December 8, 2021

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Paul Thomas Anderson on "Licorice Pizza" and Age Distinction

Paul Thomas Anderson on "Licorice Pizza" and  Age Difference

Possibly Paul Thomas Anderson introduced the fog with him. The 51-year-old director had simply returned from a visit to London, the place his final movie, “Phantom Thread,” was set, and now the sky above his native San Fernando Valley was choked by darkish, portentous clouds.

“I prefer it like this,” Anderson stated as we sat outdoors a vegan Mexican restaurant within the Studio Metropolis neighborhood. “You by no means get the fog cowl right here. Take it whilst you can!”

Anderson is the auteur who made the sky rain frogs in “Magnolia”; in entrance of his digicam, even Southern California’s usually placid climate has the potential for grandeur. The films he has set right here, together with “Boogie Nights,” have an interesting sprawl not in contrast to the Valley itself, and Anderson has returned to his dwelling turf for his ninth characteristic, “Licorice Pizza,” opening Friday.

The Seventies-set film stars Cooper Hoffman, son of Anderson’s onetime muse, Philip Seymour Hoffman, as a smooth-talking excessive schooler named Gary, who flirts shamelessly with Alana (Alana Haim), a 20-something woman serving to to take class photos. She rebuffs his advances, however there’s nonetheless one thing about this guileless hustler that intrigues her, they usually turn into pals, enterprise companions and finally one thing extra.

Hoffman is good and interesting, however the revelation of “Licorice Pizza” is Haim, a marvelously spiky display screen presence. Although she had by no means led a film earlier than, Anderson has directed several music videos she appeared in together with her sisters Danielle and Este, who collectively kind the rock band Haim. “It’s humorous, as a result of she’s not the most effective musician within the band, however she’s the most effective actress,” Anderson stated.

Listed here are edited excerpts from our dialog.

How did you get into the orbit of Haim and meet Alana Haim within the first place?

That story is wild. I first heard their music on the radio in about 2012, the song “Forever.” Then I heard it time and again and I began to assume, “This tune is following me round.” I learn just a little bit about them, realized they have been from Studio Metropolis. We invited them to our home for dinner, after which they revealed to me that their mom was a girl named Donna Rose, who was my elementary-school artwork instructor.

You had no concept?

None. I’m the daddy of three ladies, and you’ll think about and hope that your daughters would develop into this miraculous. However there was one thing else I couldn’t put my finger on, some unexplainable feeling that I had, so after they instructed me that their mom had been my instructor, every little thing made sense. Like, why did I’ve this bizarre obsession with these three ladies enjoying music?

And their mom was an enormous affect on me. I went to a college with, like, white-haired women who have been tough, and there was one girl with lengthy, stunning, flowing brown hair — who regarded precisely like Alana, by the way in which. I used to be in love together with her as a younger boy, completely smitten. She would sing songs throughout class, and she or he was the precise reverse of each different instructor. In order that cemented the connection in a fairly severe approach. Our collaboration was extra than simply directing their music movies — our households turned intertwined.

And when did you zero in on Alana because the lead in “Licorice Pizza”?

The music movies typically concentrate on [her older sister] Danielle, as a result of she’s the lead singer. However once I considered this story that I had, it match Alana.


I’ve seen Alana’s ferociousness. She might seem like a Jewish woman from the Valley, however she’s form of a ’30s throwback, fast-talking, very humorous, very sharp. You do not need to problem her in a struggle with phrases, as a result of she is going to win.

Did the studio need you to solid a longtime actress as a substitute of Alana?

It was no battle. MGM trusted my observe report, I suppose. By the way in which, I wouldn’t need to take into consideration having to persuade one other actress to not put on make-up and drop that degree of vainness that appears to encompass lots of younger actresses. It takes any individual with some guts to say, “It’s unimaginable to justify sporting make-up within the San Fernando Valley in 1973, subsequently I gained’t do it.” It feels like not that massive a deal, nevertheless it’s an enormous deal for lots of people.

You wrote the movie with Alana in thoughts. Did you additionally consider Cooper whereas writing it?

No. Midway via, he popped into my thoughts, however I shortly put the lid again on that thought.


I’ve been asking myself why. It’s in all probability as a result of I used to be protecting, considering, “Grasp on a second, there’s a standard approach to do that, and there are lots of younger actors on the market.” However I wasn’t discovering anyone that appeared to have the identical soulfulness I knew he had. Everyone appeared precocious, maybe too educated at too younger an age.

