Cigarettes & Red Vines is proud to present the very first installment of "Making The Master," our brand new series of in-depth interviews with some of the minds behind "The Master." Between now and February 26th (the day of the film's Blu-ray release), we'll be talking to many of the production's principal players and today we're kicking things off with an exclusive interview with the man himself, Paul Thomas Anderson. It's been quite some time since C&RV had the chance to virtually sit down with Paul for a Q&A (the last one was way back in November 2003) and as always, it was great catching up with him. As usual our interview was conducted via email and his answers are candid, completely stream-of-consciousness and have not been edited (though we've added links and images where applicable). Paul spoke about his influences for "The Master," whether he's ever thought about revisiting any of his characters and if he'd consider working in television among many other topics. Enjoy.
My sewer dump of a memory cannot recall. In the vaguest terms, I just remember saying, "this isn't ready yet." Possible combination of elements at work: not enough research done, not enough writing or sitting with it done. The code hadn't been cracked on exactly how,when & where to do it. We were looking for a location that had water for a boat. A boat. A city. A desert. We looked at shooting in Philadelphia, New York....possibly all of them and then moving to Arizona, just following the movements in the film. None of these worked to our advantage. Things came together as they always do on films; as they're meant to be. We found Mare Island, the Potomac (boat), writing had been done, research felt researched. The emergence of Joaquin being available certainly brought momentum to the film.
It's always such a long list.....sometimes it's whatever was on TV that morning. Other times, it's something i'm really into. tons of old film noir's. Out of the Past, dark Corner, Mr. Arkadin, Lady from Shanghai, etc. Nightmare Alley! Val Lewton stuff like Seventh Victim and Ghost Ship. Dianetics in Limbo by Helen O'Brien. Helen Forrest/Kitty Kallen and anything by Jo Stafford music wise. also listened over and over to Stravinsky piece "Ebony Concerto." Duke Ellington - Peer Gynt Suite. list goes on.....oh! how about John O'Hara short stories. earlier drafts have a slight adaption of one of his stories, "Bucket of Blood" I think. great short story.
The opening of the film is very funny. The first words of spoken dialogue in the film are Freddie talking about his pubes and then he fucks the sand woman and masturbates into the ocean. The last line of the film is him telling Winn to put him back in during sex (right after the last scripted lines about the “next life”). Was this a conscious decision to kinda take the piss out of expectations that this film was going to be something “very, very serious”?
HA! sure. i guess. probably not very conscious -- except we were always looking for laughs. lots of serious laughs making this film. The "put it back in" was just one of many dirty little things Freddie said to end the scene....always nice to open a scene up in ways you never could have imagined sitting alone in a room. "stick it back in it fell out," belongs to Joaquin. it's a very nice line I owe him for.
They're all daunting. They're all exciting. They all, at the end of it all, turn out how you want it -- it's just hilarious the hoops I put myself and others through to get there. One of these days, we'll just start without all the floundering around........my 90s films? what is this? that has a funny ring to it. glad it's not my 80s films.
From all the footage in the teasers that wasn’t in the film, it looks like you had a ton of material to work with. How much did the film change in the editing room? Were there earlier cuts of the film that were drastically different? (For instance, did you know when you released the first teaser that the Joaquin interview footage would not be in the film?)
We have some good stuff that'll come out with the BluRay. NOthing massively shifted in the editing room. No large structural shift or anything like that....it was more asking questions about what's in and what's out....playing with versions of the film that elminated scenes to see it's effect on the whole thing -- The interview with Freddie was one of three that we shot. Questions arise, like: how many more interviews are we going to see with him and a VA Doctor.......zzzzzzzz.......this leads to a cut.
Flip a coin?
