by Norman Spinrad
           A week or so after attending an advanced press screening for 
      Woody Allen's new film CELEBRITY, a bit of a celebrity turn out 
      of the film itself, I found myself in suite at the Hotel Ritz, 
      interviewing the celebrity author of a film about celebrity in 
      perhaps the ultimate celebrity venue in Paris. Just the sort of 
      thing that Kenneth Branagh's character does in the movie.
           And as I recovered from messing up the first 30 seconds of 
      the recording, much like the celebrity-hound in the film might 
      have done, it seemed like an inevitable place to start. 
           Strangely enough, or perhaps not so strangely, less than a 
      month previously, I had finished writing a novel in which a suite 
      at the Ritz is used for somewhat similar purposes.  Better still, 
      the title in English is GLASS HOUSES, as in people who live in 
      them (such as celebrities) shouldn't throw stones.  
           Happily, we didn't.
           WOODY ALLEN: On American television every single person is a 
      celebrity, every priest and doctor and chef and lawyer.
           NORMAN SPINRAD: Up to our wonderful president who essential-
      ly governs  by polls, and in a sense is the ultimate celebrity. 
      Which was half-mirrored in your movie, a very recursive movie. 
      Kenneth Branagh is sort of doing your schtick, although the 
      character he's playing is not like you and is not like the char-
      acter you usually play...I found that fascinating.
      W.A.: It was just accidental.
      N.S: Is anything accidental? I mean it's a very recursive movie 
      in a way, the part where Kenneth Branagh is sort of doing your 
      schtick, although the character he's playing is not like you and 
      is not like the character you usually play...I found that fasci-
      W.A He's an interesting actor.I wanted an actor to play it origi-
      nally because I write in American slang but in the US you can't 
      find regular men, they're all gangster or cowboys. ... I've used 
      Michael Caine before, I've used Ian Holm, because in the US our 
      stars, they're great but they're a tare certain types, they're 
      Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise. It's very 
      hard to find just a plain guy, who's not beautiful and not 
      tough ... So I had to turn to... fortunately Kenneth was avail-
      N.S: And he played as American as it gets.  Bob Hoskins can do 
      that too.
      W.A: Certain guys can do it, it's amazing to me, and certain peo
	ple, and even good actors can't do it for whatever reason, it's 
      the ear.
      N.S: You couldn't play an Englishman. 
      W.A.:I once saw my friend  Dick Cavette, I once saw him do a 
      British  play on Broadway and he played an Englishman, and I was 
      just astonished. He could do it and act doing it not just do it 
      for two minutes, but play a character.
      N.S: The most amazing I saw was MOSCOW ON THE HUDSONB, with Robin 
      Williams doing ten minutes of comedy in Russian. 
      W.A.: But of course Robin Williams does all these voices...
      N.S.:Maybe it was lousy Russian but...
      W.A.:But he does it convincingly,
      N.S.: Yeah, yeah.  But how much of that was planned?..
      W.A.: It was pretty much all planned although I gave him freedom 
      to ad lib if he wanted to and he felt a little at sea ad libing 
      only because of having to do an American all the time. It was 
      easier  to do the dialogue as an American than to improvise as an 
      American. Judy Davis did it to, if you were with Judy Davis here, 
      she speaks with a thick Australian accent and, then turns it off 
      and it's like you're with an American who lived there all her 
      N.S.:There are people who can do it.
      W.A. You remember Sid Caesar? He was great at that.
      N.S:  He did a German film company  making an Italian spaghetti 
      Western, so he did Germans speaking Italian... 
      W.A. He had that same gift like Robin Williams, where he could do 
      in the same show, he would do the German, the Japanese the Eng-
      N.S.: Why black and white ?
      W.A: Black and white's pretty..B. I don't know if you feel this 
      way, but I feel that many of the greatest films I grew up on and 
      loved were black and white, they're fun to watch, black and white 
      is a pretty thing, you know  pretty photography in black and 
      white, and I'd say probably 90 o/o of the films  I was influenced 
      by and crazy about were black and white movies, I mean, you 
      probably liked many of the same ones...
