Whatever Works with Larry, Evan and Patricia

Monday, June 15, 2009
By Fushion Magazine
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Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood and Patricia Clarkson talk about their new film Whatever Works and their experience working with Woody Allen.

Larry, when Woody showed you this script, were you reticent about taking it?
Larry David: Well first of all, I’m reticent about everything, so it’s not unusual for me to be reticent. Yes, I was reticent because it was something unusual for me. I hadn’t done anything like that before, playing a character, memorizing material. I had a lot of self doubts and negative feelings and I thought that I should communicate that to him, which I did.
What did he say?
Larry David: He said, “No, you’ll be fine.”

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Evan, you’re a bright young woman, how hard or fun was it to play somebody this clueless?
Evan Rachel Wood: I don’t want to sound pompous saying it, but it was really hard to play dumb. I was worried that she was either going to be really annoying or really endearing, so there was a fine line there that I didn’t want to cross. I think she’s sweet. I had fun actually, it was kind of nice not to have to come to the set and cry everyday.
Larry David: It was interesting because she played someone who was much dumber than she is and I played someone who was much much smarter, so we were at both ends.

Patricia, most men want two women, but you had two men, how did you feel about that?
Patricia Clarkson: How do I feel, I’m thinking of trying it myself. I’ve never done it, but never say never. Yes, it was thrilling, it was exciting and sexy with two delicious actors and men and I was fortunate that he let my character have that. It was a set and it’s acting, it’s not like I lay in bed all day with these men, but I loved the premise.

Did that first scene where you have 2 or 3 pages and talk up to the audience frighten you?
Larry David: That was a very daunting prospect. Yes, I did have to memorize it. I was kind of thinking when I first saw it that maybe there will just be a teleprompter. After I memorized it, it actually was ok. I found it easier to talk into the camera then I did to these people (cast).
Did you get good at the memorization?
Larry David: No, I really didn’t. I tried to use some of the tools that I had learned. I tried to memorize the Gettysburg Address the other day—
Why?
Larry David: Because it’s a beautiful speech, but I had a rough time with it.

Since you’re from the South, is your character based on anyone you might have known?
Patricia Clarkson: I certainly have known women like Marietta, but she is just kind of a mix of many women I have known through my lifetime with southern women. I have met women from every spectrum of the South and I think in my family there is a woman of every spectrum. My four older sisters and my mother—we’re all very different southern women. Woody wrote such a stunning character and I just showed up in some ways.

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Do you have the kind of relationship with Woody, where you can improvise or did you just go with what was on the page?
Larry David: Well, he was very open to us changing things. Once I tried to change it, I tried to improvise something but it didn’t work.
Evan Rachel Wood: We didn’t really like to though. I thought it was so good that I didn’t even want to change it.

Evan, did you look at the history of Woody Allen’s young leading ladies and what they might have had in common or different over the years?
Evan Rachel Wood: No. I just wanted to make her my own. I’m very honored to be in that group of women now. I never thought I would have starred in a Woody Allen movie having grown up with actor parents and my mother going, “This is Diane Keaton, watch, learn, live it and love it.” Now, I’m one of the girls and it’s pretty cool.

How different is this character from the Larry you play on Curb Your Enthusiasm and you in real life?
Larry David: (joking) Do I have to throw in the real Larry. The character on Curb is normal compared to this guy ‘cause the character on Curb actually wants relationships and sex, and things like that. This guy wears shorts, but never would the character on Curb or the person talking to you right now wear shorts, so I think that’s a very disturbing thing right there.
How did he get you to wear shorts?
Larry David: It was actually my idea.

There were some great sayings in the films, did Woody come up with all of them, or did any of you add something?
Patricia Clarkson: That was all Woody. We would maybe improvise a “hello” but no it was all him.

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Now that you’ve been through the whole process of playing a character and memorizing lines, would you do it again?
Larry David: Yeah, I would. Would I do it with Woody Allen again or somebody else? I would definitely do it for Woody Allen again. Would I do it for somebody else– if I liked it.
Patricia Clarkson: (joking to Larry David) I have a script for you.

Woody Allen seems to step back when directing, is that something you prefer or do you want more direction from him?
Evan Rachel Wood: I almost had a panic attack the first day because I was certain that I was going to get fired. I wasn’t use to it. I’d ask him if that was ok and he would say that it’s fine. I ended up liking it and I kind of get what he’s going for after watching the movie, I don’t think he wants to distract you. He wants you to be as natural as possible. His favorite takes were when we messed up.
Patricia Clarkson: He has such trust in you as an actor, it’s a beautiful thing. You walk in and he says he doesn’t feel the need to say much and I like that because he steps in just at the right time. Also, indirectly, you have to know your character so well with Woody because you have to be able to do very long takes, you have to be prepared and cannot be lazy, you have to know how to improve and he really prepares you in this very deep, subtle way.
Larry David: If you’re doing something wrong, he lets you know about it. I was waiting to get fired and was expecting it the first few days.

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As an actress, is it liberating to play a woman experiencing a sexual awakening and where can we see your thumbprint on the character?
Patricia Clarkson: I infused my southern matter, my demeanor, my tone and Woody let me put little things here and there in. I know big hair, tight clothes and really bright colors. Although Woody is so specific about wardrobe. They are a day which is again another way of preparing. As you are doing all of these wardrobe fittings, things start to happen to you.

Larry David to Patricia Clarkson: Are you critical of non-southerners when they do southern roles?
Patricia: Yes, deeply. Woody is a very northern man, but he got this character right. Yes, I’m very sensitive about southern characters, but women like this exist, so you have to embrace it.
Larry David: (joking) Because I don’t like when non-Jews play Jews.

Evan, your mother in this movie gets in your business, is your real mom like that?
Evan Rachel Wood: She made every boyfriend in my life miserable. She absolutely gets up in my business and she’s a southern Jewish mother.

Whatever Works is written and directed by Woody Allen and is a Sony Pictures Classics release. The film opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on June 19, 2009.


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3 Responses to “Whatever Works with Larry, Evan and Patricia”

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  2. Tily Tanner Says:

    This is going to be one helluva movie – loved the interviews!


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