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All Four Times Whit Stillman was on Charlie Rose

Check out the four times Whit Stillman was interviewed by Charlie Rose:

CHARLIE ROSE: We conclude this evening with Whit Stillman and his film is called “The Cosmopolitans.”


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this isn’t bad. People kill to have this. You can’t even see – the front of view. It’s really amazing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But can I still use the kitchen downstairs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, the (INAUDIBLE), They will arrive at any moment and they have paid for the use of the entire apartment. All I could do was nothing. But you had the one place.


WHIT STILLMAN, FILM DIRECTOR: So, the secret for me with Metropolitan was I happened to fall into that world, world with a group of very funny people, really major funny. They could have earned their living with jokes, but they didn’t. And I was able to kind of have those characters, and this is true to – with “The Cosmopolitans,” I think. These are exceptional interesting characters, I think.

CHARLIE ROSE: Whit Stillman is here, he’s a writer and director. He’s been described as the WASP Woody Allen and “the Dickens of people with too much inner life.” In his four films, he’s focused on the manners of the young privileged class. His latest project is a pilot for Amazon. It is called “The Cosmopolitans.” It follows a group of young American expatriates as they search for love and friendship in a foreign city. Here is a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible) during the day because he has such trouble concentrating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible), not being able to work when there’s someone in the apartment. The problem is, I can’t work when there’s no one there either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you thought of getting a rabbit?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. But I’ll consider it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you’re just killing time until he finishes his writing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not, not exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you say it was wonderful with Frederic, when was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, she said it had been wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, but when was that, the wonderful part? I think I missed it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Miami. We met at (inaudible). Frederic immediately wanted me to move to Paris to live with him. I just broke up with my boyfriend, so it seemed like a good idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that’s true. When you have a serious break up, putting the Atlantic Ocean between it can be very helpful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the Pacific?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t know, I haven’t tried it.


CHARLIE ROSE: I am pleased to have Whit Stillman back at this table. Welcome.


CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me about this. What’s the idea here and how did you come to do it for Amazon rather than someone else?

WHIT STILLMAN: Well, thanks to Amazon — I had a relationship with them since the very start of Amazon studios, because one of the first things they did was auction my first film, “Metropolitan.” They thought of using that as a template for other filmmakers to do films about young groups of people. They called me up and wanted a story set in Paris. And I had the material and I told them the experiences I had. The first three films I made were like the only interesting experiences I had before I moved to Paris. And then moving to Paris was sort of fortuitous for me, because suddenly I was among some amazing, interesting people, and “The Cosmopolitans” is a product of that.

CHARLIE ROSE: But didn’t you say in fact that you kept wanting to – kept pitching films to be made with Paris as a setting, and they kept saying nobody wants to see a story in Paris.

WHIT STILLMAN: I was even cut off before that. My agent said no network, no TV company will set a story abroad. And I came back around 2008 and needed a job. I needed work, and I had some good Paris stories, and I pitched one to one of the big TV production companies. And the idea was we’d set it in Manhattan. We’d take those Paris characters and put them in a Manhattan nightclub.

CHARLIE ROSE: But nobody told this to Woody Allen, have they?

WHIT STILLMAN: No. He’s doing a great job with that. But I sort of had the experience and I was trying to make films over there, wherever I went, Woody Allen had already spent all their money. They had all this state money to support cinema, and Woody Allen — they changed the rules. An American can no longer be the director.

CHARLIE ROSE: Oh, is that right? If they give the money to a film production company, an American cannot be the director. So Woody’s ruined it for people.

WHIT STILLMAN: I think he’s ruined it for some people.


CHARLIE ROSE: That was the reason — that’s how he got the movies made.

WHIT STILLMAN: It’s fantastic. I really admire the way he’s been able to do that. And he’s been productive.

CHARLIE ROSE: Woody is a businessman.

WHIT STILLMAN: Every which way.

CHARLIE ROSE: So what is it about Paris for you? Other than it’s so conducive to a life-style that you find so comfortable.

WHIT STILLMAN: Well, I was brought there. I was brought there by someone else, and once I was there, it’s a very good writer’s town. It’s not an accident that back when Hemingway and Fitzgerald and other people liked being there.

CHARLIE ROSE: In the 20s.

WHIT STILLMAN: Yes. I guess the prime time for those expatriates was before the ’29 crash. Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the 20’s. And still to this day, for instance different writer directors will be over there, Tom McCarthy, Wes Anderson. It’s just a really good place to write. The life is conducive to working several times a day to keep plugging at your writing. And then you can take off and be with friends in cafes in the evening.

CHARLIE ROSE: You say this film has no agenda.