      N.S.: Yeah... The whole idea of colorizing the stuff...
      W.W. They don't do that so much anymore I guess there was so much 
      displeasure at it, but there was a time there, for about two 
      years when they were colorizing just about almost everything, it 
      gave a strange look to it...
      N.S.:No it didn't work, I mean it just didn't work.
      W.A: And it was expensive for them to do it too, now they don't 
      do it any more...Now you just never see it.
      N.S: Because you lose the contrast of the black and white, you 
      lose the whole thing. But do you think it had anything to do with 
      the subject matter, that distance....?  Of being about celebrity 
      and stuff like that...? Because it seemed to work that way.
      W.A.: There is a definite difference and distance between the 
      lives celebrity lead and  the lives that poor average people lead 
      and it's a sad thing I mean they're so many privileges I'm sure 
      you realize that you get as a celebrity that the average guy never 
      get a chance to experience in his life ...
      N.S.: That is true!
      W.A.: I mean if you call up tonight for a table at a restaurant--
      W.A.: No, they'll give it to you... This is what a celebrity goes 
      through, first of all they get more money than other people , not 
      necessarily deserved, but more money,  a guy   teaching school in 
      a poor black neighborhood in the United States, where it's a real 
      difficult job and dangerous, and he's  really trying to help and 
      trying to do a good thing, he gets paid very little money while a 
      celebrity makes a jerky movie, a really stupid movie with car 
      crashes or special effects and gets 20 millions bucks.  
      N.S:  Or like these basketball players on strike for whatever, 30 
      million dollars ...
      W.A.: I know, that's so sad, kids go to school, they don't gradu-
      ate from the school, they're not literate, they come out of 
      school at 19 years old they get signed to a 126 million dollar 
      N.S.: I mean, I wouldn't complain! But I don't have the height.
      W.A.: And then you get a strike, I mean it's just amazing. I'm 
      not saying the players are wrong.... 
      N.S.: No, they're really not wrong, because the others guys--
      W.A.: The other guys have more money!  They do the paying.
      N.S: But there's still something disproportionate about it...
      W.A: Yeah, and it's really hurting, you know I'm a big basketball 
      fan and we probably won't have any season this year.
      N.S: I doubt it.
      W.A.:  I wonder what it's gonna do to the sport in general. You 
      know it was so  going so great in general, there was such  great 
      momentum going, and then suddenly this has been the biggest sport
     collapse in the history of the United States.
      N.S:Well, of course it happened to baseball a few years ago.
      W.A.: It happened to half the season,
      N.S: Yeah but they canceled the World Series. And it took them 
      take them years to come back.
      W.A.: It's just terrible.
      N.S.: But the other side of celebrity which is very good in the 
      movie, is that there are certain things that ordinary people have 
      things have that celebrities don't have... 
      W.A.: Yeah, privacy.
      N.S.: Like being able to walk in a restaurant and not be bothered  
      I mean I don't have much of that, I've  experienced it in a few 
      places, cause I'm a writer  I don't have that much face celebrity 
      W.A.: So you have the best of it, You have the celebrity 
      privileges, you can get a reservation when you call up...
      N.S: I had a taste of it in Romania though, for various reasons.
      W.A.: In Romania?
      N.S: I was maybe the first American writer to do pr for a book in 
      Romania.  My wife and I came down on the train from Bucharest for 
      a week to the Black Sea to away from it, but we were met at the 
      station with a television camera , and this was a small city and 
      it proceeded from there ...
      W.A.: So you had no peace. 
      N.S. Not  that  much. Face recognition! Face recognition!
      W.A.:Right, so I'm not crazy when I say it's an  unnatural feel-
      ing, I mean, if it happened to you there, and you get followed 
      around the restaurant the hotel and all that...
      N.s: Well the most bizarre moment was on  the beach, my wife was 
      topless and not too many people are topless there, these young 
      kids come over and totally ignore her. All they want is an auto-
      graph and they go away and she's really pissed off.
      W.A.: That's very funny. 
      N.S: But ordinarily you don't get that if you're a writer, how 
      many writers have face recognition value, no matter who you are? A 
      handful, it's not the same thing.
