Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Whatever Works: What We Know So Far

As with all Allen projects, Whatever Words is veiled in a fair amount of secrecy. The IMDB page is helpful in the ways you would expect: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, etc... We're especially eager to see how Henry Savilles has fared.

The movie has been in the can for a few months. The plot details are sparse, but it's reportedly a romantic comedy, with sex, about older people. Oh yeah, it's "different" and "darkish" too. In other words, we know nothing.

In the recent Eric Lax book Conversations with Woody Allen, the director mentions having written a comedy about a suicide attempt gone bad, but shelving the project after his sister warned that critics would portray it as autobiographical.
I might call this new movie Scoop. It's the third film I wrote in the last twelve weeks. I wrote a film to be done in London and then after I wrote it I found that the phenomenon I was satirizing didn't really exist in London, so I had to scrap that film. Then I wrote another idea quickly, a dark comedy about a guy who jumped out of a window and tried to commit suicide and walked with a limp. But when I gave it to Juliet Taylor and my sister to read they both felt that while it was very funny it would be perceived as very personal, autobiographical in a way they would rather I didn't do. They thought the film would never get a fair shake, that no matter how good in came out, all the focus would be on this sense of autobiography that in fact did not exist but still would distract from the audiences enjoyment of the movie. (26)
Some IMDB commentators have wondered if Whatever Works is not this scrapped comedy dusted off and set on the coffee table for visitors to see.

Beyond that, those same commentators believe Wood's character is married to Larry David's to the great displeasure of her mother. In turn, mom sets her little girl up with someone closer to her age.

Re-reading that passage from Conversations with Woody Allen begs the question, how many screenplays does Allen have laying around? We know from elsewhere that he is sitting atop an unpublished novel. We suppose and hope that these works will see posthumous production/publication.

Allen is nearing the point of requiring a back-up director for insurance purposes. He's in fine health, from all accounts and appearances. But age is age. Perhaps, Allen could gift each of his back-up directors, or directors heavily under his influence, with screenplays to be produced after his death. He's a prodigious writer who loves the work, and we know he has an impossible surplus of ideas from which to choose. Such a move would be a lovely baton-passing gesture to his cinematic descendants, not to mention a delight to his tiny band of faithful fans worldwide.

This is especially the case if said works are already in existence. We couldn't imagine a good reason for them to come to nothing.

And, while we're adrift in daydream, it's our hope that he tries to exhaust his famous idea drawer, converting each jotted thought into a short story, play, screenplay, novella or novel, whatever fits the material. It would be fitting that someone as industrious as Allen leave his public with a treasure trove of postmortem production.

We digress.

Whatever Works.

We'd like to know more. What do you know?

Update: On a related note, some fans of both Woody Allen and Larry David have hoped that Whatever Works would receive treatment in a new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. This morning brings the news that such hopes are a step closer to becoming reality. Curb will begin filming its 7th Season in December, with plot rumors involving Whatever Works and its director. If the timing is right, David's show and Allen's movie can leverage one another for promotion.


Zelig539 said...

I've been reading your blog lately ... good work.

Regarding Whatever Works I think your post pretty much summarizes what we all know so far.

Glad you took the comment from the IMDB boards about the screenplay Woody mentions on the Eric Lax book. About other unproduced screenplays, don't forget about the Paris project with Michelle Williams and David Krumholtz which had to be cancelled back in 2006 due to budget increase. I wonder if he reworked some of that screenplay into Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Or maybe he hasn't and might use it as one of the three Mediapro projects.

Good Small Films said...

Thanks for the compliment.

I'm a little ashamed to admit that I'd don't know about the 2006 project. Details?

Zelig539 said...

There are not many details. In the Eric Lax book on pages 121-22 and 325 he explains what happened in 2006. Mainly he was supposed to film in London and at the last minute the thing fell through. Then an opportunity came along in February to shoot in Paris that summer. He had to write a new screenplay (a romance) and cast quickly. He hired Michelle Williams and David Krumholtz. Then around April the production had budget problems (the budget for scoring mainly) and they where forced to cancel the project. Then the London deal came through satisfactorily and we have Cassandra's Dream as a result.

Hope that helps...

Good Small Films said...

I've read the Lax book but have no recollection of that project.

I'll dip back into it.

By my count, that's at least one unpublished novel and three unfilmed screenplays, and lots of rejected New Yorker pieces.

Good Small Films said...

I've updated the post to include information about Whatever Works and the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Alex said...

Thanks for this update. I've also been trying to cover this film on my own blog. I'm a huge Woody fan and will definitely be keeping an eye on your blog!