WHIT STILLMAN: Yes. I thought my other films each had a little bit of an agenda. And so if people resisted them, it’s understandable, because they’re trying to convince people of something. So “Barcelona” was sort of trying to convince people to go easier on Americans abroad. And “Metropolitan” was trying to sort of humanize a class that normally people would despise. I can’t remember what the agenda of “The Last Days of Disco” was, but this one, I felt I was just trying to tell the story about characters.

CHARLIE ROSE: Talk about the casting you got, Adam Brody who was in “Damsels in Distress.”



WHIT STILLMAN: He plays Jimmy Frederick, who is a fellow over there trying to write and do other projects.

CHARLIE ROSE: Who else is in the film?

WHIT STILLMAN: Carrie MacLemore was in “Damsels in Distress.” She’s the girl in that scene. And so something that was really lucky was I was able to get Chloe Sevigny to be in it. At first she was unavailable because she had another TV show of which she was the star, but we kept asking, and she found a way to come over, even though she’s doing this other show. And now I think that there’s a strong possibility she’ll be a regular on our show. And then there are foreign actors. One actor from Sweden who plays this mysterious host of the party in the pilot. Freddy Asblom, who plays Fritz, and a terrific Italian actor who is in this scene, Adriano Giannini, who is Giancarlo Giannini’s son. And he’s really interesting because he went in another career path. He was a camera man, doing special effects and things like that, and came to acting late, but he’s really great to have on set.

CHARLIE ROSE: And the deal with Amazon is they will test this 26-minute pilot you gave them.


CHARLIE ROSE: And if in fact it tests well or whatever they’re looking for, then they’ll give you a commitment to make ten episodes or something like that.

WHIT STILLMAN: Yes. Yes. I think it’s a (inaudible) situation now, because they have cut it back to maybe six episodes of the first season, and six episodes would be really manageable for us. I wouldn’t have to hire lots of writers to work on that. And I think it’s a combination of how they really feel about the shows themselves, how the public reacts. We’re trying to get enough favorable attention so they will feel obliged to go ahead with it.

CHARLIE ROSE: What stories do you want to tell about us?

WHIT STILLMAN: Well, they’re asking me that. I’m supposed to turn in a bible for this series, and I’m kind of reluctant, because I find I really have no good ideas until I have characters and scenes talking to each other and things like that. In film and TV, there’s this tendency. They always want a summary of what you’re going to do before you’ve done it, and I feel that leads to sort of cliched, hackneyed, formulaic ideas, at least for me it does. And so I don’t know what the stories will be.

I know this group of people, and they’re really an interesting group of people. I’ve been fortunate in twice making films about groups of people that I know well, who are very funny. So the secret for me with “Metropolitan” was I happened to fall into that world, the dead party world, with a group of very funny people, really major funny. They could have earned their living with jokes, but they didn’t. And I was able to kind of have those characters. And this is true too with “The Cosmopolitans,” I think. These are exception interesting characters I think.

CHARLIE ROSE: It has been said, and I’m taking this right from things that I have read, “The Cosmopolitans” has a mood rather than other qualities of a film. Rather than the characters, it has more a mood.

WHIT STILLMAN: It does have that. I think it has characters too, but it definitely has a look and a mood.

CHARLIE ROSE: What’s the mood?

WHIT STILLMAN: Well, I think it’s something that I liked to call the nostalgia of the present. I think it’s a way of looking at the present, looking at our daily lives, particularly I think at nighttime, I think things get more romantic at nighttime. And looking at it in a way so that OK, it’s not a Fitzgerald novel, but there is something about the sort of fairy dust magic of those romantic visions that we can have today. So it’s contemporary, but it has that sort of mood of romanticism.

CHARLIE ROSE: The interesting thing is, some people think of you and they think of Ivy League and they think of eliticism, and you strongly reject that.

WHIT STILLMAN: Well I think some of that is the accident of the first film being about that very rarefied world. But even those characters are only in that world for seven days, and then they go on and do more normal things. But yes, I guess I’m kind of within a fish bowl, so I’m not seeing the fish bowl exactly, so maybe the people outside are more accurate than I am.

CHARLIE ROSE: Just to go back to “Cosmopolitans” for a second. Here’s a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people kill to have this. You didn’t even see (inaudible) in front of you. It is truly amazing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: — the kitchen downstairs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) they have paid for the use of the entire apartment. All I could do was nothing. But you had the one place. (inaudible).


