Portugal Press Conference, Transcribed By Ruth Goncalves
February 5th, 2003
The moderator introduces Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA) and Punch Drunk Love (PDL) to the reporters. PTA wonders about the guy next to him on the table. Its the translator. They greet and the interpreter muses "If you need me – I’m here.". PTA jokes about how this resembles the speech that Colin Powell is giving at the UN "Not that is more important than this movie..."
PTA: Thank you for coming. Thank you for having me. I’m just sneaking into Portugal, pretending I’m doing press for the movie.
>> After Boogie Nights & Magnolia what made you direct this movie, this kind of story – which is a true story in some way. What was the basic thing that made you write it?
PTA: I only think about that when asked the question...It was a movie...I wrote it to try and make a romantic comedy, a romance feature, to work with Adam Sandler who I thought was a wonderful, terrific actor. To make a movie that took place in Hawaii. Just thinking about certain things I would like to do. It was a nice story. Try and make a Love picture, that was it. If you finish something you always want to make sure you go the other way cause you’re kinda bored with, maybe, cancer and long movies so, I tried to make a sweet picture.
>> Do you feel this is the dessert after the big meal in Magnolia.
PTA: (bluntly) No.
>> Cause of the pudding.
PTA: That’s good!...Sure, yeah.
>> Did you write the script with Sandler in mind?
PTA: I did. I wrote it with Adam in mind. I wrote a little bit before I met him, cause you don’t want to start writing the movie and found out I didn’t like him or something like that or that he was not a very nice guy. So, I started writing and then went to meet him. We got on pretty well and just talked about making a picture together. I found him to be one of my favorite actors to work with. I’ve always liked him. We have a show called Saturday Night Live, I know you don’t have it here but everybody seems to know it, and he’s terrific and so I’ve been aware of him for a long time on television.
>> On your research did you have to see all Adam Sandler’s movies?
PTA: (Sighs) That’s an insult to Adam isn’t it? (laugher in the audience) I can see right through that question. Yeah, well...I like his movies y’know...(pauses) You’re a snob... (laughter in the audience)
>> How much of Barry Egan’s is you - your creation - and how much is Adam Sandler’s? When you wrote the script you had a character in mind, but with Adam playing it how much of him did he put on the character, how much you put on the character?
PTA: I don’t know how to answer that because writing for him – I know is him, you also sort of write yourself cause you can’t help it. This stuff kinda comes up. I had a good friend who would always say yes before he said no. We would say "yeah...no, I don’t really want to do that" - And I kinda liked that - and I also come from a big family so I know what it’s like - that sort of frustration. You sort of feel tongue tied, that kinda thing - where you want to throw punches instead of saying anything. You don’t know what to say, you don’t know how to trust anybody – that kind of stuff and i see that with my other siblings a little bit. And then Adam and I were talking, he would improvise y’know. I never really remember exactly how that stuff goes a year or two later. It just all sort of gets into the plot and it happens.
>> Why Emily Watson?
PTA: Why, you don’t like her? (Laughter in the audience)
>> No, but Adam Sandler is more a comedian, Emily Watson more a drama actress. Joining the two of them, was it hard?
PTA: No, it was easy. That’s the most wonderful thing about movies, you get different people, from different types of movies or different walks of life, different pasts, different approaches to it. When you get together – that’s the benefit of making a movie. Emily comes from this theater background, she’s from the U.K, she’s really a woman, and Adam comes from stand up comedy. And I have my background. If the mix is good and its the right time in everyone else’s life you really get to learn a lot from the other person. I know that Emily and I are sort of more similar than we are from Adam – we’re a little bit too serious – drama queens a little bit – and Adam is just a funny guy who works spontaneously. Learning from other people is the best part of this job.
>> Do you feel that all of us are superheroes waiting for love to brings us to the clouds?
PTA: Yeah sure. I do believe that.
>> Is that your case?
PTA: Am I a superhero? (smiles) Am I in love? Yeah I am, sure. Yes.
>> All your movies have very strong supporting characters. This one, its only one. Is there a reason?
PTA: Well, I think is harder to make a story about one person cause you can’t keep cutting to another story. I found that really challenging. It was better for me that way. Not so many actors, it was more fun to do that.
>> Do you feel this movie brings Adam Sandler to the arthouse audience or PTA to the masses?
