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YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER

About The Production
A fortune teller and her predictions figure prominently in the story of YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER, and so the title has an obvious literal meaning. But it also has a darker connotation, as Josh Brolin‘s character spells out:: "You will meet the same tall, dark stranger that we all eventually meet," in other words, the grim reaper. It is the attempt to evade the inevitable that sets the story into motion, when Alfie Shepridge (Anthony Hopkins) wakes up in the middle of the night, realizes he only has a few years left. "Alfie starts to get antsy," says writer/director Woody Allen, "and wants to start eating health foods, and doesn‘t want to hear from his wife that he‘s not a young man anymore. He doesn‘t want to face up to that, so he gets rid of his wife, Helena (Gemma Jones), and embarks on a different life, catapulting everyone into different states of chaos." Taking on the accoutrements of youth—a sports car, a health club membership, a flashy bachelor pad—Alfie convinces himself he can regain the bloom of his life by sheer willpower. "I think there is something about the male ego that blinds Alfie," says Hopkins. "He literally goes out of his mind."

Shattered after being abandoned byAlfie, Helena (Gemma Jones) grasps at straws. After a failed suicide attempt, she tries medicine and analysis to calm her spirits, but finds no relief until she latches onto the unlikely solution of visiting a fortune teller, Cristal (Pauline Collins). Hearing Cristal‘s cheerful predictions of her future, especially involving romance, brightens her spirits almost immediately. "Helena is an innocent," says Jones, "she always is optimistic and she still believes there is love out there. She could have picked the other way and become really unhappy, but somehow she travels through it and comes out the other side." Because she is able to delude herself, she survives.

Alfie and Helena‘s daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts), is also feeling strains in her marriage. Having married her novelist husband Roy (Josh Brolin) when he was at a high point after publishing a promising first novel, his subsequent inability to live up to his promise has rendered him irritable and unable to hold a job. Tired of subsidizing his artistic ambitions with her mother‘s money and her salary as the assistant to art gallery owner Greg Clemente (Antonio Banderas), Sally is anxious for the two on them to get on with their lives. "Sally‘s reached an age where she‘s hellbent on having a baby and can‘t get Roy on the same track as her," says Watts."So she becomes fixated on it as women in their late thirties do. She wants to make it work with Roy, but as she can‘t get him on board, she starts seeking the attention of someone else."

As Roy turns out one failed book after another, it eats into his confidence."Roy doesn‘t have sufficient talent to get beyond that first novel," says Allen. "At first he didn‘t mind trying, but it‘s starting to occur to him that maybe he‘s a one book phenomenon, a flash in the pan, and this is a very unpleasant thought." Weighted down by his anxiety, Roy procrastinates, laboring for seven years on his latest manuscript. "I don‘t think Roy needs to be a writer so much as to be a success, which is a very different thing," says Brolin. "For him it‘s not about what interests him or inspires him, it‘s just that he wants to be perceived as brilliant, needs to be perceived as brilliant, because the perception he has of himself is very, very low at this point in his life."

Sally encourages her mother‘s visits to Cristal, even though she knows the fortune teller is a fraud, and is making Helena increasingly delusional. As an only child whose mother has tried to kill herself, Sally needs to take care of her mother, and it is a very heavy burden. "She‘s thinks, what the hell, nothing else has worked and this guru is keeping her calm, keeping her from being suicidal," says Allen. "She doesn‘t want to upset the apple cart and have her mother take sleeping pills again or be distraught all the time." Jones thinks that Helena‘s personality made her especially susceptible to Cristal‘s chicanery: "I think she is a bit flakey. I think we all get a bit nuts as we get older, or our characteristics become eccentricities. Helena probably was a flighty girl and hasn‘t really grown up in some senses." Helena grew up religious but it failed her.

Taking his own side-trip from reality, Alfie falls head over heels for Charmaine (Lucy Punch), a capricious call girl half his age. "He makes a complete idiot of himself for this woman because she is glamorous and invigorates his self-esteem or what little self esteem he has," says Hopkins. As inappropriate for Alfie as Charmaine is, it‘s not hard to see how she could, in Roy‘s words, "put a charge in his batteries." "Charmaine is someone who always wants to have a good time, to be laughing, dancing, up for life and whatever‘s going on," says Punch. "She‘s almost like a bird, she never lands, fluttering from one thing to the next. She is also very sensual and sexual, led by her loins." His head spinning from Charmaine‘s company, Archie proposes to her, disregarding her taste for luxurious items he can‘t afford. "He thinks, "Oh, I might as well marry the girl—I love her,‘" says Hopkins. "The girl has reestablished his manhood and youth and he just wants to go all out and try to extend things." And Charmaine says yes. "I definitely think she‘s fond of him, although I‘m not sure if she‘s in love with him," says Punch. "Definitely the fact that he had money was attractive; although I‘m sure she had many wealthy suitors before. I think it was on a whim—I don‘t think she gave it a lot of thought. I don‘t think she ever had it in her mind that it was forever, nor does she ever think about the consequences of any of her actions."

Frustrated in her relationship with Roy, Sally finds herself increasingly drawn to her boss. In every way, Greg is the polar opposite of her husband: successful instead of struggling; calm instead of moody; capable to provide the kind of life she‘s yearning for—gifts, travel, trips to the opera, maybe even a child. "I think she wants to make it with Roy," says Watts, "but there is a massive hole for her that isn‘t being fulfilled. Greg represents all the surface things she thinks she‘s looking for." As she starts to fall for Greg, it‘s hard for her to tell if he returns her feelings. Although he usually treats her in a strictly professional manner, he sometimes sends out ambiguous signals. For example, he takes her to a jewelry store and has her try on earrings to help him select a pair for his wife. "He looks at her, measures her, and makes this move that may just destroy her heart if she has a crush on him," says Banderas. "It‘s innocent for him, but for her it means something. I think he is a little bit blind and doesn‘t know the effect he can produce on her by doing certain things." And for her part, Sally is waiting for him to make the first move. "She‘s reserved and wants to know that she‘s wanted before she‘s willing to put herself out on the line, as for example in a charged scene where they sit in a car after going to the opera and drinks together. " She thinks he‘s thinking about her, but they are out of sync, and it is really awkward," says Watts. "I think that Greg may be thinking, 'Wow! She‘s prettier than I thought!" says Banderas. " Now that he‘s looking at her in a different context she‘s quite interesting, and that comes as a surprise to him. But it doesn‘t go anywhere."

Stressing out in his room, straining to finish his novel, Roy becomes transfixed by a mysterious woman dressed in red who plays h

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