WHIT STILLMAN: The theme of “The Cosmopolitans” is essentially romantic heartbreak. And in this first episode, we have two heartbroken characters. There’s Hal, who’s been dumped he claims 17 times; his friends claim 30 times by the girl he’s in love with. And there is this girl who has moved over to Paris, and then the guy she’s moved for that we saw in the clip feels uncomfortable having her in the apartment. He’s going to take a job and he’s rented the apartment out from under her. And so she’s in one of those tiny maid’s rooms. And so she’s really sad, and in addition to that, there’s also the thing that people go through. They think that they’re no longer going away to summer camp and feeling lonely and crying and writing their parents letter. They think they’ll never encountered loneliness again in life. But you can move over to Paris and you think it’s hunky- dory, and then August comes along, and everyone you know moves out, and you really confront, you know, the thing of total loneliness because there’s no one around. And it’s the kind of thing that snowballs like OK, not bad, no one’s around for two days, but then if you’re stuck in a complex about it, people really kind of lose their bearings. So you know, there are problems people are facing.

CHARLIE ROSE: So what you’re most fascinated about is love and love lost.

WHIT STILLMAN: There’s a song that’s sort of the theme song for this episode. It’s the great Motown song, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” which is one of my favorite songs. And I always thought the brokenhearted would be a great sort of theme for a movie or a series.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why didn’t you call it “The Broken Hearted?”

WHIT STILLMAN: I like having things with a little different name. You change the name a little bit.

CHARLIE ROSE: Who sang “The Broken Hearted?”

WHIT STILLMAN: I think it was Jimmy Ruffin. There are two brothers, one was in the Temptations.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, exactly.

WHIT STILLMAN: I think it’s Jimmy Ruffin who did “The Brokenhearted.” We have a wonderful version that Joan Osborne sang for us. She did a live version for the documentary “Standing in the Shadow of Motown” about the Funk Brothers, the instrumentalists, the studio musicians. And there’s this incredible live version, but it’s nowhere available. So she came in and she sang it for us and also did part of it in French. So we have this cool bilingual version of “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” sung by Joan Osborne. They are trying to get Amazon to release it as a single.

CHARLIE ROSE: Will they? We don’t know. Take a look. This is another clip. This is when Vicky and Aubrey talk about their fellow expats.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You’re not dating any of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no, we just met. Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it’s kind of an ugly word, but aren’t they old enough to start putting things together, such as their lives. Did they really come all the way to Paris just to meet Albuquerque (ph)? Isn’t she from somewhere like that, San Diego or Phoenix. They’re so local.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Alabama, people have roots. What is sad about the Civil War (inaudible) losing so badly. Do you have any ancestors who died in the war?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That must have been sad. You’re here now. I say all’s well that ends well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you only date Frenchmen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Heavens, no. Never.


CHARLIE ROSE: Your dad was a lawyer.

WHIT STILLMAN: Yes. But he was mostly a politician.

CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly, he certainly is and was at Princeton, wasn’t he?

WHIT STILLMAN: No. He was at Harvard. He actually wanted to go to Princeton, but his father wouldn’t let him because Princeton wouldn’t play Harvard when Harvard had a black man on the team. And he thought that was so disgusting, he said if my father goes to Princeton, he won’t pay any of the tuition, so my father went to Harvard.

CHARLIE ROSE: And how did he become a politician?

WHIT STILLMAN: He wanted to be. He was very active politically at Harvard. He was the last non-communist president of the Harvard union, Harvard student union. He was in Kennedy’s class.

CHARLIE ROSE: The last non-communist?

WHIT STILLMAN: Yes. He was in Jack Kennedy’s class, and he was very strongly for Kennedy and organized his campaign in New York state. And then he went to work for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. In the Commerce Department. FDR, Jr. Was the undersecretary of commerce. My father worked for him. And prior to that, when I was born in Washington, he was working as FDR Jr.’s legislative aide as a congressman.

CHARLIE ROSE: As I remember, FDR Jr. Helped Jack Kennedy get elected in West Virginia.

WHIT STILLMAN: Very tough.

CHARLIE ROSE: He played a powerful role because Hubert Humphrey was a very tough opponent in West Virginia.

WHIT STILLMAN: Very powerful. It was quite dirty.

CHARLIE ROSE: But being a lawyer never appealed to you?

WHIT STILLMAN: I was going to do exactly that, but I was failing in my Harvard interview, my first Harvard interview, and the guy was totally bored with what I was saying. And I was thinking, you know, I don’t really want to do this. I don’t want to just do exactly what my father did. I would really like to try to write a novel or write novels. That failed, and so I thought —

CHARLIE ROSE: It’s called falling upward.

