Covering “To Rome With Love”

Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz in Rome presenting "To Rome With Love". Freeze Frame of AP Television footage shot by Paolo Lucariello

Yesterday I got the fun assignment of covering Woody Allen’s presentation of his latest film, “To Rome with Love”, starring Woody himself, Penelope Cruz, and Roberto Benigni among others.

Despite being the “world premiere” Woody personally chose not to let the foreign press into the morning press screening because the film was dubbed into Italian and he did not want us to see it dubbed.  Later he explained in a press conference “I don’t like dubbing at all,” But he then added, “it can be a mixed blessing….the man who dubbed me for years, made me into a hero here.”

So I was in the difficult position of trying to cover a movie without having seen it, although I did see the trailer.  Here’s the LINK if anyone is interested.

“To Rome with Love” is the latest in a series of European-city movies made by Woody Allen.  There was Vicky-Cristina Barcelona, followed by “Midnight in Paris” which won an Oscar for “Best Screenplay” in 2011.

The film is a series of vignettes that take place in Rome in a light-hearted romp through the cobble-stoned, monument eternal city, playing on some stereo-types of the “dolce vita” with the ineffective traffic cop, operatic characters, a sexy escort, and endless sunshine.

Italian Traffic Cop not paying much attention in Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love": Credit: Sony Classics Pictures. Note, this spot on Piazza Venezia is just around the corner from the AP office in Rome.

It is a bit hard not to notice the stereo-types when Penelope Cruz, playing a high-class escort arrives in the Rome hotel room of the wrong man, busting out of a tight red mini-dress and hops on the bed and announces, “I am here to fulfill your dreams.”

Penelope Cruz playing high-class escort in clip from Woody Allen's film "To Rome With Love". Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

At the press conference, Penelope said she adores Woody because he is “amazing”, “unique”, “patient”, “intelligent”, she then stopped herself saying “I could spend the whole day talking about him, he is one of my favorite directors.”  Allen leaned over and said, “oh please continue, you’re just getting warmed up.”

Woody Allen answering my question on the red carpet at presentation of "To Rome With Love" in Rome. Freeze frame of AP Television Video shot by Paolo Lucariello.

A little personal note here.  I often find when I am have to cover a famous person, sometimes the mythical image of them that I carry in my mind is immediately shattered (see my impressions of Madonna in Doorstepping the High and Mighty).  It was that way with my first impression of Woody.  He seemed grey, tired, weary, lacking verve.  Poor guy, he is 76, so it might have been a simple case of jet-lag.  Later when I spoke to him on the red carpet I was physically much closer and could see and hear the Woody I recognized from the movies with the quick, dry wit and self-deprecating humor.  And I loved looking at him in his iconic square black glasses.

Italian actress in low-cut, high-slit dress posing for Italian photographers. Freeze Frame of AP Television video shot by Paolo Lucariello

Italians love going glamorous and getting decked out in spectacular floor-length dresses and skyscraper-high, spike heels. So when an April rainstorm sadly forced the red carpet for the premiere indoors, that did not slow the Italians. They all came sashaying past us in the atrium stopping to be filmed and photographed. My cameraman last night, Paolo Lucariello, was feasting his eyes on the spectacularly low cut decollete’-revealing dresses with super-high leg-revealing slits.

Glamorous Italian actress talking with journalists at red carpet for "To Rome with Love". Freeze frame of AP Television video shot by Paolo Lucariello.

Penelope Cruz always manages to be the most glamorous looking woman in the room wherever she is and whatever she is wearing.  She wore an all-black dress to the press conference and left photographers swooning, and then had a peach confection with purple tear-drop jewel earrings on for the red carpet.

Earlier in the day, Italian journalists at the press conference pushed Allen a bit for creating a “superficial” picture of Italy.  Italy is in the middle of a major economic crisis with the government of current Prime Minister Mario Monti imposing harsh austerity measures, raising the retirement age, and changing laws making it easier to fire employees.  This comes after years of a government run my Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who gained a reputation as a big-spending playboy hosting bunga-bunga parties with show-girls and escorts (see my posts on Berlusconi).

Responding to the criticism, Allen fell back on what tend to be American stereo-typical view of Italy declaring that Americans ” have an enormously affectionate feeling about Italy, they think of Italy as country that is enormously warm…it’s a very easy-going place to live, a place that enjoys life and that stands for everything that is very positive about life.” As a low growl of disapproval arose in the Rome press conference, he added, “if I made a film in Sweden, there is a whole other psychology that would permeate the movie.”