It was odd, the way in which every little thing began to line up. This was a really homegrown movie the place I’m casting from a pool of my life, not only a assortment of actors that I’ve auditioned. How am I going to enter into this with the lead actor being any individual that I don’t know personally and intimately? However as a matter of reality, I didn’t actually inform him what I used to be considering. I stated, “Simply take a look at this script, and possibly you possibly can assist me learn it out loud so I can hear one thing.”

You’re secretly auditioning the folks in your life on a regular basis, aren’t you?

Precisely. After all, it didn’t work in any respect. He noticed proper via it.

While you’re casting any individual like Cooper Hoffman, who has by no means led a film earlier than, what are you fascinated with how the celebrity from this may change his life?

You consider locking the door and throwing away the important thing and defending them. Or, extra realistically, holding their hand and guiding them via a inventive endeavor, and displaying them that the rationale you do it’s for the collaboration and the expertise. Nevertheless it’s a superb query. One other approach to phrase the query is, “Have you ever ever considered why you’re making an attempt to spoil this particular person’s life?” [Laughs.]

Does it shock you ways some individuals are reacting to the age distinction between Alana and Gary?

There’s no line that’s crossed, and there’s nothing however the appropriate intentions. It will shock me if there was some sort of kerfuffle about it, as a result of there’s not that a lot there. That’s not the story that we made, in any sort of approach. There isn’t a provocative bone on this movie’s physique.

There’s a minimum of one provocative bone on this movie’s physique. I am considering of the scenes with a white restaurateur, performed by John Michael Higgins, the place he talks to his Japanese spouse in an accent so offensive that my viewers truly gasped.

Effectively, that’s totally different. I feel it will be a mistake to inform a interval movie via the eyes of 2021. You’ll be able to’t have a crystal ball, it’s a must to be sincere to that point. Not that it wouldn’t occur proper now, by the way in which. My mother-in-law’s Japanese and my father-in-law is white, so seeing folks communicate English to her with a Japanese accent is one thing that occurs on a regular basis. I don’t assume they even know they’re doing it.

Gary and Alana are fascinated by Hollywood. While you have been rising up within the San Fernando Valley, what did Hollywood imply to you?

I made the error of considering that there was some magical place over the rainbow that you could possibly get to the place movies have been made, when in actual fact that’s simply not the case in any respect. Hollywood is Warner Bros. Hollywood is Burbank. Bedford Falls [from “It’s a Wonderful Life”] was not shot in Bedford Falls, it was shot in Encino.

Although your dad labored in tv, you continue to believed that Hollywood was some mystical place over the hill from the valley?

In all probability, as a result of discuss a special time. It was a time when films have been magical, and TV was simply one thing you had in a field at dwelling. These days are lengthy gone, ? I used to be on the workplace the opposite day and a girl stated, “I’ve seen this good new movie. It’s known as ‘Dopesick,’ with Michael Keaton.” I stated, “I feel that’s a restricted sequence.” She stated, “Yeah, no matter.” She doesn’t actually take into consideration movies as a lot as I do otherwise you do. She was similar to, “What are you speaking about? It’s a movie to me.”

These traces are being blurred, however generally I watch a restricted sequence and I feel, “Shouldn’t this be a film?”

It’s an ideal format when it really works. It’s thrilling. Then once more, so are sequence. I’ve by no means dipped a toe in that world, however I can think about it being very troublesome to maintain the lifetime of a narrative for greater than two, three, 4 seasons.

Have folks ever coaxed you to dip a toe in that world?

No, nobody asks. I’m simply form of enjoying in my very own nook of the sandbox. As a author, I feel we’ve fantasies if you wrestle with modifying materials down: “I’ve a lot materials, maybe it is a restricted sequence.” When in actual fact, no, it’s not, you simply have to edit down your story. I imply, a movie ought to ideally be two hours. That’s after they’re at their greatest. I’ve missed that mark a number of instances, however that’s actually the aim.

The final time I spoke to you, for “Phantom Thread,” you stated that after filming in London, your subsequent film would in all probability be made right here within the valley.

Did I actually? Isn’t that attention-grabbing. I ponder how severe I used to be.

Any guesses, then, on the place you’ll need to go after “Licorice Pizza”?

I’ve just a few various things that I’ve written that have to be addressed, however I don’t know what’s going to find yourself taking place. It’s like going purchasing after you’ve simply eaten a full meal: You already know you’ll be hungry in a minute, however you’re nonetheless full. And time is extra priceless than something in relation to writing. [Pause.] Effectively, a deadline is extra priceless. However I additionally love the sound they make after they whoosh proper previous my eyes.

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