      W.A.: Right writers.. But of course  in the United States now  
      with the talk shows, you get a lot of writers on television. Years 
      ago, if you were Flaubert, or... a writer in the previous century, 
      you 'd have  total anonymity, total, no one would know your face 
	but now on television, everyone does knows Saul Bellow's face and 
      Norman Mailer's face...

      N.S: A few people... But you know, even actors, I suppose, 
      politicians, prior to the invention of photograph, didn't have 
      this problem.
      W.A.: Right.
      N.S.:It's the photography..
      W.A: A different Presidential campaign and reaction time.
      N.S: I mean a president could probably walk the street in those 
      days without being recognized. A funny thought.
      WA : Where do you live ?
      W.A.:You live in Paris?
      W.A.:Where are you from originally ?
      N.S.: New York.
      W.A.: Why did you settle in Paris ?
      N.S.: It's a long story, I originally came here to write a book 
      that was set here and then liked Europe. was in the middle of 
      everything was going on. And also, like you only more so, my work 
      is better received here and even though I have to struggle with 
      French, I just came from a diplomatic conference where I had to 
      do the whole thing in French, even though I have to struggle  
      with French,  which is the price you pay, I feel more culturally 
      connected  here than I do in the States.
      W.A.: And you've  been able to live here for how many years now ?
      N.S; Nine years.
      W.A.: And no problem adjusting or anything...?
      N.S.:Oh there's a problem adjusting to the language...but aside 
      from that...Also, I arrived here as a celebrity! Which helps, 
      especially when I was getting my papers done and they were giving 
      me a hard time. I just called my publisher and said "Make this go 
      away." And they said, "Well there's a police official who wants 
      an autographed book." Fine. So we got the diplomatic section.
      W.A.: So where in New York where you from?
      N.S.: I grew up in the Bronx and lived in Manhattan,  then I lived 
      in LA then I lived in London, then I lived in New York, LA, 
      W.A.: But this is...?
	N.S.:  Yeah, I like it better here. I don't like this weather, I 
      don't like getting sick every winter....

      W.A. But apart from that...
      N.S.: Yeah. It's a personal individual thing too,  but I feel 
      very well treated here as a writer, as an artist but I even feel 
      a sense of  civic obligation here that I don't in the States I 
      mean I get these fancy things, go to some nice place. go to 
      Monaco .. stay in a hotel like this... but  I also get asked to 
      do tough schools for no money, things like that.... And I do it.
      N.S.: Because I feel obligated.
      W.A: You feel you want to make a contribution. 
      N.S. Yeah. I didn't feel the same thing in the States.
      W.A.: Right, because they don't have the same affection for an 
      artist. When you come here as an artist, you feel,  from an 
      average person in the street right up  to the most sophisticated 
      person, that there is a genuine enthusiasm they have for art in 
      general and one's work.
      N.S.: When you're in the States and you're a writer and you've 
      got money and you walk into a bank and you've got money, you're a 
      bum with money.  If you're broke, you're just a bum.
      W.A.: Right!
      N.S.:Have you ever thought of living here ?
      W.A: I have thought of it at times, and I talk about it with my 
      wife every now and then, but I don't know whether I'd be able to 
      leave New York  or not...You know what I feel, it's like I can't 
      get the nerve, to leave, to plan to leave, but whenever I come 
      here, if I never returned it wouldn't bother me.
      N.S: That's how it happened with me. For years I said, I'd like 
      to live here sometime. Then I came with my wife, we were new 
      together at the time, she felt in love with this city and I 
      cooked up an idea to do  book set here, the whole thing was 
      synergetic. I said, ah, we'll go here for a year.
      W.A.: Ah hah!
      N.S: And then stayed! I had a nightmare with the house I was 
      subletting In LA to awful people.... other words, I didn't move 
      clean at all... I've still got staff in storage in Los Angeles, 
      tons of my books.
      W.A.: Right, just never went back. And that's the way I could 
      conceive of myself doing it.
      N.s.: I think you'd have a good time here...

	W.A: Oh I think so too! Because whenever I'm here, I love it and 
      I always feel depressed when I have to leave here.

