The 40-year-old Coleraine native has a small role in Allen’s latest film, “Match Point,” a drama set and shot in London with a cast comprised mainly of British and Irish actors like Brian Cox, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Emily Mortimer. The film premiered last week at France’s Cannes Film Festival.
“Woody was great,” said the “Murphy’s Law” and “Millions” actor in a recent telephone interview. “I only did a few days on ‘Match Point.’ He was lovely; very quiet. Very trusting. I had a very good relationship with him, actually. He’s so quiet and he works incredibly quickly. The crews love him because he wraps at 4 every day.”
The actor confirmed that Allen?s reputation for having a self-deprecating sense of humor and quiet demeanor on film sets is well earned.
“He said, ‘I?d like you to go here and then there’? but you can really do what you want,” Nesbitt revealed. “If you want to change the script, change it. I’ve worked a lot with the director Michael Winterbottom, who is very keen on improvising, so I’m keen on changing things and Woody was great.
“He did that fantastic thing which my favorite directors do,” Nesbitt added, “which is he takes a leap of faith in casting you and then he lets you get on with it and he trusts you and if you need help he’s there to give you help. He’s a filmmaker just banging it out, like Danny Boyle, like Michael Winterbottom, like Paul Greengrass. These are filmmakers who have no real hidden agenda or hidden ego. They are just collaborative and long may I work with them.”
Rhys-Meyers, who was most recently seen playing the title character in the CBS mini-series, “Elvis,” shared Nesbitt’s regard for their director. Appearing at a recent press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, alongside Allen and co-stars Mortimer, who plays his wife, and American actress Scarlett Johansson, who plays the sexy “other woman” in his life, the 28-year-old Dubliner echoed Nesbitt’s sentiments, noting, ‘Woody puts a lot of trust in the person he casts and with that trust comes a lot of responsibility.
“You constantly have to keep yourself in check so that you’re giving the right intonation, the right tone for the scene,” he explained. “It is a very fine way to work for an actor because it makes the actor feel more part of the process. Of course, when you’re wrong, Woody will tell you you’re wrong. But when you’re right, he doesn’t say much at all.”
Rhys-Meyers, who plays a social-climbing tennis instructor who must live with the consequences of his ambitions, described Allen as an easy director to work for, noting this is probably so because Allen has tried his hand at all of the major disciplines involved in filmmaking.
“Woody comes with an awful lot of experience, an awful lot of intelligence, so you feel you can trust the director to know that what you’re doing is right for the part at that time,” he said. “You don’t always feel that with a director. They haven’t put in the years, not only directing as Woody has, but also acting and writing as Woody has. So, you’re getting a package you can feel really, really comfortable with. Because of the respect he commands around the world, you up your game.”
Long accepted as the quintessential New Yorker, the “Annie Hall” and “Bullets Over Broadway” filmmaker seldom leaves the Big Apple to make his movies. “Match Point” is the first film he has set and made in the United Kingdom.
“This story would have worked in New York or San Francisco or Paris or London,” Allen said at the Cannes press conference. “I made the film in London because the atmosphere was very good for me creatively. The people who sponsored the film were extremely generous in not interfering in any remote way.”
The filmmaker said he found British financiers much less intrusive and controlling than studio executives he has worked with in the United States.
“I did the film in England because it’s increasingly difficult to get financing in the United States,” Allen is quoted by the New York Post as saying. “It’s become more and more prevalent for studios and financiers to participate in (a) project. They want to have a say in casting and (they want to) read the script. I can never work like that. I don’t let people read scripts. I want the money and to give them the film a few months later, and that’s that. In London, that’s the way it was. There’s no rigmarole from people who want to participate.”
So, did the New York filmmaker encounter any language barrier given that most of his actors spoke with British or Irish accents?
“To an American ear, the English voice is very, very wonderful,” the Brooklyn-born auteur observed. “They all sound great to us. So, in the picture, perhaps another Englishman could detect some false moment or something, but I couldn’t and I was thrilled with the whole experience. After working with American actors for so long, there doesn’t seem to be any central difference. If you’re a gifted actor or actress, it doesn’t matter if you’re English or American. But, I will say there is a slight advantage that English actors and actresses have in that there’s a certain genetic, or roots or formal training.”
Financed in part by BBC Films, “Match Point” debuted May 12 Out of Competition in the festival’s Official Selection. A U.S. release date has not yet been set.