Woody Allen dropped by our street not long ago. He was in Providence filming a movie, and I guess he thought the brick and cedar house at the top of Irving would be perfect for a scene. I couldn’t be prouder. I live on Irving and to think that one of the greatest filmmakers in the world found our street attractive is truly gratifying. I can’t wait to tell my mother.
I know, the tumult surrounding him has turned some fans into haters, but I’ll confess: I love his movies. Blue Jasmine. Manhattan. Hannah and Her Sisters. Annie Hall. How can anyone doubt his comic genius after watching him corral wayward lobsters with an oar in that kitchen scene with Diane Keaton?
I mosied up the street around four. As I write, secrecy surrounds the movie. There was no title, at least for public consumption, and no details about what the movie was about. Rumors circulated that it involves academics, and we all know college professors and leafy neighborhoods, like the East Side, go together in motion pictures.
Lots of people wearing headsets and clutching iced tea from Starbucks were rushing about looking important. Big trucks were parked curb-side. Cameras were perched on cherry pickers as high as swamp maples. I like watching a movie crew. They’re probably former and fledgling actors who want to stay in the biz, like the guy coiling wire on the Woody set. He reminded me of a young Paul Newman. “Welcome to the hood,” I said.
I plopped down on a neighbor’s stone wall - sorry for trespassing - across from the house. The number said “51.” The house next to it said “9.” This was a puzzle. I guess Woody & Friends changed the address for the movie. God is in the details. I was admiring a lipstick-red vintage VW beetle that was not part of the set when someone muttered, “Hey, Mr. Allen!’’ I looked up, but was too late. I saw his backside briefly as he entered 51. Distracted by a bug, I had blown my chance for a frontal view.
Still, I stayed. Honestly, it was kind of neat to be on, uh, see a movie set. Really, you’d have to be a real cynic to pass up this opportunity on moral grounds. Crew members provided plenty of dialogue: “Turn the dolly this way.” “Drinks are in the cooler.” “I’m from Barrington, not New York.”
At 4:44, Joaquin Phoenix, one of the stars, emerged on 51’s porch, taking a long draw on a cigarette. He flicked something in the bushes - tsk-tsk - and rushed back inside. It looked like he was wearing a five o’clock shadow. Relief swept over me. Maybe the wait was worth it: I had seen someone of importance.
A guy wearing a Bruins T-shirt asked the gawkers to hush – “Please.” Then he shouted “Roll, rolling!” A frantic search on my part ensued for the actors. Were they hidden behind a large truck for privacy? Clever. The guy shouted “Cut!” and we all exhaled in a deeply yoga-like way. After many rolls and cuts, I finally realized they were filming inside the house and wanted absolute quiet on Irving. A baby’s cry pierced the stillness. Bananas.
A grim reality set in, along with existential anxiety: Why am I here, hanging with techies? Just when I was about to bolt, Woody made a grand entrance. Down the front steps he came, bedecked in the usual: a tastefully wrinkled powder-blue button-down, two-pleated khakis and sensible shoes with thick soles. His trademark floppy bucket hat was stuffed in his back pocket.
I thought surely he would flee the bright lights and rush back inside 51 for solitude. Instead, he embraced his cell. He paced Irving like an Italian prince, chatting for a solid ten minutes. I scribbled down notes: “belt too big, pale-colored socks, more hair than expected, out-toes when he walks, so very thin.”
It was one of those strange moments when reality, make-believe and magic get all mixed up. “There he is!” said a friend who had come late to the party and was gleeful when she spotted the decorated artist. “Looks just like Woody Allen.” What can I say?
Gawking at Woody was totally crazy, irrational and absurd, but, honestly, I needed the eggs.
Elizabeth Rau can be reached at erau1@ verizon.net