NEW YORK – It was showtime in Manhattan Supreme Court yesterday when Woody Allen took the stand for a little stand-up during his civil suit against his former producer Jean Doumanian.
Allen is suing Doumanian, her boyfriend and their production companies for more than $10 million. The key issue is over money he believes the former backers owe him for eight movies they made together.
The perpetually rumpled director — wearing olive slacks and a blue dress shirt — seemed at ease, but had some problems hearing his lawyer's questions and Justice Ira Gammerman's orders.
When Gammerman told him repeatedly to cut short a rambling answer, Allen seemed amazed to learn the judge had yelled cut.
"Stop talking?" Allen asked, flailing his arms and getting a huge laugh from the packed courtroom. "Yes," Gammerman replied. "I'm the director here!"
During another of Allen's rambling responses, Gammerman interrupted him, and offered, " 'Yes' is the answer."
Allen then turned to the judge and said, "Maybe [my lawyer Alyson Weiss] could ask you the questions!"
Gammerman told him not to worry — "If I know the answer, I'll answer it."
The repartee came during a civil suit Allen filed against his former business partners, Doumanian and Jacqui Safra, whom he claims bilked him out of more than $12 million while producing seven of his movies.
Allen testified that it was Doumanian and her financier boyfriend, Safra, who had suggested that they work together to make movies, and Gammerman asked Allen which of his former friends first made the suggestion.
The Annie Hall director said he couldn't remember.
"If I said they said it unison, would you believe me?" Allen asked. "No," the judge laughed.
Allen was more serious as he described his relationship with Doumanian.
"I've known Jean Doumanian for 40 years . . . We're close friends. Close as family," the 66-year-old New York icon said.
"We went out to dinner all the time, and traveled together," Allen said.
Asked by Weiss how often they'd go out, he replied, "Five times a week — sometimes more."
Doumanian's side charges the people responsible for the Manhattan Money Mystery are six Allen's friends and business associates, all of whom hoped to profit by driving a wedge between the best buds.
Allen gave a spirited defense of the six, whom Doumanian lawyer Peter Parcher derided as "Hollywood Harrys."
"I don't associate with Hollywood Harrys," Allen said, adding the six people Parcher referred to — Allen's sister, Letty Aronson, business manager, Stephen Tenenbaum, lawyer Irwin Tenenbaum, former agent Sam Cohn and producers Charles Joffe and James Rollins — are "highly regarded members of the show-business community."
"They've dealt not just with me, but people much more celebrated than I am. They have many, many years of unblemished records," Allen said.
He added that Stephen Tenenbaum — who Parcher described as the one responsible for duping the director into thinking Doumanian had ripped him off — has "been my business manager for many, many years," and also represented funnymen Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.
He also denied that his sister was a high-powered spy in Doumanian's office who could have tipped him off to any funny business.
"She worked in Jean's office as an unspecified underling," the Hollywood Ending star said.
When Weiss asked if Aronson was, as Parcher described, Allen's "eyes and ears" at Doumanian's company, he said, "I didn't have eyes and ears at Sweetland. If I did, I wouldn't be in this position today."
Stephen Tenenbaum congratulated Allen on his smooth testimony when court broke for the day.
"I'm an old witness," Allen said, apparently referring to his messy custody clash with Mia Farrow. "I've spent a lot of time on the witness stand."
Gammerman, meanwhile, showed he's familiar with Allen's career. When Allen said he helmed his first flick in 1968, the judge named that movie - Take the Money and Run.