Woody, because you really have to… It’s like theatre, you have to be able to do very long takes. You have to be prepared, you cannot be lazy. You have to know how to improv. You have to know all of it – and so it really prepares you in this very deep, subtle way for the journey.”

Larry, do you feel the same way because you said you were a little insecure when you started? Did you want more input from him?

Larry David: “Well, I was waiting to get fired. I was expecting it for a couple of days. I would go to the set like, ‘I can’t believe I’m still here.’ No, I just felt like if I did something and he didn’t say anything to me, that it was okay.”

Evan Rachel Wood: “You were much braver than I though. You would just walk right up to him and start talking. I couldn’t do that. I was too shy.”

Patricia Clarkson: “But he’ll say, ‘That was good.’ And that’s huge praise. ‘Okay, that was good, that was good for me.’”

Evan Rachel Wood: “And every now and then, ‘That was really funny,’ and you’re like [breathing a sign of relief], ’Ahhhh.’”

As an actress is it liberating to play a woman who is experiencing a sexual awakening and where can we see your thumbprint on the character?

Patricia Clarkson: “Yes, characters who undergo transformations are always yummy because you get to make a journey and get to have two different looks. But I think I brought – I was born and bred in the South and I think I infused my Southern manner, my demeanor, my tone into her. I think it is there. And Woody let me kind of put little things here and there in. And I know big hair and I know tight clothes, and I know really bright colors. And although Woody is so specific about wardrobe, remember our wardrobe fittings?”

Evan Rachel Wood: “The camera testing.”

Patricia Clarkson: “The camera test, which is again another way of preparing because as you’re doing all of these wardrobe fittings [and] things start to happen to you. No, it was thrilling playing this character. I mean, come on, it was alive and sexy and fun, and sometimes very nerve-wracking.”

Larry David: “I have a question. Are you critical of non-Southerners when they do Southern roles?”

Patricia Clarkson: “Yes.”

Larry David: “Are you hyper-critical?”

Patricia Clarkson: “Deeply.”

Larry David: “Because when I see gentiles playing Jews I don’t like it.”

Patricia Clarkson: “And that’s the beauty of this part. Woody is a very Northern man. He’s a big old Yankee, but he got this character very right in so many ways. And yes, I’m very sensitive about Southern characters. But women like this do exist, and so you have to embrace it.”

How are things going in the Spider-Man world?

Evan Rachel Wood: “I love that question. They’re going great. I just spoke with Julie [Taymor] today, actually. We’re still looking for our Spider-Man. But it’s going to be incredible. It’s going to be a crazy, rock ‘n roll circus show. Julie is doing what she did with The Lion King to this. She’s just taking it to a whole ‘nother level.”

You’ve been rehearsing it a lot, right?

Evan Rachel Wood: “No, no, we actually haven’t started. I did the workshop and then I worked with U2 and Julie and learned the songs and stuff. But we don’t start rehearsal until October. And just wait until you hear who’s playing the villain. I know and I wish I could tell everyone!”

Patricia Clarkson: “You can tell me later.”

Evan Rachel Wood: “I will.”

Are you also doing True Blood?

Evan Rachel Wood: [Laughing] “Yeah, I just got fitted for my fangs.”

Patricia Clarkson: “How often do you hear that? ‘I’ve just had a fitting for my fangs.'”

Larry David: “What a statement.”

Evan Rachel Wood: “Yes, yes, I’m playing the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, 400 years old, and gay, so it’s going to be a good one.”

And once you get those teeth on…

Evan Rachel Wood: “They just take over. You can’t help but just snarl and be evil. It’s great.”

Larry David: “Have we ever been through a period like this before where we’ve been fascinated by vampires? Is this new?”

Evan Rachel Wood: “No, it comes every now and then.”

Larry David: “Has this ever happened before, this vampire craze?”

Evan Rachel Wood: “I have always been into the vampire craze, okay?”

Your vampire on True Blood versus the Cullens from Twilight – who’d win?

Evan Rachel Wood: “Considering I’m a real vampire, probably me.”

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September 3, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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