Saturday, November 06, 1999

Interview: USC Daily Trojan

USC-Daily Trojan, Written By David Jay Lasky
November 6, 1999

Director-Writer Anderson Worked Hard on Film

Magnolia is a character-driven drama with an exceptional musical sequence and amazing special effects in a long yet appropriate three hours. It is difficult to even imagine how it was pulled off successfully.


"I wanted the film to be a lush look at America," said director and writer Paul Thomas Anderson. "I felt really anxious. I wanted to write something light, quick and cheap. I just kept writing. I had writer's block in reverse."

Because he has so much to write, Anderson kept the film at three hours following the predominate theme of family. "Family is just a big issue to me," he said. "You write what you want to be. You write behavior. The film is overwhelming, huge, lush and celebratory. However, I had no interest in making a millennium movie."

Julianne Moore, who stars in the film, agrees that Magnolia is not targeted toward the millennium hype. "I don't care about the millennium," she said. "This is a film about the human condition, magic, realism, extremism, how much we are alike."

Because the film follows nine different stories that intertwine, many actors appear on screen, from William H. Macy to Moore to Tom Cruise, in a supporting role.

"I am working with actors I am friends with and who are privy to my work," Anderson said. "There were no egos in the room at all."

It is clear that each person had respect for everyone else involved in the film, especially toward to the director. "Each segment was big. A lesser man would have checked himself into a hospital," Macy said about Anderson. "He is so generous of spirit. He howls through the middle of scenes. He concentrates on the moment. I think he was more emboldened because of the success of Boogie Nights."

Macy, an Oscar nominee for Fargo describes his role in the film as a man who is "leaving the past, trying to step forward, but (is) out of step and falling into the future. He's lost."

The biggest challenge for Macy was in the scene at a bar. "There were a lot of issues at stake," he said. "It was very slippery. I had to learn it pretty solidly. It was more emotional than literal."

Moore plays the much younger wife of character Jason Robards, portrayed by Earl Partridge. "She's unhappy, going for her medication, depressed," Moore said. "She's very much a person, though. The drug store scene shows more of herself, how little she likes herself."

Even though Cruise only has a small role in Magnolia, Anderson calls the part an "actor's dream role, he had to play Dr. Bill, this repressed character for, like, two years. Any actor would run to play this energetic character after that kind of role. I wrote the part specifically for Tom Cruise, though."

Magnolia took six months to shoot because of the various plot lines. "All these characters are so original," Macy said. "The thing was so big. The only thing to do was jump in and go."

Although the film ended up being long, the director still has more footage. "I cut out twenty minutes of the film," he said. "The full version will be released on DVD."

While Magnolia is sure to spark the attention of the public, including the Academy, Anderson said his next film will be different, most likely a "90-minute 'ha-ha' comedy." Until then, he will be getting much praise for his hard work and innovative script on Magnolia.

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