The Swirling Sphere, Written By David Bradley
October ??, 1997
American movie Director Paul Thomas Anderson is just 27-years-old. His reputation is one of frankness and no bullshit and he's celebrating the success of his nostalgic porn flick, Boogie Nights which has revitalized Burt Reynolds acting career and put the former Calvin Klein icon and hip hop name Mark Wahlberg back on everyone's lips. But as David Bradley discovers, this brash and funky wunderkind prefers to keep certain matters tucked snuggly beneath the rim of his hat.
It's probably too simple a question really, but one that's just aching to be asked: Did Paul Thomas Anderson, writer/director of Boogie Nights, do plenty of research for the porno saga? The answer: "Sure, man of course. I had to get a feel for it, so me and the cast and crew screened a lot of porno movies during the production shoot, while I've personally been watching them for ages now, you know." So you're a fan then? "Naturally. As a kid, I used to watch them from two different perspective's: one, as the drooling, pubescent kid who breathed heavily, and also on a more serious, scholarly level, carefully noting the styles, the trends, the overall artistry of it all."
When I ask if this is as much hot air as it sounds, Anderson laughs and jokes, "of course. I watched them for a fucking thrill. So did you. So did everyone. Anyone else is a liar."
When it comes to praising his ballsy casting, Anderson virtually gushes praise for one and all. "Julianne (Moore) was better than I could have ever hoped as Amber, and I had John (Reilly), Philip Hall and Philip Hoffman from my first film Hard Eight - I think those guys are like the very best actors in the world."
Mark Wahlberg, the ex-rapper starring as porno stud 'Dirk Diggler' was 'dynamite', while Anderson thought Burt Reynolds, as adult director Jack Horner, was 'absolutely brilliant', but then explains a minor qualm he had after putting Reynolds in what has since become a pretty major comeback.
"I just imagined Burt for this part, and he luckily jumped at the chance after reading the script, but then after the deal was signed and sealed, I began to wonder whether or not some people were going to get the wrong idea. Here's Burt walking around in the '70s clothes and behaving in this rather outrageous way - they might think this was some sort of in-joke. However, most people have just looked at it as a great performance only, which is good, although I don't think Burt really cares now, after all the acclaim.
In terms of his chosen material, Anderson was never actually worries about what he could and couldn't show onscreen, despite chronicling the lives of fictional members of the LA porn scene of the late '70s. "The actors all agreed, they knew what they were in for, they were cool and it was a very easy shoot. As for the censors, they ordered maybe 45 seconds of stuff to be trimmed, mainly from the first scene where Dirk and Amber have sex, and even that was mainly bare-asses and grunting. Tame stuff, you know, but that's censors for you, and they could never touch anything else, as I knew what I was doing, and played carefully. In fact, in the end, I think what we managed was much more powerful because of what we didn't show - the censors could never cut the guts of the film out."
Having worked on the celebrated movie for two years and just celebrated his 27th birthday, Anderson's on a roll, despite being young. "That shouldn't be a handicap, you know. I'm working on a new movie now, and I'm hoping to put Julianne, Burt, Heather (Graham), John and everyone in it - they're happy to work for me again - and it's going to be just great."
What's it about, Paul?
"I can't tell you. All I can say is: life's pretty sweet right now."
Come on Paul, you can tell me: you've done gambling (Hard Eight) and porn, what now?
"I don't know. Maybe gambling and porn. In Australia. Maybe you could be in it. Wow - that'd be cool."