The Siegel Column

Here’s the Scoop on Hugh Jackman in Woody’s new movie

During these summer theatrical doldrums, when there is little news and less quality to be found on the New York City boards, isn’t it nice to have Hugh Jackman back in your life? Yes, Hugh is back! He’s starring in Woody Allen’s new movie Scoop that opens today. His co-stars are Scarlett Johansson and Woody, himself, who is also the film’s writer/director. Here’s what Hugh has to say about getting to work with the great Woody Allen…

HUGH: “I got a phone call from my agent saying that the casting director for Woody Allen wanted to see me. I was told not to be offended if my meeting with Woody only took two minutes. Well, the meeting actually took about three minutes, so it obviously went pretty well.” Jackman laughed, and then continued, saying. “He was sort of like, ‘Well, I’ve got this movie and I know you’ve probably got more important things to do. But if you want to read it – you probably don’t, but if you do and you like it, then, you know, I’d love you to do it.’ And that was pretty much it. It was, and continued to be, easy. Scoop was one of my favorite film experiences to date.”

Jackman did have one serious problem working with Woody as a fellow actor… HUGH: “The big problem for me was that Woody likes to ad-lib occasionally, particularly on his lines. He’s fine if you want to ad-lib something. Of course, every time he ad-libbed it was funny and it was different – and I found myself laughing. He’d get upset with me. He’d be like, ‘No, no, no, please, my character is boorish; he’s not funny.’ I said, ‘But if you keep ad-libbing like that and I’m in the shot, I’m going to laugh. You’ve got be a little more boring.’”

The film was shot in London and is set there, as well. Woody’s casting opportunities were quite theatrically appealing and Jackman could hardly believe the actors taking bit parts in the movie such as John Standing, Julian Glover, Fenella Woolfar, Richard Johnson, Charles Dance, etc. Ian McShane has a pivotal, somewhat larger role, early in the movie… HUGH: “The actors we had on Scoop were incredible. I mean, people would come in for the day that were knighted – Sir this and that. They would come in because they just wanted to work with Woody Allen.”

And how about Woody Allen on Hugh Jackman? Were you wondering if Woody saw him in The Boy From Oz or any of his other work on stage or film? WOODY: “Oh, no, no. I didn’t see him. I had never seen Hugh Jackman or his movies or even knew what he looked like before I met him. He was just one of those people who I’d never come in contact with for one reason or another. I only heard wonderful stories about him, and how great he was as an actor.”

A few things you should know about Woody Allen: He’s been Oscar-nominated fourteen times for Best Original Screenplay [that’s a record, folks]; six times for Best Director. Two of his movies were nominated for Best Picture. He was once nominated for Best Actor, as well. And Woody has won (so far) four Oscars, two for Original Screenplay (Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters; one for Best Director (Annie Hall), and one for Best Picture (Annie Hall). But awards aside, he has had the most remarkable career of any American filmmaker of the last forty years. His prodigious output as a writer/director, coupled with an exquisitely high level of achievement (even his clunkers are fascinating), make him a legend in his own time. And that’s just his film career. He is also an author and playwright of note, not to mention a Broadway star (He starred in the Broadway version of Play It Again, Sam before it was a movie).

Oh, and now we suppose you want to know something about Scoop. It isn’t Woody at his best – and it will be compared unfavorably by most critics to his previous film, Match Point – but this is lighter fare. It’s an amusing movie about a great investigative journalist (Ian McShane) who, in death, gets a lead on the identity of the infamous Tarot Card Killer. So great a reporter is he that he manages to get word to a young (living) American journalism student (Johansson) when she is under the spell of Splendini (Woody Allen), a third-rate magician working in a London nightclub. Together, she and a comically reluctant Woody seek out the killer, leading them to Hugh Jackman’s character, with whom Johansson falls dangerously in love.

If you love Woody like we do, you know what you have to do. And if you love Hugh Jackman, like we know you do, you’ll know what you have to do, as well.

Barbara and Scott Siegel