      N.S.: You could keep a place in New York too, I suppose.
      W.A.: Right, but that would be the way to go, to not have the 
      anxiety of well, I'm moving, I'm selling my apartment...
      N.S.: No, no I know people who have done that and it's too dras-
      W.A.:.Yes, that's a drastic way to do it.,
      N.S.:Besides, if you have a decent apartment in New York it's 
      always worth something...
      W.A. Where do you live here ?
      N.S. I live in the 5th on the Left Bank across from Notre Dame 
      off the Place Maubert. 
      W.A.: And you walk around, just enjoy the city...?
      N.S.:Yeah, it's really nice down there, that's a part of Paris 
      that's like a little village. I know people, I know everybody on 
      the street by now, and that's a thing here maybe you don't get in 
      New York. I'm a little bit of a celebrity too, because I'm on 
      television.  But there's, at least in certain places in Paris, 
      there's this kind of neighborhood village life, where you're just 
      like the guy who buys the meat. And that's good for your head I 
      think, that's really good for your head... Which brings me to 
      another question which is the music, because this interests me 
      too. I'm doing a little bit of music now, a bit of painting. I 
      don't know how serious you are about the music, what I mean is,
      I feel it's really good for my head to be doing something else 
      which is not what I'm expected to be making any money at, and I'm  
      certainly I'm not as good as that, as I am as what I really do...
      W.A: But it's fun, right. It's no different as I see it than 
      being a weekend golfer... It's a hobby and it's fun...Do you 
      devote a lot of time?
      N.S: It depends. right now, I'm working with a band here called 
      Heldon, I don't even know what I'm doing, I'm writing songs, I'm 
      helping with the mix. I sing one little cut, I'm not very good. 
      They seem to think I'm more important than I am. And these are 
      friends of mine, this group consists of Richard Pinhas, who's a 
      long time musician but also has two  doctorates in philosophy 
      another novelist, Maurice Dantec, me, a singer, David Korn, who 
      also does other things, but we're making a serious album and it's 
      a lot of time in the  studio.
      W.A.: And you're writing for it? You're writing songs?  So you 
      know enough music, harmony. to be writing songs?
      N.S: No, not to arrange, I can write tunes, I can write lyrics, I 
      can coach  a singer.  It's very interesting these songs get 
      created, they get created in a rehearsal studio, with people you
      know, jamming and... some lyrics in some cases, some tracks in 
      others. ...
      W.A.:What instrument do you play ?
      N.S.:I don't play anything, a little keyboard.
      W.A.: You can write and you can do it on a keyboard. 
      N.S.: I have the music in my head and I can write the lyrics, and 
      I can work with a singer  and a band in a rehearsal studio and 
      somehow in the communal thing, the group, if it's a good group 
      like this, which it is, it just comes out. It's a  case of who 
      did what?  it's interesting.
      W.A.: That's amazing because I can play, not well, but I can 
      play, but I couldn't write a tune if my life depended on it, you 
      know, I wouldn't know where you begin, I  wouldn't know where to 
      begin to write a tune. And I can play, I can improvise a little 
      bit, not great but enough for simple New Orleans music  but to 
      sit down and write a tune, ...I've never written a song lyric in 
      my life, and wouldn't know where to write a note...
      N.S.:I wrote a couple of  novels  where I had to write song 
      lyrics for the books,  and I found that I couldn't do that with-
      out having the music in my head.
      N.S.: And it put the music in my head. 
      W.A.: Well did you study anything musical when you grew up?
      N.S.:  No, nothing! And then when I saw that these little elec-
      tronic keyboard are starting to come out, I went all over New 
      York, I had to have one,  I'm not gonna send away  mail-order, I 
      want it now! 
      W.A.:Where were you educated ?
      N.S: City College in New York.
      W.A:But you never studied any kind of music?
      N.S. Oh, a little bit, but I never learnt to play, I never 
      learned to read music 
      W.A.:Can you sing ? 
      N.S.: This is a matter of opinion. I don't think I can sing. I 
      sang one cut on this.  I'm beginning to think I can. I just had 
      an experience where we had a genius remix of our singer David 
      Korn's vocals and---500% improvement!
