Woody Allen is rarely seen on the West Coast, but he was in L.A. Thursday night for the North American premiere of his latest film, To Rome With Love at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
“Everyone has been saying to us, ‘Is he really gonna show up? Is he really gonna show up?’ for two months now,” Sean McManus, co-president of Film Independent, which produces the festival, told EW.
But show up he did, and to a standing ovation as he took the stage to introduce his 47th directorial feature.
The film, a series of interwoven vignettes that take place in Rome, screened in two auditoriums at the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live, but Allen took the time to say a few words before both audiences.
Perhaps knowingly responding to the thus-far mixed reviews, or maybe just to turn on some self-deprecating charm, he gave one audience this warning:
“Keep in mind this is not an exact science,” he said. “I did my best. If you hate this one, see my next film. I’ll try to do better.”
He also paid tribute to the film’s ensemble cast, which included two actresses working with the director for a second time — Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Alison Pill (Midnight in Paris) — along with Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page. In attendance on Thursday were Cruz, Pill, Greta Gerwig, Alessandra Mastronardi and Simona Caparrini.
None of the film’s male cast members — aside from Allen himself, who acts in the film for the first time since 2006’s Scoop — made it to the premiere, but the writer-director did make another jab at himself while mentioning Eisenberg.
“I would have played Jesse’s role if I was 50 years younger, but there’s nothing I can do about that,” Allen said.
As for Page, who also wasn’t in attendance, the Juno star is someone Allen has “always been dying to work with,” he said.
Los Angeles is the city Allen whined about in Annie Hall, but the team behind the festival still considered him an ideal director to spotlight on opening night.
“Woody strikes me as the perfect filmmaker to kick off the festival because he is the quintessential independent filmmaker. He makes films on his own terms with his undeniable vision,” said Film Independent co-president Josh Welsh.
To Rome With Love, which opened in Italy in April, comes to U.S. theaters for a limited release on June 22.
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