WHIT STILLMAN: Failing upward. That was a great period of TV comedies in my book, “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Sanford and Son,” “Bob Newhart’s Show,” Rob Reiner and “All in the Family.” Rob Reiner later became my teacher in film. And I thought that was great. If you don’t have the courage to be a novelist, you could try to write for TV comedies, and finally I have a TV comedy out.

CHARLIE ROSE: Some have said about – your friends that you see the world through the prism of “The Great Gatsby.”

WHIT STILLMAN: I think it’s more “This Side of Paradise,” because “This Side of Paradise” it’s the most purely sort of juvenile romantic, and “Great Gatsby” is sort of more sophisticated for my tastes.

CHARLIE ROSE: So is it fair to say all the characters in your novel are not indulgent, they are simply romantic.

WHIT STILLMAN: Yes. I mean, I think you can wear those glasses and it’s glasses I prefer to have on, which looks at the world through kind of a romantic lens. I think that the best model for a lot of us who are working in this area, because I think there are other film makers who are doing something parallel, is Salinger, because Salinger brought comedy into the equation. So there’s sort of romanticism in comedy. In Fitzgerald, it’s pure romanticism.

CHARLIE ROSE: So Salinger more than –

WHIT STILLMAN: I think it’s Salinger is more than Fitzgerald is the person we want to sort of steal from. And of course the master is Woody Allen.

CHARLIE ROSE: What do you learn from watching and reading Woody Allen?

WHIT STILLMAN: It’s just so enormous, his influence. He’s sort of created a whole space, a whole atmosphere that we all exist in, so we’re not really aware of all the influence because he really kind of created a whole space.

CHARLIE ROSE: So tell me about your future. How do you see the future. Let’s assume this series works well, which it looks like it does.

WHIT STILLMAN: Yes, I’d really like to do the next six episodes of this, and I have a Jane Austen project to do with Chloe Sevigny and Sienna Miller, that we hope to–

CHARLIE ROSE: Are you writing something about love and friendship?

WHIT STILLMAN: It’s called “Love and Friendship.” We’ve taken the material from her unpublished in her lifetime manuscript “Lady Susan.” And adapted it for film. And we hope to be shooting that in beautiful locations in Ireland.

CHARLIE ROSE: You think Jane Austen’s the greatest writer you know?

WHIT STILLMAN: From my point of view, she’s the writer I most admire.

CHARLIE ROSE: Because? Characters?

WHIT STILLMAN: I think her humorous humanity, her way of portraying different character types and the action between the character types in a moral — she’s very extremely moral — and enlightening way and funny way.

CHARLIE ROSE: Take a look at this. This is something called “Inside Look.” This is a teaser to attract people to your project. Just to show you behind the scenes as well as a clip that’s come out of the film.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys have girlfriends with names like Clemence?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, why wouldn’t be? We live there, we’re Parisians.

CHLOE SEVIGNY: I worked with Whit maybe 15 years ago on a film called “The Last Days of Disco,” and we kept in touch over the years, and I ran into him. He said, well, I have some things I’m working on in the future, would you like to work together again? I said of course. This character is one of the more glamorous characters I’ve gotten a chance to play.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My gosh. (inaudible).


CHLOE SEVIGNY: Here I am in Paris, shooting with Whit. And these funny American kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible) terrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really just means a playboy.

CARRIE MACLEMORE, AUBREY: I play Aubrey Lee, she is from Alabama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am Philippe. What’s your name?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Audrey? (inaudible).


CARRIE MACLEMORE: She’s feeling a little down and (inaudible), and an Italian, and they take her under their wing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you have a serious break-up, putting the Atlantic Ocean between can be very helpful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the Pacific?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t know, I haven’t tried it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I play the character Jimmy. I wouldn’t say a hopeless romantic, but he’s definitely a romantic.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I play Sandro, who is a kind of Italian playboy.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn’t know you’d be bringing so many people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We’re not so many.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the moment, we are shooting a scene in Fritz’s apartment, everyday (ph) apartment or house or whatever.

WHIT STILLMAN: I want a chance to have it continue and have different chapters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You’re not dating any of them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it’s kind of an ugly word but.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come visit us. We’ll be on Amazon. Watch it on your television, and if you can’t watch it on your television, watch it on your computer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Problem with women who fall crazy in love is that they also fall crazy out of love.

CHLOE SEVIGNY: You can find me and the other characters and actors in “The Cosmopolitans” on Amazon.


CHARLIE ROSE: You want to see “The Cosmopolitans,” you go to Amazon.com.

WHIT STILLMAN: AmazonOriginals.com.

CHARLIE ROSE: AmazonOriginals.com. Good luck.


CHARLIE ROSE: Great to have you.


CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you for joining us. See you next time.