Woody Allen’s new film may be titled “Irrational Man,” but it was the women who took center stage at a Q&A following a screening Thursday night. Emma Stone and Parker Posey play potential love interests to Joaquin Phoenix’s title character, a philosophy professor at a small college, and they spent the evening talking to an audience of SAG actors about the film and their careers. It was a funny, laidback affair – after struggling in the directors chairs set out for them, Posey suggested they do the Q&A sitting on the floor, and her co-star complied.
Stone revealed that she was 16 years old when she joined SAG and discovered that her birth name, Emily Stone, was already taken. “I didn’t want to be ‘Emily J. Stone,’ so I was like, ‘Riley’s a cool name, I’ll just be Riley.’ So I was Riley Stone for, like, three months,” she said. “Then I did an episode of ‘Medium’ or ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ and they yelled ‘Riley’ when I had to go to set and I had no idea who they were talking to and had an identity crisis. So I went with Emma.”
“Irrational Man” marks Stone’s second film with Allen, after starring with Colin Firth in last year’s “Magic in the Moonlight,” and she said the casting process was similar for both films in that Allen’s casting director Juliet Taylor reached out. “She said he had a script they wanted to send over and to let us know what you think,” Stone said. “That’s pretty much the way it was the first time.”
Posey said she recently served on the jury at the Krakow Film Festival with Taylor, and not long after the casting director reached out about the film. “I met Woody Allen, it was a brief thing,” she recalled. “They tell you if it’s under seven seconds don’t worry about it, you still could be cast in his movie. And I was in the room for about three and a half minutes.” The next day, she received a call from her agent saying Allen wanted to drop some pages off to see if she would be in his movie. “I broke down in tears,” she admitted. “I was overcome. I pine for parts — I want to play these parts, and I’ve been really bitter about not being in a Woody Allen movie for a long time!”
Both actresses agreed Allen has a unique process, including a history of never doing ADR on films and often redoing scenes. “You don’t have rehearsals, you don’t have a cast read-through, you know on the first day you’re shot out of a cannon,” Stone said. “I think he sees the tone in his head and he finds it as it goes, so he’s the only director I’ve ever worked with who reshoots as he’s shooting. So you’ll show up and he’ll say we need to reshoot the scene from yesterday. We’re lucky because Parker and I have both done a fair amount of improv, so that live-wire environment is exciting to me.”
Posey noted of Allen, “He’s made a movie every year for 40 years. He’s a maestro, a master at the craft. He’s the progenitor of the writer-director-actor of film. He really wants to go to dinner so his expectation to get it right on the first take is unreal.” She added that even at her camera test, she was expected to be in character. “It was intense. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, and it was great. I loved working with the real deal. It’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.”
Both joked about their fear of being cut from the film, with Posey revealing, “The second day of work he turned to me and Joaquin and said, ‘Neither of you are getting fired.’” Stone chimed in, “He said that to Colin and me, too! I think he does kind of tend to reassure actors within the first week or so.”
When an audience member pointed out Allen’s penchant for writing great lead roles for women, Posey and Stone both agreed he was unique. “I think it’s pretty rare that there’s well-drawn female characters, period,” Stone said. “So it’s definitely a rarity.”
Posey added, “The independent film directors I’ve worked with love women. Hal Hartley says, ‘I don’t understand why a director wouldn’t want to make films about women. I became a director to write parts for women and light beautiful women.’ He doesn’t get it.”
“Irrational Man” opens in theaters July 17.