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I'm a superstar in Italy ... but fans have never heard me speak, says film legend Woody

Woody Allen is a comic superstar in Italy -- but most Italians have never heard his voice.

As in many European countries, Italians' ingrained dislike of subtitles has fed a powerful dubbing industry.

As he attended the premiere of his new movie -- To Rome, With Love -- in the eternal city, the director wondered if he would have been as successful without a dubber.

"The man who dubbed me for years in Italy, now deceased, made me into a hero ... it was his voice and everybody liked me. I don't know for sure if they had heard my own voice they would have been that responsive to me," he said.

Allen was referring to Oreste Lionello, an Italian comic who died in 2009 and was Allen's voice for decades.

"I don't like dubbing at all. Americans are not used to dubbing. We grew up without dubbing and so it's always very, very strange to us and I am very much against it," he said.

"Whenever I send my films out to European countries I always try to get the prints subtitled if I can but I'm met with resistance because the countries are just not used to subtitles."

The film, which stars Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page, is his first set in Rome, which Allen called "a feast for a filmmaker". It is also his latest set in a European capital, following London, Barcelona and Paris.

"I grew up on Italian cinema. I have always been an enormous admirer of Italian cinema. Anything that appears in the movie that is redolent of Italian cinema is strictly something that I have absorbed through osmosis over the years and it comes out," he said.

Allen (76) grew up in Brooklyn and, after writing for television, started his career as a stand-up comic in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, where he saw many of the great Italian films of the 1950s and 1960s by directors such as Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini.

"Naturally, when you make films you tend to make the kind of films that you have absorbed and have enjoyed as you developed and you grew up. It's an unconscious influence but a very substantial one," he said.

To Rome, With Love is made up of four episodes.

In the first a famous architect played by Alec Baldwin is in Rome on holidays and is reminded of his youth in the city.

In the second, Allen plays a retired director who visits Rome and tries to promote the career of a man who sings opera but only when he is under a shower.

The third stars Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni as a man who wakes up one morning to discover that he has suddenly and inexplicably become famous and is stalked by paparazzi.

In the last, Penelope Cruz plays a high-class call girl who accidentally finds herself in the wrong hotel room.

hnews@herald.ie


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