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Saturday 4th September 2004

I've been reading a great biography of Woody Allen. He's one of my favourite writers and it would be my dearest wish to emulate him. Not so much the sleeping with my wife's adopted daughter bit (though never say never), but I envy his professional autonomy. It would be great to get to a point where a company will pay for all your films to be made and then pretty much leave you to get on with making them.
I've been lucky that I have always had a fair degree of control over the projects I've worked on, but it is frustrating when executives try to push you in a certain direction regarding casting or plot developments. I've been considering adapting "Excavating Rita" for TV. The charm of the piece for me is that very little actually happens, though this is partly due to the restrictions of theatre. I'm happy to jazz it up a bit for TV and to be honest would relish the chance to have a second look at it after all these years and make it better, but you start to get to the point where you wonder that if you go along with all the suggestions that are being sent down to you, whether the thing you created will retain any of its original spirit.
Allen doesn't really have to worry about that and seems to get an amazing amount of leeway to do things as he wants (including extensive reshooting). This is not always a good thing and I can think of several writers who when given autonomy have become self-indulgent and lazy. One comedy writer in particular who seems to manage to squeeze out an incredible amount of material in various media, reads to me like he's never considered attempting a second draft in his life.
It's a difficult balance to get things right. I'd say Woody Allen has had a pretty impressive strike rate. He's an amazing man.
Unfortunately in recent years his work has been overshadowed somewhat by his private life. The book is broadly defensive of his relationship with Soon-Li Previn. It is argued that Soon-Li never saw Allen as a father and she was Mia Farrow and Andre Previn's adopted daughter who growing up saw Allen as a foolish, rather than a fatherly figure.
I'm very much like Jesus, as you know, but specifically in this case on the point of "Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged". They're both consenting adults and so should be allowed to do what they want. Though I still feel a bit uneasy about it all and disappointed in Allen, not because he's a dirty old man shagging his daughter (I don't think he is), but because he is a grown-up and must have foreseen the terrible effects all of this would have on his family
It is argued that love is a powerful and unpredictable force, but I think it is still controllable. Many of us might fall in love (or in bed) with an inappropriate person and do the "wrong" thing, certainly when we are young. It can certainly cloud our judgement and make us behave selfishly (because love and religion seem to excuse any crime). But you'd hope that ultimately we are in control of ourselves enough to back away from something that would cause so much pain and anguish to your own family.
Though I am like Jesus, in that I say "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," and acknowledge that though I don't think I've done anything quite as hurtful as this in the name of love (or sex), that I've made my fair share of mistakes. Maybe it's all the more disappointing when someone you respect does something that from the outside looks a bit stupid.

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