Louis C.K. On Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, And Separating The Art From The Artist

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The fidget spinners were a surprise.

If you know anything about the way Louis C.K. operates professionally, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that he’d show up to the Toronto International Film Festival with a secret movie – one he wrote and filmed on the down low – and one whose plot has been shrouded in mystery. It also shouldn’t be a surprise, especially if you’ve ever seen his television show, Louie, that there’s a lot to unpack in I Love You, Daddy. (After the premiere, C.K.’s publicist texted me to ask what I thought of the movie. My reaction was “there’s a lot to unpack.”)

The problem of drawing a line separating art from the artist serves as a major theme in I Love You, Daddy. Filmed in a style inspired by Woody Allen’s Manhattan, its cast includes John Malkovich, who plays a revered director with a reputation for dating underage women – who then starts dating C.K.’s character’s 17-year-old daughter, played by Chloë Grace Moretz. Now, C.K. won’t admit it’s specifically, 100 percent about Allen (as you’ll see ahead, and I ask him a lot), but the film grapples with this idea, and when watching I Love You, Daddy, there’s little doubt that C.K. is also slyly addressing some of his own demons.

I met Louis C.K. in the backroom of a bar in Toronto. He was siting with a few other members of the cast, including Edie Falco, Charlie Day, Pamela Adlon, and Ebonee Noel. The conversation that follows touches on everything from the commodity of internet outrage, to Woody Allen and Bill Cosby. C.K. is not someone who shies away from controversy and, as he says ahead, his movie (which just sold for $5 million) will have a lot of people talking.

And, yes, the whole cast had fidget spinners, provided by Pamela Adlon. I have to admit, with some of the topics ahead, the fidget spinners came in handy.

There’s a lot going on in this movie.

Louis C.K.: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s a mess.

So, do you still like Woody Allen?

Louis C.K.: [Laughs.] Yes. I do.

You were in a Woody Allen movie.

Louis C.K.: I was in one movie with him. And we kept in touch a little bit. I never hung out with him except for when we were doing Blue Jasmine, but I only know Woody in terms of my interactions with him personally. And he’s a mensch. He’s a sweet guy. He’s always been very nice to me. And again, it’s a distant relationship. You know, a couple emails per year. But I do. I like Woody, yes.

Do you think you’ll still get those emails after he hears about this movie?

Louis C.K.: I have no idea. No idea.

Because I don’t know how he’s going to react to that.

Louis C.K.: I don’t either. I don’t think this movie decides anything about anybody.

I agree, I don’t think it decides. But it’s hard to ignore the Manhattan-ish feel of this movie and that character.

Edie Falco: I don’t know, I didn’t get that. I’m out of my mind. I just didn’t, you know?

Louis C.K.: I mean, what I mean is, I get it. In my mind, this movie has a lot more in common with Michael Roemer’s movies and with a lot of ’40s movies. The scene at the Emmys with Charlie Day, to me that reminds me of Raging Bull. He reminds me a lot of Pesci and it’s like when they’re at the Copa and stuff like that. That’s what I remember. But I don’t try for those things. When I was watching the scene, it feels like fucking Copa in Raging Bull. You know, Woody and I are both people that love New York City and love black and white films, so we’re both seeing the same cinematic conclusion. So, to me, there were some times where I felt like this feels like Manhattan – and I thought, well, let it in. Don’t try, don’t resist, it’s okay. And then as far as the character goes, I mean, the guy doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to Woody, to me. He’s an eccentric and he’s cagey and then he’s able to slide into warmth when he wants to and become a cold wall when he wants to. I don’t think that’s him at all. He’s very different.

Pamela Adlon: He’s Roman Polanski.

Louis C.K.: Yeah, he’s Roman Polanski. Or he’s Sumner Redstone. Whatever, you know? Fucking, he’s also quite old. To me, Woody is still 45 in my head. You know what I mean?

But I didn’t see a lot of Chinatown in this movie. You do see a lot of Manhattan.

Pamela Adlon: That’s true!

Louis C.K.: [Laughs.] Yeah, I mean that being in the world was an inroad for me. I don’t want to hurt anybody else, but David Lynch is in this for me a little bit in the character – in the way he talked and his intent. David Lynch is this guy who’s like, “I dream and I make movies about my dreams.” So I saw him when Malkovich talks about making episodes of television. So none of this is Woody to me. In the world of, you know, where we love to put things – this is here, this is there – I know people are going to do that. But that’s fine. It’s not up to me what people think of the movie.

I think in this case it’s hard to ignore. There’s a lot.