Production Notes: Woody Allen’s Bop Decameron in Rome

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Woody Allen on the set of the Bop Decameron, Photo: Eliot Vivante

Woody Allen is in Rome shooting his latest film, The Bop Decameron. Italian newspapers have been brimming with “Where’s Woody?” stories, and people have been tweeting their sightings. Allen is very popular in Italy and while this is his first Rome-set picture, he has been a frequent visitor in the past, usually with his New Orleans jazz band in tow.

The Bop Decameron will be structured into four vignettes, two of which will be in Italian. Yesterday, the production shot at Piazza Mattei with a predominantly Italian cast and crew. Jim Jarmusch used the same location in the Rome segment of Night on Earth, starring Roberto Benigni, who is also signed on for The Bop Decameron. Other cast members include: Penélope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, and Woody Allen himself.

The grips all wore Cinecittà-issued T-shirts, now faded, from Martin Scorsese’s 2002 film, Gangs of New York, which was shot at the Rome studio. There were two camera and dolly rigs, one of them a mock-up for a 1930s-set film-within-the-film, starring Antonio Albanese, Alessandra Mastronardi and Ornella Muti.

Assistant director Alberto Mangiante was the busiest man on set, darting about the crowded piazza in brilliant blue and green sneakers, shouting out directions in Italian and English. French was also spoken on set with Darius Kondji, the Iranian-French cinematographer who has previously worked with Allen on Anything Else and Midnight in Paris. He is shooting the film on an ARRICAM Studio 35mm film camera. (He was also DoP on Zidane, which used 17 cameras to create an art-house portrait of the football star.)

Woody and Darius Kondji check the monitor. Photo: Eliot Vivante

A massive blow-up canopy hovered above the action, held down by garbage cans and street lamps. There was also a camouflage tent for Allen, who hates the sun (“I don’t tan, I stroke!”) and must be finding the Roman summer uncomfortable.

Sound was the biggest issue. The water of the famous Fontana delle Tartarughe (Fountain of the Turtles) had to be turned off and an arguing waiter at the adjacent bar had to be silenced. Minor calamities were caused on two occasions when cars plowed through the set, the unwitting drivers finding themselves brushing past Woody & Co.

Woody Allen talks on his iPhone as he sits by the Fontana delle Tartarughe, Actors Alessandra Mastronardi and Antonio Albanese to the right. Photo: Eliot Vivante

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