Scoop by Woody Allen

Scoop is the new comedy from writer-director Woody Allen, and is his second consecutive film to be set and shot in London (following Match Point). Scoop stars Allen, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, and Ian McShane.

Plot

The late U.K. journalist Joe Strombel (McShane) is being mourned by his colleagues, even as, stuck in limbo, Joe remains committed to pursuing a hot tip on the identity of the Tarot Card Killer at large in London. But how can his legwork get done now Via the very much alive Sondra Pransky (Johansson).

Sondra is an American journalism student visiting friends in London. During a stage performance by another American, magician Sid Waterman (Allen), Sondra is shocked to find herself able to see and hear Joe. From beyond, he gives her the scoop of a lifetime and urges her to pursue it. Sondra immediately starts chasing the big story, enlisting the aid of a reluctant Sid (a.k.a. Splendini). That chase leads right to handsome British aristocrat Peter Lyman (Jackman). Soon, Sondra finds that the romance of her life may well be the dangerous scoop shes looking for.

Origins of Scoop

Woody Allen: Well, I had done Match Point with Scarlett Johansson, and we had talked about doing another film together. Scoop was an idea that I had which accommodated both of us, so I thought we would do it.

Creative point of the story

WA: Originally the concept was, a reporter so dogged and determined that he would come back and get his story from the afterlife; that there was a good story to be had that he learned of after death, and nothing would deter him from getting that story. It was homage to first-rate investigative journalism, as opposed to lesser journalism.

Young college journalist

WA: When I had the idea, I thought it would be a reporter, because I had the idea prior to knowing Scarlett. But when I was formulating the script, and I knew Scarlett was playing the character, it seemed like it was a natural that she was a college journalist on vacation for the summer.

Second movie filmed in London

WA: Its a very nice place to film in. I mean, I like filming in New York a lot myself, but London is accommodating to me; the weathers very good there and the conditions for shooting–the financial conditions, the artistic conditions–are good, so its a pleasant place to shoot.

Favored locations in London

WA: I dont know the town that well, so I still enjoy going around to all the places in town. I like going around the streets of London, which is a particularly pretty city. So its very easy to get locations when you combine the beauty of the city and the beauty of the weather that you get every day; these wonderful, moody, gray, soft-lit skies. It comes out very seductive on film.

Exploring parts of London

WA: Because I dont know it that well, I gravitate to those places that I know or that the art director brings me to that are picturesque. Being a city person myself, naturally Im taken I think anybody would be, in London with the enormous amounts of parks and squares that they have, and the beautiful white houses and beautiful country locations. Theyre famous for their country houses and estates, and its fun to shoot on those.

Cinematographer Remi Adefarasin

WA: I didnt know Remi at all before I met him on Match Point, but his reputation preceded him; people said Id love to work with him, and hes terrific. I met with him and hes a very affable guy, and I did love working with him, so I invited him back for the next one. I was thrilled that he was available for my second picture in London. Hes a very gifted cameraman.

For my third one in London, that Im doing this summer, hes not available; hes on another film that hes been committed to for a long time [the Elizabeth sequel The Golden Age]. So Ill be working with Vilmos Zsigmond, who Ive filmed with before on Melinda and Melinda.

Scripting and playing Sid Waterman

WA: Magic is just something that always was a little junk-tooth interest of mine. I liked it when I was a kid, and Ive grown up as a sucker for it. It always strikes me as amusing and interesting, and Im always taken with the kind of cheesy-looking Japanese red lacquered boxes and silk handkerchiefs and swords and cards and silver rings and all the apparatus that give it an exotic look. What the magician wearsI always take a little license there.

Character's journey in Scoop

WA: Theres a standard suspense picture gimmick-in this case, in a comic suspense movie–where an innocent character is, for one reason or another, sucked into a story that he has no real interest in and that he doesnt want to waste his time in. But theres always a reason why they are; in Scoop, Sid is talked into it by Sondra, because shes an amiable, energetic, likable student. He starts to get involved with the story, and gets carried away with it a little bit in helping her out.

Compulsion to carry it through for girl

WA: Yes, he likes her; not as a girlfriend, but as a person. His common sense tells him not to get involved if anything, this is going to lead to trouble but shes clearly someone who comes from his neighborhood, his country, who he can identify with and empathize with. So he gets more and more drawn in, and her enthusiasm is boundless because shes relentless and because she starts to fall in love with the subject of her investigation.

Spotlighting younger protagonists

WA: I think what happens is I, over the years, starred in my movies and played the lead. And then, as I got older, the romantic lead has got to be passed on to younger leading people. And so, you know, I just cast them that way.

Cary Grant as inspiration for Jackman

WA: No, I think thats built into Hugh; hes such a dapper, sweet, likable, guy who can dance and move gracefully and is so handsome and can sing that comparisons are inevitable. You could always–just as there was a time Hugh Grant would be compared with Cary Grant, because he also is very debonair and charming, well, so is Hugh Jackman, and it is an inevitable comparison.

