Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Actors

Women feature prominently in the cast of Woody Allen’s new picture, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which premieres at the 2008 Cannes Film Fest out of competition.

The Women

Of the trio, Scarlett Johansson offers I think they see in one another what they dont like to see in themselves, and Cristina provides a buffer for them. When they love her together it allows them to appreciate one another without having their relationship combusting. For Maria Elena its totally natural and normal to live with two people at the same time, says Penelope Cruz. And inside a situation that is not common, she feels safe. Because shes so full of contradictions, it makes sense for her. Its a very peculiar way of thinking: she doesnt see Cristina as a threat for her relationship with Juan Antonio, she thinks Cristina brings balance into their relationship.

Scralett Johnasson

Allen teams for the third time with Scarlett Johansson, after “Match Point” and “Scoop.” Every now and then in my professional life, I find an actress with the kind of gift that inspires me to create parts for, says Allen. Shes very smart, sexy, very gifted, and with a big range. And shes lightning fast with her sense of humor and is a phrase-maker which always impresses me. I think Woody and I have a very similar sensibility and sense of humor certainly, and when I read his scripts I feel very connected to them, says Johansson. I think we just appreciate each other as artists and we enjoy working together because were always laughing and having a good time. Its wonderful to be able to work with your friends, and I think thats why we keep doing it.

Penelope Cruz

Allen had never seen Penlope Cruz in a film until he saw her Oscar-nominated performance in Pedro Almodovars “Volver.” I just thought she was amazing, he says. And of course I couldnt wait to get her for my movie. And then her agent called and said Penelope knew I was doing a movie in Spain and she called and said she knew I was doing a movie in Spain and wanted very much to be a part of it. To me, that was the greatest thing I could hear. Maria Elena is a force of nature, and thats what Penlope is. Shes beautiful and amazingly sexy in a way that no other woman in the world isa very special kind of beauty. And shes a tremendous actress and she conveys it. Of course its overwhelming.

Javier Bardem

Bardem, a recent Academy Award-winner for “No Country for Old Men,” joined the cast as the flamboyant Juan Antonio. He was maybe the only actor in the world who could have done this role for me, says Allen. I needed a Spaniard who was sexy without being movie actor conventional pretty, but deeper than that. Ive seen him in movies, and I thought he was just the greatest. I was thrilled to work with himI didnt know that that would ever happen in my life.

Rebecca Hall

For the role of Vicky, Allen looked for someone who had a contrasting personality to Johansson and Cruz. Casting Director Juliet Taylor said youve got to meet Rebecca Hall, says Allen. And as soon as I saw her I thought she was right. Rebecca has got a real beauty and dignity to her, and of course shes a wonderful actress.

Patricia Clarkson

Clarkson, another Oscar nominee (“The Station Agent”), plays Judy, Vicky and Cristinas host in Barcelona. She is again another example of where I got the chance to work with an actress that Ive loved for a long time, says Allen. Judy represents the direction that Vicky could go eventually, when you get married to a safe guy and dont take the risk. If she had to do it over again, she would not have made that choice, or would she

While the actors (aside from Allen regular Johansson) felt a bit nervous about working with a filmmaker they admire, he soon set them at ease. He is such a nice man, says Bardem. Every time I needed him, he gave me the right answer, a very helpful answer for me to really understand what I had to do. And working with Woody Allen is like having jewels in your mouth. The dialogue is so brilliant and so very helpful for any actor to move ahead and find the reason of the scene through the words.

With somebody else I would have been scared to play a character that approaches every situation with the same level of energy, says Cruz. When you have a character that is so extroverted and so loud and brings so much chaos, I think, maybe because of fear, I wanted to do some of the scenes a little bit quieter. And I tried a couple of times to make things smaller and he said, No, she lives in that state permanently. He gave me a clear directionBe brave!and I think he was completely right about that.

Allen decided to enlist a narrator (Christopher Evan Welch) to comment throughout the action of the film as it unfolds. The story has the quality of a tale, he says. Its the story of what happens to these two girls in the summer. And I thought somebody should just relate it, and it would work that way. And it would save me a lot of boring expositional scenes, and the story could be moved quickly forward or in any way I wanted, by the narrator effortlessly.