      W.A.: It's amazing what they can do. 
      N.S.: I wrote a novel about this before it happened.  And that's 
      how I got involved with this band. And then when I was here, my 
      friend Richard Pinhas said, sing a couple of cuts on this album. 
     I said, "I can't do that."  He said, "Don't worry."  And he 
      augmented it and did all this stuff, and I had a single!  It gave 
      me an idea to write a book about this. About what it does...I 
      think...musicians hate this, some musicians hate this... what it 
      does ...it makes craft less important than talent. It gives 
      people like me who never learned to play an instrument  a musical 
      a musical expression without skill.
      W.A.: So you hear the tune in your head? 
      N.S.: Yeah, so the question is how do you get it out if you don't 
      have a good voice and can't play anything?
      W.A.: But you could to write it down, 
      N.S.: Oh that's a little advanced, to hear it in your head and 
      write down the notes!
      W.A. Pick him out and then write it down...
      N.S.:Yeah, but now I've got a program which will simply type the 
      sheet music.
      W.A.: That's just amazing to me, amazing because I can't do it, I 
      can't sing, I don't have a good ear for music, I've lot of enthu-
      siasm and love for the music but no real ear.
      N.S. Well Woody, what I learned was, people had told me all my 
      life, you have no ear for music, you can't sing, but now, I've 
      decided they're wrong. I never learned to play an instrument 
      really, and I was never encouraged to sing, but I can hear a bad 
      note, I can hear, I have an ear.  
      W.A.:So you can hear if something sharp or flat ?
      N.S.: Yes, but I don't have a way... The problem is finding a 
      mode to express it...."
      W.A.: So if I blew into my clarinet and I was flat you would hear 
      it ?
      N.S.:Probably, and I would hear a note that was wrong in a song.
      W.A.: I can't do that, I can't tell if I'm sharp or flat , the 
      guys in the band say to me, you're sharp.  Oh really? 
      N.S.: I think the biggest thing I've found is that you can do 
      more than you think can do.
      W.A. That's amazing..
      N.S.:You can really do more than you think you can do.
      W.A.: But musically I feel some people are just gifted...
      N.S.: That's true.
      W.A.:And at some point in your life you found.      

      N.S. I'm not gifted, but I'm not hopeless.

      W.A.:Hey, but if you can write a tune!
      N.S. Well maybe, I still don't think I'm a singer but some people 
      do. Let's see.  I had a couple of question. Yes this is import-
      ant... Why do you think that your work goes down better here than 
      in the States?  And it does, commercially and even critically.
      W.A.: I don't know. 
      N.S: Me too.
      W.A.: The only theory I have--I may be right I may be completely 
      wrong--all the filmmakers I liked were foreign filmmakers so you 
      know, by watching all their films and loving them over the years, 
      there's something that get in your blood, the same way that I 
      play New Orleans music from listening to those guys that I'm 
      making film that in some way resonate with a foreign sensibility.
      N.S.: And yet they're very American films.
      W.A.: I think they, are but they play them in America, and in 
      America, you know  what has usually been the case for me, I've 
      done pretty good press over the years but no customers, and here 
      I get both, I mean people come.  I don't know, maybe it's exactly 
      what you say, they love American films and my films are very 
      American and that's what they 're liking.
      N.S.: I don't know what it is, it's very strange what they like 
      or what they don't like. 
      W.A.: But thank God, right?   
      N.S.: Yeah, yeah!  That's one of the reasons, I suppose, I'm 
      W.A.: But don't you find that in European countries as well, 
      because I do, and they're very good audience for me, in Italy and 
      Spain, and Greece just not America. You know it's not horrible, 
      but it's nothing thrilling.
      N.S: But also in America, it's certainly happened in books, and 
      it's certainly happened in movies,  if you don't  do a 100 mil-
      lion dollars, you've done nothing.
      W.A.: Ah but I can't even imagine that ballpark to think in.  I'm 
      happy to do ten million dollars in the United States. Happy to do 
      ten. It's a huff and puff and struggle to do ten. Whereas some-
      body else puts out a film, and in the first weekend, in the 
      between the Friday when it opens and Monday morning it's made 27 
      000 million dollars. 