PTA: I don’t think it brings me to the masses. Is not as if this movie can succeed like Adam Sandler’s films normally do, which are very, very popular in the States but, they’re also made for kids – for younger kids – so they can’t really go see this movie because of the ratings and its a different style so, its not really for them so I think it brings Adam Sandler to different theaters were he might usually play, certainly less theaters that he might usually play.
>> Is it a challenge for yourself, to bring Tom Cruise in Magnolia ...
PTA: Is never a challenge if you’re with good people... Adam Sandler is...see, (gets defensive) Seems like there’s this confusion with Adam Sandler...Good is good. It doesn’t matter. People go...they’d be mad at him if he kept doing the same thing that he did and then, if he does something else there kinda very curious about it in a glancing way. Good is good. I just wonder when all of Adam Sandler stuff will go away and you just look at his performance. I know that in the states is a real benefit because he doesn’t do interviews – print interviews or tv promotion that sort of stuff. I think that’s a real benefit cause you don’t really know very much about his life. You don’t really know what his like and its great cause people want to know what his like. And they also benefit from me cause - he’s just like the guy in the movie – he’s hopefully like Barry Egan – some weird guy in a blue suit who has violent rages.
>> Do you ever think about giving Philip Seymour Hoffman a leading role? He’s always in your movies and he’s a great actor.
PTA: Yeah, maybe at some point but I think its just worked out perfectly the way it’s gone so I don’t regret that he’s not in the movie more or less, he always fits each time but it would be nice to make a movie where Phillip is the star.
>> Do you think this movie will ease up the pressure on your career?
PTA: What do you mean?
>> Cause after Boogie Nights and Magnolia, everyone was thinking PTA is the next best thing and after this one you can sort of take a break.
PTA: I don’t think like that, I don’t know. Have no idea. I don’t know, sorry. Y’know, if you start thinking about your career...I mean, its a really long life and I have a lot more to do – I think – I do each thing as it comes along. I don’t have any career strategies.
>> You didn’t feel any pressure after Magnolia?
>> But would you agree this is a lighter movie, with less complexities.
PTA: I suppose so, yeah (pauses and leans back) If I did fucking Magnolia again, everybody in this room would be "So, when you’re gonna do something different?" y’know... (giggles) You only need one Magnolia! You just have to keep it fresh, keep doing other things y’know? New things, new paths. There's no such thing as a light movie to me. You make something that its sort of more joyable or sweet – a date movie – or something like that, but, its no less work, headache, heartache. This one took even longer than Magnolia did. They’re all peculiar and particular. It’s the best thing about making movies, you go along and you can have a diary, a mile marker of who you were in a time.
>> But you have to admit Magnolia (people have to talk about it cause) its a landmark. You’re aware of that?
PTA: I’m not aware of that, no.
>> But it is!..
PTA: That’s nice. Good! (smiles)
>> So I guess is natural for people to raise their expectations, not in the sense of the movie is going to be ‘as good as’ or ‘even better’ but with the same weight.
PTA: Like a drama?
>> I’m not saying at all this is lighter than...
PTA: I know. They’re all just my state of mind, my movies at the time.
>> Actually, I think most people are going to agree that this is a smart move.
PTA: Boy, there’s so much talk about moves, and strategies, careers and stuff (the audience laughs)
>> Do you think you’ll ever be nominated for the Oscars?
PTA: No, not the movie. I think maybe...There’s a category that they like to nominate me as ‘the screenplay category'. They make me wear my tuxedo everytime I make a movie. And I go, and I sit, I know I’m not going to win. I get drunk in the bar, the ceremony lasts for 3 and a half hours and I loose. Even though I know I’m going to loose I get a little grumpy, drink some more and then have fun.
>> The actors that are in your movies, they’re nominated: Tom Cruise, Julianne...
PTA: Yeah, (interrupts) well, if you think - boy, you guys are tough with your ‘why Adam Sandler questions’ - (the audience laughs) (Kidding) Think about, y’know, actors in Hollywood, they’re like I should of play guy, fuck that guy – Adam Sandler, he’s not a real actor! Y’know, the academy is not gonna recognize Adam Sandler...
>> (Interrupts)...Or Phillip Seymour Hoffman?
PTA: Or Phillip Seymour. They’re still giving Oscars to little Ronnie Howard with Beautiful Mind (Laughs in the audience) Its not going to happen this year!
