Thursday, December 23, 1999

Interview: Magnolia Shooting Script Book Introduction

Magnolia Shooting Script/Companion Book, Written By Paul Thomas Anderson
October 1999

I entered into writing this script with a massive dedication to writing something small and intimate and cheap. One hundred and ninety pages later, I feel pretty good about the result.

This is, I believe, an interesting study in a writer writing from his gut. Writing from the gut usually equals quite a many pages. Being a “new, hot young director” usually means that, for once, you can get away with not cutting anything. So for better or worse, consider this screenplay completely written from the gut.

I am from the San Fernando Valley. For many years, I was ashamed of this fact, thinking if I was not from the big city of New York or the farm fields of Iowa that I had nothing to say. Once I got over who I was and where I was from, I found my love for Los Angeles. I hope that this is a true Los Angeles Movie. In particular, I have aimed to make the Mother Of All Movies About The San Fernando Valley.

I write to music so I better own up to stealing quite a many lines from Aimee Mann, who provides all the songs in the film. The first line of Aimee’s song “Deathly” goes something like this: “Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing me again?” This may sound familiar. You can find it somewhere in the final thirty pages of this script. I heard that line and wrote backwards. This “original” screenplay could, for all intents and purposes, be called an adaption of Aimee Mann songs. I owe her some cash, probably.

The connection of writing “from the gut” and “writing to music” cannot be found any clearer than in the “Wise Up” section of the screenplay. I had reached the end of Earl’s monologue and was searching for a little vibe – I was lost a bit, and on the headphones came Aimee singing “Wise Up.” I wrote as I listened – and the most natural course of action was that everyone should sing – sing how the feel. In the most good old-fashioned Hollywood Musical Way, each character, and the writer, began singing how they felt. This is one of those things that happens, and I was either too stupid or not scared enough to hit “delete” once done. Next thing you know, you’re filming it. And I’m Really Happy It Happened.

I’ll try and narrow down the blah-blah-blah here and get on with it, but being a writer, I can’t stop, so let me thank a few people who made this possible.

I’d like to thank Fiona Apple. She is my girlfriend and we share a home. She is a songwriter. She is one of the greatest songwriters, and she has taught me something that I’d never really known before: Honest and clear is possible and good and it makes for better storytelling. I think I knew this before I met her but I didn’t exactly know how to do it.

While I was writing this script, she was writing songs. I was able to witness the translation of emotion into verbs, nouns, and letters that equaled “Lines in a song.” She taught me about clarity and about something I’d only sort-a-had, which is this thing I’ve talked about: “Trust the gut.”

“Trust the gut” equals quite a many pages. So blame her. Thank you, love.

Thank you to My Actors. I like to call them “My Actors” because I’m incredibly possessive and protective of them, and all I do is in aid of watching them act. I think I’ve done best when I think of them. I aim to please them, I aim to watch them work and the result has meant quite a many pages. Blame them.

Thank you to my producer, JoAnne Sellar, for waiting patiently. Patience and constant support is what everyone needs, and adding some love and affection and parenting into potion usually equals quite a many pages. So blame her.

Thank you to anyone who wanted to listen or read or see this picture. I’ve never been so happy, emotional, embarrassed, humble, egotistical, or surprised with myself as I am with Magnolia. I hope all that that implies is good for reading. I set out to write a great movie. In the most honest and unashamed way, I truly set myself up to write a great movie. I’m not ashamed. I’ve written from my gut and I will not be ashamed. Besides, it’s far too late now.

And one thing I know is this: I’d do it again. So blame me.

Thank you, Dylan Tichenor, Jen Barrons, Daniel Lupi, Mike De Luca, “An Incomplete Education,” by Judy Jones and William Wilson, Charles Fort, Michael Penn, Jon Brion, Bumble Ward, Peter Sorel, Brian Kehew, Esther Margolis, Linda Sunshine, and Timothy Shaner.

Extra Special Thanks to John Lesher. Someday I’ll write the true thank-you page your way.

P.T. Anderson
Los Angeles, California
October 1999

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