      N.S.: Or it hasn't, and it drops completely dead in three days. 
      W.A.: And then they fire the head of the company.
	N.S.: They fire the head of the company, and the director never 
      works again. Or gets more money for the next one. 
      W.A.: Right that's the other alternative, gets more money for the 
      next one.
      N.S.: I've been talking to several French directors, they all 
      want to make films in English, and American-type movies, they 
      feel the French cinema is just dying.
      W.A.:The European cinema. When America cut off European cinema, I 
      think it really hurt. When I was younger, we used to have a very 
      good foreign film open once a week. 
      N.S.: Yeah, but you grew up in New York, like I did, not in 
      Keokuk or somewhere.
      W.A. I grew up in New York, yes, but at least in New York and 
      hopefully in LA and Boston, there was the new Truffaut or the new 
      Monicelli or Jeremy or De Sica or Fellini or Kurasawa, one after 
      the other, every week there was one. Now--nothing! You get one and 
      6 months later another one, maybe. I mean there was a thriving 
      foreign film market, you had every Rossellini film or Fellini film 
      that came out, now you don't have that, so they don't make the 
      N.S.: The Italian film industry is shot, it hardly exists any-
      W.A.: And it was so grand, so glorious!
      N.S.: And the French are the last survivors, in a way, of the 
      non-anglophone cinema. And they're looking over their shoulder and 
      sweating. I know directors here that are shooting commercials. 
      Because they're not ready to make move yet, to get the kind of 
      property that they think will, because there is a creative 
      quandary here. They feel that they've got to make a movie in 
      English, because that's the finance of it. And even they say that 
      a certain the kind of film that used to be made here, like the 
      nor film, the policier film, if it's not American, the French 
      won't go see it.
      W.A.: Oh I see.
      N.S.: And also now they can't get it distributed anywhere and 
      somehow, something has gone out of the French cinema. I think this 
      is tragic. 
      W.A.: Oh, terrible!
      N.S.:I get work because...I'm primarily a novelist but I've 
      become script doctor  because I can work back and forth between 
      French and English, and they all want to do it in English, which 
      doesn't seem to me to be their salvation.
      W.A.: I know, because what we want is a thriving French cinema, 
      those film makers that were great in French were inspirational.

	N.S.: Even the French ones want to do it in English.
      I just saw last night TWELVE MONKIES. There was a small credit 
      that say it came from a French movie, LA JETE, which I had never 
      heard of, and that happens a lot. Like with THE TOY. Instead of 
      releasing the French movie in the States, they say the rights to 
      Hollywood to remake it!
      W.a.: Yes that happened to a number of films that were successful 
      in Hollywood.
      N.S.:It depends what you mean by success.
      W.A: I mean they were financially successful. 
      N.S.:But it's not successful for the original.
      W.A.: No for the people here it's nothing, it's humiliating I 

      N.S.:English is taking over the world. I just wrote a piece about 
      it. And it's not by design, this is not an American plot or 
      anything like that. It's just that it's the biggest market, and 
      the United States dominates it because it's the biggest  part of 
      the biggest market and it just takes over.  I don't know what 
      their solution is. 
      W.A.: Right, the solution is that there's no viable foreign film 
      culture in the United States any more, not even in New York, 
      there's an occasional one that creeps in.
      N.S.:What do you think, would they do better dubbing thank 
      W.A: No.  Everyone I know hates dubbing. 
      N.S.: Here they dub everything.
      W.A.: Right.
      N.S.: Here it's good, in a way, you have you choice.  
      W.A.: Right, here it's a different thing, that's they're custom. 
      But in New York, the public for foreign cinema would not come to 
      a dubbed film. 
      N.S. You think so?
      N.S.: Here what they do...I don't know what they're doing with 
      your film because I saw the American....
      W.A.: They do subtitles in certain places and dubbed in others.
      N.S.: Yeah, so you have a choice. Even in Paris, and even on the 
      television channels, usually they have a choice, depending on 
      when you catch it, whether it's in French or in English. 

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