Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Interview: Academy Conversations

Transcript of the Academy Conversations Q&A by David Chien
On the origins of the story

Paul Thomas Anderson: I've had a lot of this story for the better part of 10 years in various ways and I just got serious about writing it five or six years ago. But the one thing I always had was this character of a sailor coming back from the war.

On setting the film in the 1950s 

Paul Thomas Anderson: There is an attraction to me to that era. I mean, besides just the obvious - great costumes, great music, that kind of food and drink really - if you get the chance to do this, to kind of time travel a little bit, and to try to understand what was going on. You know, my father was around during that time so - and he's not around anymore - probably in an effort to kind of understand more what his experiences were, I probably was just digging around to see what it was like.

On his attraction to the era

Paul Thomas Anderson: Looking after the war, sort of all this optimism but a tremendous amount of destruction in the background, that's a great dramatic situation for this character, I think. Kind of a good venue to tell the story in.

On the music in the film

Paul Thomas Anderson: You have to kind of let that stuff go a teeny bit. Like, there's musicologists out there probably who would kill us for using "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan" which was released it at least two years after our time in the film - which is an absolute no-no to some people but you just have to fudge the details a little bit and hopefully nobody notices.

On his influences for the film

Paul Thomas Anderson: My influences are long and huge. We keep Turner Classics on at my house all the time, just a 24 hour I.V. of information and feeling and if you're cooking breakfast, you look over and see something that somebody did 60 years ago, you think, man… and hopefully it just gets in you and you sort of go into a film and thinking about ideas or the films you have seen. Days into it when the clock is ticking and the schedule is moving at a pace, hopefully you sort of become yourself and you're just trying to film it right and uniquely and simply. It's sort of the thing I love about most films you see on Turner - just how muscular and strong and simple they are.

 On assembling the cast

Paul Thomas Anderson: I always wanted to work with Joaquin. I tried to work with him before and it never worked out and this is the opportunity that came up and the time was right and the character was right and there was a great mutual admiration and respect between Phillip and Joaquin and I think a kind of excitement they had with each other, so yeah. I feel the same way about Amy as well. I wanted to find a way to work with her since I first saw her and Phil has worked with her before so... she was dynamite. And then everybody else in the film - a lot of people we're just starting out, a lot of great young actors: Ambyr Childers and Jesse Plemons and Rami Malek...the list goes on, sort of great young actors who are just starting out who really came and did a great job.

On shooting the film in 70mm

Paul Thomas Anderson: I was curious about these old VistaVision cameras and how North by Northwest and Vertigo ended up looking like that. I had the idea to sort of mess around with those old cameras, not to re-create that look but as a way to use some old gear and equipment that might be lying around. So we started testing stuff, a lot of old lenses at Panavision and sooner or later a fella who works over there, Dan Sasaki, suggested us trying these 65mm cameras that had been used here and there lately. Chris Nolan's been using them, Robert [Elswit] used them a couple of times. So anyway, we started shooting with that and the results just felt right. It's obviously very rich and it would help you create ideally that thing that happens when the movie theater goes dark, you kind of time travel - you hope that you're watching a story that is actually taking place with people, with real lives and acting out them out as they did act them out.

On presenting the film in 70mm

Paul Thomas Anderson: The farthest I got along in thinking about it is that maybe we'll be able to make a 70 print but I knew ultimately most people would be seeing a 35mm reduction or so I thought! In the five years since I made a film, a lot has happened and there's a lot more digital theaters then I thought. I was really naïve thinking about this. At the very least I thought we would have a couple of 70 mm prints and lo and behold test this thing unraveled and the film is about to come out, people come out of the woodwork - we'll have 16 prints total and it'll play in different theaters around the country and theaters worldwide - and that has just been kind of a miracle that we have been able to do that.


  1. I saw it projected in 70mm at the Hollywood Arclight and was blown away but I'm also kind of curious as to how it would look, having been shot on 70, being projected digitally. Jason Reitman only shoots on film but says digital projection can sometimes be better than some crappy dim 35mm Fuji print.

  2. You can bet that if the UK do get any 70mm prints come November (!), they'll be the second-hand, used shit that have been through the projection mill Stateside - same as the bad old days of 35mm film distribution.
    Give me a nice fat 4K digital 'print' from the 65mm camera negative and I'll be happy. No distribution degradation there.