The last time Woody Allen was seen in Russia, he was in Love and Death, philosophizing: “The key is to not think of death as an end, but as more of a very effective way to cut down on your expenses.” But now he may be a permanent fixture, as a statue of the filmmaker is being planned for Russia’s westernmost city of Kaliningrad. Interestingly, however, the idea for the statue was originally just a joke until Allen himself started to participate.
Last year, a young Russian filmmaker named Masha Vasyukova came to take some classes in New York. While in Allen’s hometown, she had the idea that it would be appropriate (and funny) if her own hometown of Kaliningrad erected a statue of the director, because Kaliningrad used to be called Koenigsberg, like Woody himself, who was born Allen Konigsberg. Back home, she mentioned the brainstorm to a reporter for the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, who responded by announcing a contest for the best statue idea.
Very few submissions dribbled in, but what had originally been a silly, whimsical idea gained momentum as the paper played it up. But they wanted to go further; they wanted her to meet with Allen to get him involved. She did have a tenuous in; while in New York, Vasyukova had volunteered for the New York Film Festival, where she worked for the stepson of Allen’s publicist, Leslee Dart. After contacting Dart, Vasyukova eventually found herself with an appointment to present the concepts to Allen for his opinion while he was in Berlin. “I still don’t quite get why he did this,” says Vasyukova. “I thought he hated Russia.” With Soon-Yi and the kids in the room, she grew too shy to present one submission that depicted Woody as a sperm (Vasyukova, 23, seems unaware it was a reference to Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask), and hid it. Allen looked through the rest of the ideas, some of them clever and artistic, some mind-blowingly amateurish, and picked four favorites — including an “interactive” pair of oversize glasses on a stick, which he liked most of all.
Vasyukova returned to Kaliningrad triumphant, and now it was the city officials’ turn to panic: The nebulous project had just been greenlit by the Woodman himself, but as they assumed it was a joke, no funds had been allocated for it. Vasyukova says that she and friends are currently trying to get Ray-Ban to sponsor the glasses statue, and the city is frantically looking for an appropriate spot.
We’ve contacted Leslee Dart, who will neither confirm nor deny any of this. In the meantime, we present what Vasyukova says were Woody Allen’s four preferred submissions for a monument to himself. Our personal favorite is the one at the top of the post that imagines Woody as a sad-sack add-on to the existing statue of Immanuel Kant, Koenigsberg’s most famous native — pigeon included.*
*parts of this post have been changed since original publication