Jackman onstage in Boy from Oz

WA: No, I didnt see him. I had never seen Hugh Jackman or his movies or even knew what he looked like before I met him. He was just one of those people who Id never come in contact with for one reason or another. I only heard wonderful stories about him, and how great he was as an actor. We called him and asked him if hed be interested in doing something, and he said sure. He came by to say hello, and he walked in and not only is he fun to look at– great-looking–hes also lovely and suave. I offered him the role right away. I was very lucky that he was free to take it, and wanted to take it.

Ian McShane

WA: I was completely unaware of Ian McShane as well. I had never seen his television show Deadwood or anything. Juliet Taylor, who casts with me, said, I know the guy who would be great for this role Ian McShane. And I said, Send him in. He came in and it was one of those situations that Juliets had me in over the years where she sends in an actor or an actress that Ive never heard of and the minute Ian walked in, I thought, right on the money, hell be perfect. I looked no further.

Showcasing Scarlett Johansson

WA: Shes a total joy. Its like I hit the lottery or something. She simply has everything. She just lucked out in life; shes beautiful, sexy, bright, funny, nice, quick-minded, easy to work with. Shes got range; dramatically powerful, and funny when you need her to be funny.

There are certain people Ive worked with over the years Diane Keaton was one who were just hit with the talent stick and had it all. And Scarlett has got it all. She lights up the set when she comes on; the crew loves her. Shes full of energy, and infuses the whole set with positive feeling all the time. Its a treat to work with Scarlett, and Im not just saying this as her costar; everyone in the company looked forward to working with her on the second picture after the first pictures experience.

Acting with Scarlett

WA: She leaves me for dead. I mean, shes one of those people that always offstage or on always tops me. No matter how good a line I come up with when were putting each other down, teasing each other, whatever she always nails me last, and best. Of course, that, to me, earns a lot of respect. Because I always think that Im quick and witty, and so when someone outguns me consistently, Im just amazed by it. But its true and everyone on the set will tell you that.

Actors in small roles, like Standing and Glover

WA: England has a great, great theatrical tradition. The people there are wonderful. One of the interesting things is, the most gifted people, the biggest people, have no problem taking small roles. They dont get into the business of ego, or size of roles. So youll see a great Shakespearean actor on television, doing a commercial; theres no stigma to any of that. So I get these great people who perhaps if they were in this country, wouldnt deign to do a small part or a 1-2-day part. There, they do it with great relish and enthusiasm, and they love it. Everybodys ready to pitch in, and so you get great actors throughout the whole fabric of the piece. And I get the benefit of that.

Lighter story than Match Point

WA: I was thinking of those murder mystery stories that gave me pleasure when I was younger, whether they were comic or more usually serious. One of my own favorite films of mine is Manhattan Murder Mystery

I liked the Thin Man films when I used to see them as a younger person, and certain Bob Hope murder mysteries that I would see when I was younger, and of course the many non-comic suspense picturesfrom Hitchcock all the way down to other good ones that were made over the years.

You know, when youre making one thats comic, you cant really be as effective as when youre doing it seriously. But theres nothing I could do about that; this was a comic film, and I wanted to keep it light even broad, in spots. Its a type of film that I myself get pleasure out of watching, and pleasure out of doing. Whether an audience will get pleasure out of seeing it, I can only hope.

Suspicion and the glass of milk Sondra brings Peter
WA: Right, true. You can always go back to I mean, I dont want to make this comparison, because its pretentiousbut you can always go back to Hitchcock on these films because he did so many suspense films and used so many tricks that its impossible to do suspense things without being in some way reminiscent of Hitchcock; I dont mean in his high quality, but reminiscent structurally. But mine is done with the light touch completely emphasis on the lightness.

Two people roaming around a city trying to make sense

WA: Yeah, and many fast dialogue scenes. In Scoop, I wanted to do the same thing. You know, I dont have a big range as an actor; unlike Scarlett, my range is kind of small. I can play an intellectual a college professor, or a shrink or I can play a lowlife a cheesy little bookmaker; in Scoop, a cheap vaudevillian magician.

Concern for audience's taste

WA: Well, it cant concern you. Because if it concerns you, then what happens is, it paralyzes you and you sit home trying to anticipate what theyre going to like. And you make a step and then you panic and think, No, thats not it. So youve just got to do what you want to do, and hope that they like it.

Thats always been the way that I worked; I always made whatever Ive wanted, whether it was a musical or a black-and-white film or a Bergmanesque drama. Whatever strikes me as interesting at that time, thats what I make. And I hope the audience likes it. If they dont like it, theres nothing I can do about it; Im off on the next one. If they do like it, thats always nice.

The position you dont want to be in is, you want to like the film yourself, and if you make the film and you yourself dont like itI write the script and then direct, and if I dont like what Ive done when its over, then even if the audience likes it, I figure, Well, I got away with one or Theyre not perceptive or This is such a piece of junk so its not a good feeling.

But if you make a film that you like This is really a good piece of work; I got the most out of this script and executed it beautifully and they like it, its great. But if they dont like it, you still get somewhat of a decent feeling. You figure, Well, its a bad break for me, they dont like it; but I really did the best job I could and Im sorry they dont like it. Thats a much better feeling than if they love it and you yourself dont get any kick out of it.