How to get Woody Allen to talk

When I met Woody Allen in 2001 to interview him for Radio 4, he was in a slump, both cinematically and physically. In London to promote a new film that had yet to find a UK distributor, he was in defensive mood. A previous trip had seen Michael Parkinson question him about his personal life in a TV interview and the BBC had refused to censor it, despite Allen’s protestations.

My producer had fitted Woody and I with mics, and arranged us at either end of a sofa. His body language screamed, “I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE!” He was slumped into the arm, facing away from me. A bad start to any interview.

The New York “nebbish” had long been hailed as cinema’s King of Comedy after a three-decade run of garlanded hits like Annie Hall, Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters, a career that is fulsomely plotted in this week’s Imagine…

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