>> You often expressed the desire to film a musical. Do you still want to do that? Cause this film pretty much has a musical feeling. You have the tap dancing, the songs…
PTA: That’s right, yeah. Lots of music.
>> ...they dance, the camera dances. So, is this your idea of a musical or do you want to do a full proof musical?
PTA: To do a real one, for sure. Really, where, really , people sing. This is like, trying to be a musical but not technically a musical but its a musical in my heart. But I still want to do it, yeah.
>> I feel I have to be on the lobby with ‘fans of Adam Sandler’ so, let me just say: Thank you for giving him a good part. I also like Adam Sandler as a comedian but lately he hasn’t been in much good movies, not after the “Wedding Singer” so, Thank you!
PTA: OK (smiles) Thank you, you’re welcome. You can’t win them all.
>> Write more for Adam Sandler.
PTA: I will. I plan to! (smiles)
>> Do you always have to write with someone in mind?
PTA: It helps. Not all the time but it helps your imagination a bit.
>> You’ve met the real person?
PTA: Dave? The pudding guy? Yes, I did. He’s a very normal guy, his not crazy in any way. He’s a civil engineer in upstate California and people in upstate California are a little bit stranger (laughs in the audience) He doesn’t have a bad temper, he doesn’t wear a blue suit, nothing like that. He’s a really regular guy with 2 kids. He’s the kind of guy, when he got the million frequent flight miles, he flew to Sweden to buy a Volvo cause it was going to save him 500 dollars. He’s that kind of guy.
>> What do you think Colin Powell is saying right now? What do you think about the war?
PTA: What do I think? What does everybody think about the war? Doesn’t everybody think the same thing?
>> Bush likes war!
PTA: Does he?
>> Doesn’t it look like he likes war?
PTA: Sure does, doesn’t it? (Laughter in the audience) I don’t know if he likes war, I think he likes talking about it.Y’know when he does this, he’s speaking and speaking and lean forward and gives a little smile afterwards. He gave his speech at The state of the Union and you could see this wonderful moment when he felt kinda free and he started to improvise – he says: this is a bad man’ – and then he went back for his speech. (Audience giggles)
I know...That’s our fearless leader...(audience laughs) Unfortunately its a very scary time. You can joke about it, I suppose you should joke about it, but its all a bit spooky. Its nice to be here while all this is happening. It's better to be here than there, closer to what’s really happening. I don’t know what’s going to happen... (pauses) y’know, they’re actors, there not really world leaders, they’re politicians so I like to think what’s more important for him is to be around for 8 more year. (One reporter makes a face) -Yeah, I know God forbid- But you have to imagine, or assume... I just don’t know what he’s thinking – it seems to be preposterous
>> He's thinking war and oil...
PTA: Yeah, but it can’t be that simple cause he’s a politician. Politicians want to assure their longevity and if he fucks this up. I the meanwhile the American economy are going down the tubes and sooner or later people who voted for him will say ‘what the fuck is up is Iraq, I can’t feed my kids, y’know. I just hold out, I hope that the only change for, not a war, he would rather have people like him and seems like everybody is telling him this is insane. I hope, we’ll see what happens. Its been an interesting few weeks.
>> Ok, I’m going back to a lighter subject... You have a lot of film references in PDL. There’s the Shelley Duvall song in Robert Altman’s Popeye, you have L.O.V.E written on the knuckles from Robert Mitchum character in the Night of the Hunter, you have Barry Egan’s blue suit that kinda reminds us of Gene Kelly character in Singing in the rain and, I dare to say, there’s an homage to Charlie Chaplin in Guzman’s character, Lance I think, cause he’s so funny, he doesn’t say anything and I laughed with him a lot. So, is this an homage to th films you love or a tribute to the directors that somehow influenced your work as a film maker. Its a long question, sorry...
PTA: Well, that stuff always kinda gets there whether you mean to or not. “He needs me" is from Popeye and my love for Altman is always been clear but, I gotta tell you, I haven’t seen Popeye since I was a kid. I don’t know the movie that well but I know th soundtrack cause my girlfriend has the record and she played it for me. So it was just nice to have it there, to have the song. It’s nice when Robert Altman sees it he can hear that song again cause I think he kinda wanted to forget that song and that movie a little bit.
>> So, what did he say?