Sometimes removing a scene can change the way the characters/story is perceived (example: Becky now has a happy ending in “Boogie Nights” because the scenes of her marriage’s violent turns were excised.) Do you think that by removing these scenes from “The Master” should mean those events “don’t happen” in the universe of the characters or should we think of these extra bits as “the further adventures” of the characters that simply aren’t glimpsed in the film?
hmmmmmm. Now we're talking philosophy! Best not to think too much about stuff that isn't there - the film must stand on it's own.
took some different turns (Freddie visiting cousin Bob, meeting Ellen in the Burlesque club, Freddie daydreaming about cutting off The Master’s head, waking up in the hospital). Were any of these scenes filmed and cut out? And will any of these (or other sequences from the trailers) will appear in longer form on the Blu/DVD?
COUSIN BOB!!!! I hadn't thought of him in a while till I saw this question. Oh that stuff was long ago. I still hope Cousin Bob will show up in a story I write someday. All that stuff with Alligators in sewers was stolen from Pynchon's V. We looked around some sewers in upstate New York...... eventually decided to ditch the whole story line in writing before spending money and time on something unnecessary to the Main Event. Freddie daydreaming about cutting Master's head was an OK idea....not worth pursuing. the kind of thing you get excited about for a while, then leave. never to be shot. and that's fine by me.
We know it was always a semi-regular sing along at the old Largo but how did “Slow Boat To China” come to you as the climax of the film?
Can't remember the moment of decision for sure....but i think i was influenced by a tapestry on a bathroom wall i saw at a house i was staying at in Gloucster, Mass. great fishing/sailing town and the tapestry was about Sailors and Lighthouses lighting up the night...it was a little poem with a lighthouse on it....reminded me of Slow Boat to China the way it rhymed......that's probably the connection. kept going back to that bathroom while writing and then presto -chango - you've got Master's serenade.
If you could plan a perfect triple-feature with “The Master” headlining, which films would you pair it with and why?
Destination Tokyo, Best Years of Our Lives, Men Without Women - other war films and post war films. or maybe a double bill with I'm Still Here. I love the film and joaquin's performance. be nice to see it play with something totally different too, like The Master and then it's porno-version, if they have one....
adapting “Inherent Vice” and how far along are you now in that process? Was there ever a point when you considered making that film first?
It was talked about making Inherent Vice first, but it was just talk.....really glad we decided to see through what we started. I started work on Inherent Vice sometime shortly after the book came out. It's been something to go to while clearing out my head on Master.
Have there been any characters from your films that you’ve continued to think about from time to time? Not necessarily for a sequel per se but just someone who you’ve thought of images/scenes or further adventures for?
Not really, no. I like looking forward more than reflecting.
Television has had a creative renaissance in the last decade with a lot of other filmmakers of your generation working in the medium. Do you have any favorite TV shows? And do you have any interest in working in other formats (television or mini-series perhaps)?
I've day-dreamed a lot about making something long form, sure. It would be a thrill and challenge to tackle something so spread out. It's usually at some point in writing when you think, "what if i just didn't try and contain this story and really let it loose....." thoughts drift to mini-series, long form HBO stuff, etc.......but it's usually followed by a brain-freeze and "naaaah." Maybe someday. TV shows? old Larry Sanders, Curb Your Enthusiasm. anything on TCM. I miss Twin Peaks. I still need to watch The Wire, which (i know, i know) everyone says is the greatest thing ever.
You recently said that you’re working on the “Punch-Drunk Love” Blu-ray this year. Any plans for “Hard Eight” to follow (or precede) it and is there any chance of a Criterion release for either title?
We are trying to track down lots of elements regarding Hard Eight/Sydney. It would be ideal to get a tune up/re-transfer, etc on that sooner than later. Be great if Criterion would put it out but they haven't said anything to me about it.
I would love to shoot 70mm again. There's still much more we could do with it. Be nice to try and shoot it's intended aspect ratio as well. it would have to be the right story. that's the deciding factor for sure. I really hope we see more and more of it in use. Not just using it's original negative -- but 70mm prints being made and projected -- this may be a fantasy -- but it's a lovely fantasy to have in my head.
I can't thank you all enough for your support and attention to the details of what we do. It's a thrill to make films and share them and having people care for them once they're out in the world is a perk I'd never imagined.
Happy New Year.