Woody Allen makes his 12th trip to Cannes with the opening night comedy “Café Society,” which premieres on Wednesday. He spoke to Variety for this week’s cover story on Kristen Stewart, who stars in the film as a 1930s secretary torn between two men (played by Jesse Eisenberg and Steve Carell).
Do you like coming to Cannes?
Allen: It’s fun for my wife. She enjoys the people and socializing — going to lunch and dinner. I get off the plane and I’m escorted instantly to interviews. I do wall-to-wall interviews until I leave. I never get a chance to do anything that isn’t connected with promotional obligations to the movie. For me, it’s around-the-clock work. I can do maybe as many as 100 journalists a day. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t do that. Whenever there’s an opportunity to go, she always says, “It’s good for the picture and I have a good time,” so we go.
Are you concerned about heightened security after the Brussels attacks?
Oh, listen — I worry about that when I go to the supermarket or when I get the newspaper. I’m the world biggest worrywart. So you can’t judge by me. I’m hypochondriacal when it comes to terrorism.
“Café Society” stars Kristen Stewart as an Audrey Hepburn-like secretary. Did you know she had a lighter side?
I didn’t know. I took a chance. I had her read a paragraph and she read it so well, that all our apprehensions — which are not huge to begin with — vanished instantly. None of us knew her except in the heaviest of things. We did want to see if she had a lighter side. We assumed she did. She’s a young girl, and she’s certainly not going to be a grim.
She said you made fun of the way she walked.
I told her she walked like a relief pitcher coming in from the bullpen. I was expecting this beautiful creature to emerge and walk on. She suddenly looks like a guy coming out of a bullpen to walk out to the mound.
After “Twilight,” she became the first young female movie star to headline a franchise in the Internet age. Do you have a sense of how she’s dealt with that?
No, that’s something I have no idea of. I don’t have a computer. I’m not on the Internet. I don’t know anything about any of that. I’ve never seen her, except as in this Greg Mottola movie [“Adventureland”]. And in passing. I might be on the treadmill and surf through 60 seconds of the vampire movie, where she’d look so beautiful. Those kinds of movies were never of interest to me particularly. I don’t really know of her Internet life. If you told me she had 100 million followers or 2 million followers, it wouldn’t mean too much to me.
So you haven’t seen “Twilight?”
I didn’t see her in the vampire movie.
You’re missing out.
Oh, I’m sure. I get to see a limited amount of movies. There’s so many terrific movies I’ve missed out on in the last 15 or 20 years. I can’t believe how movie illiterate I am.
Do you have the actors in mind when you’re writing a role?
In this case, the story was prevailing, and I knew there were a number of terrific young actresses around. I knew I would have no problem getting them. When the time came, we felt that the two best ones for the picture were Kristen and Blake [Lively]. Kristen was perfect for that little Midwestern Nebraska secretary and we wanted someone that is completely the opposite of Kirsten, that is tall and blonde and had a different quality completely.
What about Kristen that made her right for the role?
She just has a simple beauty. She looks fresh off the farm — like she’s from Nebraska and so naturally pretty. And when you doll her up later, she can carry that because she has enough looks to be able to wear long earrings and furs and look tremendous. But I’m very Spartan with all my actresses with makeup. I try to keep that to the most minimum or nothing if I can get away with it.
Would you consider Kirsten Stewart a movie star?
Yes, I think she has the look. She’s very young, very beautiful and talented. And if she just keeps her hand on the wheel and makes good decisions, she’s home free. She should have an incredible career. She’s not someone you cast just because she’s beautiful. She can deliver. She’s got a sense of humor. She can give you the heavy stuff. She’s one of the crop of young actresses around now — like Blake or Emma Stone, they are tremendous performers.