PTA: He said "That’s a good song. I like that song" He has some very bad memories of making that movie and I think he didn’t want to hear about it again but was happy that the song got used in another way. I heard that Harry Nilsson try to sue him. There were a lot of drugs going on when they made that movie (Laughs in the audience) He just said it was all drugs and all insanity and everybody lost their mind there in Malta. It was a really notorious and terrible time for everybody, and Harry Nilsson wrote all these songs, they recorded the songs and then he kinda went crazy and ran out of drugs and said ‘I not gonna let you use any of this music i made for your movie'. In the meanwhile there’s 800 people were down there to make the movie. He tried to sue him and I guess Harry Nilsson went back home, got more drugs, it was fine, everything was ok and he let him do it. So, it put a nice memory on "He needs me" for Robert Altman. And those other things are kinda assets, they’re not really homages, those sort of things - assets, things that get so far into your DNA or blood stream that you recycle them, you believe as your own, but you really owe it to someone else and forget, and then your reminded and natural stuff starts happening. That’s how that stuff goes usually, if you grow up on movies y’know? (Pauses. Smiles to the reporter) I’m gonna tell Luis Guzman you thought of Charlie Chaplin when you saw him, he’ll be very happy.
>> I just love the guy!
PTA: Me too!
>> He’s so funny. Cause he doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t say much, just the expression on his face and even the way he falls...I don’t know if its the timing, or his face or...
PTA: (interrupts) It’s his face, its pretty funny! (Laughs in the audience)
>> Imagine, one of these days, you lose your control and the studio won’t let you do the stuff you want. Are you going to do a kind of European project like Brian De Palma did with Femme Fatale.
PTA: Is that when Hollywood kick you out? It that what you see in my future? (Laughs)
>> (Kidding) You never know...
PTA: That’s the pattern right? I’ll be in exile...I do plan to do a movie in Europe at some point, (whether) its because they kick me out of Hollywood, I don’t know.
>> Are they trying to tame you?
PTA: They pay my bills so, they’ve got me pretty well tamed already (Laughs in the audience) I’m putting money in the bank so they got me!
>> You have to admit that in some way you don’t really fit the standard assumption of what a writer/director should do. The film pretty much follows all sort of rules. PDL is not even a movie that you can laugh out loud. Do you ever consider that you’re probably an ‘oddity’ by Hollywood’s current standards?
PTA: Listen, I understand. And I think, because I understand, that’s why I work so well in Hollywood cause the movies I make are not very expensive. Its a real clear cut relationship. Hollywood has to make a certain amount of movies every year. They have to. They just want to make money and that’s fine. They employ so many people in a studio, they have to keep it forward. You make something like Spiderman which costs a lot of money but makes tones and tones of money. Someone like me comes along, I’m making movies that don’t cost a lot of money, they consistently break even and even make a little bit of money so its completely fare investment on their part and its fare on my part. I have movie stars on my films generally that sort of make sense. So maybe its odd that’s coming out of there but financially in Hollywood it makes perfect sense.
>> So, in a way, you’re taking them for a ride as well?
PTA: No, we’re all in it together. I get to make my movies, they get to own it. I have a prior ownership about it and they have a propriety ownership, and that’s a completely fare relationship but they have a ownership and everybody is happy, there’s no fighting at all. I haven’t fucked with anybody about making a movie since my first one y’know? And that’s cause you’re young, you’re a kid and you don’t know how to do it but Hollywood is a tremendous, wonderful place to work, very fair place, really, cause its bottom line its always clear what it wants to do. My films don’t loose money, they make money. So, its easy to work there, its a wonderful place to work, and people that pay for my films are genuine creative like, go to dinner with and know, y’know. I don’t know who Hollywood is. Hollywood is more an idea. Hollywood just means the bad stuff, the silly stuff, culturally the place itself it’s a little a bit spooky. I love Hollywood.
>> Does anyone has anymore questions? (Kidding ) Why Adam Sandler? (Laughs in the audience)
>> Why do you always shave your head before each film?
PTA: I don’t. Maybe there was a rumor...Well...I used to do that – some affectation or some kind of thing you come up with - cause you think its good luck or think better or something like that, but I haven’t done that... It used to be good luck. There’s an old saying that if you wear the same thing everyday single day, Albert Einstein used to do it... you’re not worried about how cool you should be looking or what you are wearing or what your hair looks like. You don’t have to wash it. You just go. That’s the bottom line...
Thanks everybody. Thank you very much.