American Tourist Bohemian Chic: Alison Pill on To Rome With Love

Working with Woody Allen, starring in the action thriller Snowpiercer, and her new role in Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom."

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


When Woody Allen meets the right woman, she can go really far with him. Alison Pill certainly has that potential. She played Zelda Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris and landed a part in his subsequent film too. To Rome With Love actually contains a first: Woody Allen’s first on-screen daughter. Pill plays Hayley, who invites her parents to visit her in Italy. Her dad (Allen) discovers her fiance’s father (tenor Fabio Armiliato) has potential as a singer and concocts a wild scheme to make him a star. We met Pill in Los Angeles as she laughed giddily and burst with enthusiasm for her latest film and future projects.


CraveOnline: How lovely is it to get to start out the movie in the first scenes?

Alison Pill: It’s really quite an honor. I had no idea the sort of architecture of the script because I only ever got our storyline. So I had no idea what the Greta [Gerwig]/Ellen [Page]/Alec Baldwin, any of that was. I had no idea what Roberto Benigni was doing. I had no idea what Alessandro was doing. All of these people had already finished their storylines so I had no idea how everything was going to piece together. It is very exciting to then be in the theater and go like, “Wait, that’s Fabio. That’s a scene that I’m in. Oh my God!” Very exciting.


We know the actors usually only get their pages. You got your whole storyline, so even the scenes you weren’t in with Woody and Fabio?



What about playing Woody Allen’s daughter?

It was a joy. I mean, it was just a joy to act with Woody Allen. He is just one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with. I’m usually pretty good at maintaining my concentration and not laughing. Often it’s just because I don’t find people funny. But him, I was just sitting across the table having to hold my laughter in until they yelled cut.


With all the legendary women in his movies, is this his first onscreen daughter?

I don't know! It might be. I love Scoop, the one with Scarlett Johanssen and Hugh Jackman. I love that movie and was that the last time he [appeared?] I guess it might be.


So I guess that didn’t give you pause or thoughts before I just mentioned it?

[Laughs] No, no.


What was your collaboration with the wardrobe designer for Hayley’s outfits?

Oh, Sonia [Grande] is the most incredible passionate Spanish woman who is just made to make people look good and cool. I could never pull off those outfits. I would never think of the looks that she comes up with. I loved every outfit we had. I had nothing to do with it. I give Sonia Grande all the credit in the world because she is an amazing, amazing designer.


Would you call it American bohemian?

Sure, yeah. There is something euro about it too. I would say American tourist bohemian chic.


I thought the baggy jeans and sandals were very American.



Is it weird that I noticed that?

Maybe. [Laughs]


Did you re-audition for Woody for this film?

I went in to meet with him again. I’ve never really read. There was no reading involved for either. For this one, he just sort of said, “I never thought of you for this because I just pictured you as Zelda with the wig and the crazy, but I was like maybe she could do this.” I was like, “I probably could. I would do anything.” Then it happened.


What was the first meeting with Woody Allen like?

I walked in, we shook hands, he looked at me for a couple seconds and then was like, “Okay, thank you.” I was like, “Okay, bye.” And that was it.


And then you had the part?

Then I got the part, yeah. I think he believes in his instincts and in that case, I have a resemblance to Zelda. He knew I had acted before so he was like, “Okay.”


So was it a longer process on To Rome With Love?

No, I just went in and met with him and he said, “Cool, do you want to do this. Judy Davis and I will play your parents and we shoot in Rome.” And I said, “Yeah, I would love to do that.


What kind of character do you get to play in Snowpiercer?

I get to play a schoolteacher on a train, post-apocalyptic perpetual motion train.


Is that a big action movie?

There is a lot of action. It’s a very strange action movie. I don't know what particular genre it would even fit into, whether sci-fi, action, comedy or drama. There’s something of everything. I had so much fun on it. Our director, director Bong [Joon-ho] is incredible and funny. Again, the most fun you can have with the director is just when they have a specific vision and they can translate that vision and tell you what that vision is, but also be open to whatever the hell you think, to sort of add to that or whatever.


Does he speak English?

He does, yeah. He had a translator with him for when he was tired and didn’t feel like it but he speaks English.


How would that compare to the scale of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World?

I mean, Scott Pilgrim was the longest most painful action movie shoot I think that’s ever been created. So I don't know. This one, there’s action but it’s a Korean studio movie but with American actors. Whatever the budget is, it wasn’t a studio picture.


What is your character on “The Newsroom?”

I play a young girl who has been living in New York for about a year and working in cable news. And gets the chance to be an associate producer and start working on her own stories and research in the midst of a big staff change at the old newsroom.


How did you like the experience of television and continuing a storyline?

I really liked it. I had done “In Treatment” so there had been seven episodes on that. That was an interesting thing but sort of like doing a one-act play once every couple weeks. We shot all those episodes either within a day or two days. This was a different thing definitely but it was great. I’m excited to find out whether we know what’ll happen next. I love all the characters. They’re amazing.


Have you ever dealt with anything like Aaron Sorkin dialogue?

Well, I’ve done a lot of plays so I feel like I had that and I’ve also watched every Sorkin thing you can imagine so I feel like I’ve studied him.


With downloads of the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack, can you imagine how many times people have heard you scream, “We are Sex Bob-omb?”

I have no idea.


Had you ever thought about being on a soundtrack before?

No, no. I’ve thought about recording my own album, but…


You have something like 55 credits at this point.

I’ve been doing this for a long ass time.


Does that feel crazy to you?

Doesn’t feel crazy. I’ve been working for 16 years.


Well, 55 divided by 16 is at least 3 a year and some of those are series.

Yeah, and I’ve done plays as well. I have never stopped working which is why I cannot wait for July and August when I’m going to sit on my couch with two cats and my fiancé and watch television.


How passionate are you to power through all this work?

I mean, I love it and acting is what I do. It’s what I’ve done, it’s what I love. I find it challenging and cool. Dressing up and going to parties is the part that I could just, well, skip.


Do you really do that scene?

No, I just mean for premieres and such things and days like today where I’m like, “Why would anybody want to sit down and talk to me!”


Because you’re so energetic and delightful.

[Laughs] Surrre.


So it’s only for your films. Are you invited to other events and pursued for the Hollywood scene?

Oh my goodness, I don't think they would even know where to find me.


Do people recognize you?

Not often. That’s sort of a scary thing. Most of the stuff that I’ve done that has been well received, I don’t look anything like I would on the street. But now in this movie which is contemporary and I have my own hair and in “The Newsroom” I have my own hair, I’m not wearing a cuckoo wig. So a little recognition on the street could happen. Every so often I’ll find somebody who’s an activist and saw Milk and is like, “Whoa, is that your hair?” And I’ll be like, “Yes!” But usually not so we’ll see.


So Milk is the one you do get recognized for?

You know, the sad truth is Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen is still the highest rated recognition factor.