We stopped by the Chicago premiere of Magic in the Moonlight to find out what Woody Allen really thinks of the Windy City—and what executive producer Ron Chez really thinks of working with the iconic filmmaker.
FROM LEFT: Executive Producer Ron Chez; Director/writer Woody Allen; and Michael Rose, chairman and CEO of Metropolitan Capital, whose Wealth Management Consulting Group collaborated with Chez in his financing role for Magic in the Moonlight.
Woody Allen’s name is lighting up marquees again, this time with the release of his newest film, Sony Classic's Magic in the Moonlight, starring Emma Stone and Colin Firth (in Chicago theaters this Friday). The screenwriter/director walked the red carpet at AMC River East this past Saturday for the Chicago premiere, along with the film’s executive producer, Chicago resident Ron Chez.
We caught up with them both to get their take on the movie, magic, and Chicago.
On the inspiration for Magic in the Moonlight...
The film, set in the 1920s French Riviera, follows a magician (Firth) who is out to expose a psychic (Stone) as a fraud—an idea Allen has always been intrigued by. “In the history of magic, in the 1920s, there were many fraudulent spiritualists who were taking advantage of people, bilking them out of their money, running séances, and predicting the future,” Allen said.
“They fooled people—they fooled scientists, and they fooled educators, but they could never fool magicians. Magicians always knew what they were doing. So, I thought that would make an interesting story, about a savvy magician, and a little hustler like Emma [Stone] trying to fool people.”
On believing in magic...
“I’m a magic fan, and I used to do tricks and read many magic books,” Allen said. Though the director did more tricks when he was young, he noted, “I can still do a couple!”
As for executive producer Chez, the jury is still out on his belief in magic or psychics: “I’m not sure, so I’ll be agnostic about that.” But, he notes, Magic in the Moonlight is more than what its title implies. “It’s really more than just magic,” he said. “It’s a romantic comedy, [and] it explores, as Woody does sometimes, beliefs in God and what life is all about.”
On working with Woody Allen...
“It’s not a high-pressure circumstance,” Chez said of being on set with Allen. “[Allen] expects a lot, but he’s very easy for people to work with.”
On the best things about Chicago...
“I grew up here, and I still live here,” Chez said, “so I think it's probably the best big city in the country.” Aside from one thing, that is: “One of my favorite things is not the Cubs though.”
For Allen, his love for the city has been long-blooming. “I’ve always loved Chicago,” he said. “I used to play [former nightclub] Mister Kelly’s; I used to play McCormick Place…I love coming here. I loved eating ribs here; I loved eating Greek food here. I spent many, many, many weeks here, winter and summer, and always had a great time."
Allen’s memories and stories hearken the city’s rich past. “I loved going to [Hugh] Hefner’s house and hanging out with all of his people; [Chicago has] great nightlife—I would hang out all night long here,” he continued. “I stayed in those days at the Astor Tower, [and] I was one of the first customers there. Warren Beatty was here at that time, making a movie called Mickey One, and he called me up and said, ‘You’ve gotta stay at this hotel. It’s great.’ I went over, and we were maybe the only two people in the hotel; it was so new. And I stayed there for the next 20 years, on and off.”