Georgia Mason University, Written By Skylar Miller
October 20, 1997
Paul Thomas Anderson, director and writer of Boogie Nights, sat in the lounge at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., dressed in a 70s style shirt. Before we had a chance to speak, we heard a loud humming sound coming from somewhere in the distance.
"What is that noise? A vibrator?" were the first words out of Anderson's mouth. I knew from the start that this would be an interesting interview. Along for the ride was a reporter from The Hatchet, George Washington University's student newspaper.
Skyler Miller: What was your inspiration for writing this film?
Paul Thomas Anderson: There was a couple of different things. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which is where 90 percent of all pornos are made. You know, its really the capital of porn. So, it was always sort of surrounding me in a peripheral way. And it was just sort of a fascination with ... pornography. Probably on a filmmaking level just it was really liking the concept of it as a genre and always wishing it were better. There was a camp aspect that certainly is there, but there's also a really sort of sad and depressing element that's there.
SM: That's interesting because right before I saw Boogie Nights I was thinking about what it would be like if a real director tried to make a good pornography film, and this film reminded me a lot of that idea -- to bring high production values to pornography. That idea seems to be represented with Jack's character.
PTA: He couldn't quite get it, but all you really want is the "A" for effort. That's what I like about Jack -- no, he's not really getting it right, but he sure knows the music, at least. And that's the thing that's interesting to me is that in the 70s there was a glimmer of hope that pornography could have been a new genre. There was a series of films that John Holmes came up with where he played this character "Johnny Wadd" that was this kind of suave, sophisticated detective guy. They were wonderfully structured, where he was trying to solve the case, you know, but also having to have sex with all of these beautiful women to get the clues. John Holmes created that character in the 70s and you could see this character start out as this suave smooth guy, but as drugs and ego and whatever else took its hold on him, the character totally changed. So he went from charming the clues out of these ladies to beating the shit out of them and you're watching this guy and wondering: where did it all go wrong?
SM: How much did you have to struggle with the ratings board to get an "R" rating? Was that a problem?
PTA: Yes and no. The funny thing is if you had asked me that question like three months ago I would have said, "It's fucking hell, I'm miserable. This is the worst experience of my life." But now I look back and its like "It wasn't that fucking bad." It lasted four months. It was a negotiation like anything else. We submitted the film to them and they said it was an "NC-17" and contractually I was obligated to an "R" so it was a negotiation of just trimming stuff back. They're good people actually, the MPAA. They're not like evil faceless parents who are telling you what to cut. Because they're not specific with you. That's the key thing. They don't tell you how to cut the movie. They would just break it down into specific scenes, and it was just trimming frames off. They'd say "There's too many shots of humping. His ass is humping eight times here. Can you maybe cut a couple out?" So I'd cut one out, submit it, and then they'd maybe ask me to cut one more hump out. It would go along like that, and finally you get there. At the end it was only 40 seconds worth of stuff.
SM: Several actors from your previous film, Hard Eight are also in this film. Did you know those actors before Hard Eight or were you introduced to them through that film and just wanted to have them in your next movie?
PTA: All of them I knew from Hard Eight because I had written the script for Philip Baker Hall and John Reilly and for Philip Hoffman. I didn't know them personally when I made "Hard Eight" but I met them because I sent them the script and said "I wrote this for you."
GW reporter: I heard a rumor that Mark Wahlberg was not the original choice for this role. It was Leonardo DiCaprio.
PTA: True. Not a rumor. But thank god. Not because Leo wouldn't have been good, but thank god because Mark is fucking phenomenal and I'm just so happy that he made the movie.
GW: I heard another rumor that when Wahlberg read the script he really wanted it and claimed that he was an inch longer than DiCaprio.
PTA: Well, yeah. True. Leonardo showed me his penis and then Mark showed me his penis, and I said "Mark, you're in."
SM: Was there an actual choice like that between the two actors?
PTA: There wasn't actually. The truth is that Leonardo decided to do "Titanic." Only time will tell if that was a good choice. I'm a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan, don't get me wrong, but when I saw The Basketball Diaries, I thought, "Leonardo just got his ass kicked by Marky." He was so fucking good in that movie. So when Leo was talking about doing Titanic, I just thought of Mark.