Italian Actor Roberto Benigni posing for photographers at photo-call at Rome presentation of "To Rome With Love". Freeze frame of AP Television video shot by Paolo Lucariello.

Italian actor/director Roberto Benigni immediately rushed to clarify with his own comic version of the recent changes in Italy “At the time we made this film, it was like the Italy described by Allen.  Because we had our Prime Minister (former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi), there were the escorts, the parties…the sun, now we have rain, there is Monti (current Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti), to sum up, the situation has changed a lot.”

As the hundreds of journalist attending the press conference burst out laughing, Benigni add, “but I don’t want to be a comic sitting next to Woody Allen, because it is like playing the piano next to Mozart.”

Poster for Woody Allen's latest film "To Rome With Love"

 

Trisha Thomas
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

12 Comments

  1. AdriBarr
    2012/04/14

    Hi Trisha,

    What a delightful post. I bet covering the premiere was a welcome respite from the nonsense with the kids. Woody Allen is such a genius and a gift to us all. I thoroughly enjoyed the trailer, and I can’t wait to see the film. By the way, I found Mr. Allen’s opinions about dubbing very interesting, and I can understand his feelings on the subject. Dubbed films really do lose a great deal of their impact. Keep a smile on your face when dealing with the kids – try channeling Woody Allen. I bet he would have some terrific one liners to use when they act up!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/04/15

      Ciao Adri — You bet covering the film was a welcome respite from dealing with my teenagers. Because AP Television is switching from standard definition to High Defnition (HD) video, the whole coverage took me much longer than I anticipated. (HD video is slower to upload in computers and it was complicated editing the trailer clips in with the press conference soundbites and trying to get it all in the same format – 16 x9 HD), anyway I was at it from about 10am until midnight– and I loved it!! Yes, of course there were plenty of phone calls and re-organzing, arranging on the home front for chorus, scouts etc., but I managed, and I get such a kick out of my work. I honestly think I couldn’t make it as a mother if I didn’t have my work.

      Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/04/15

      Oh, and one last thing that might make you laugh. A friend of mine in Rome made me up some very nice brochures for promoting my blog. It has the home page photo, a brief description and the web address. I have sent some off to friends in the states and sometimes give them to people in Italy — language schools, American tourists etc. I was tempted to hand one to Woody Allen or at least to Soon-yi who was with him at the red carpet. I wanted to say “here’s a place where you can find material for another movie about Rome.” But I resisted the temptation. I did not want to irritate him and I thought it would be unprofessional. I cannot make a brutta figura for AP.

      Reply
  2. jwthomas
    2012/04/14

    Oh my, I might even be willing to put up with teenagers again if my job let me meet Penelope Cruz!!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/04/15

      I forgot to mention, there was a very funny moment in the press conference when Alec Baldwin, who has a small role in the film, said that there was a terrible misunderstanding when he was sent the screenplay and asked if he wanted to be in the film. He said he thought he was going to play the man in who’s hotel room Penelope Cruz show up in by mistake. He said he got very excited and accepted the role immediately, and then turns out he had nothing to do with Penelope. Penelope was sitting next to him as he said this and laughing. She is so absolutely gorgeous and gracious.

      Reply
  3. Alan
    2012/04/14

    . . low cut decollete’ – how very . . . genteel and Victorian. When I was young enough to care about such things we called them t———- :-D

    Reply
  4. Eugenio
    2012/04/15

    Ciao Trisha! What a great post.. I envy you so much!
    I can’t believe that you met Woody Allen… He is one of my lifelong heroes! And to think that maybe I could have come with you and Paolo, if I was still working for you guys in Rome!
    But it’s probably better this way: I could have never resisted the temptation of asking him for an autograph or for a PICTURE together indeed haha :D

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/04/16

      Eugenio, we would have loved to have you with us, and we could have used your help too. Covering Entertainment stories really requires three people, especially when we are using HD. Come back to Rome next fall and help us with the Rome Film Festival, we could really use you!!

      Reply
  5. Cynfy
    2012/05/30

    Sounds like a lot of fun!

    Reply
  6. Alexa
    2012/06/24

    The policeman is fantastic, Pierluigi Marchionne and woody Allen great idea.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/06/25

      Alexa — Thank you for pointing that out! I don’t know how I missed it. For all you blog readers Pierluigi Marchione is a traffic cop in Rome at Piazza Venezia and played himself in the movie. He has talent as a traffic cop and talent as an actor!!

      Reply
  7. james joyce
    2013/08/21

    nice post trisha. you have any personal site where i can follow your articles

    Reply

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