Monday, January 26, 1998

Interview: "Lights, Cameras, Oscar"

January 26th, 1998

It's January. Have you written your acceptance speech yet? Newsweek's David Ansen and Corie Brown ask some of Hollywood's hottest directors to vent about studios, statuettes and Titanic.

It is awards season in Hollywood, and the only talk is of Oscars. Shall we listen in? Newsweek invited four of 1997's most celebrated directors to a round-table discussion at Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. Two of the filmmakers seem sure to get Best Director nominations; one's a long shot and the other doesn't have a chance in hell. Still, from the moment they met they all bonded marvelously. Curtis Hanson, who directed "L.A. Confidential"; Gus Van Sant, who made "Good Will Hunting," and Paul Thomas Anderson, of "Boogie Nights" fame, all exchanged apparently heartfelt compliments. Barry Sonnenfeld, who gave us "Men in Black," arrived enthusing about the movie he'd just seen, "Wag the Dog." The directors posed for pictures, dissing difficult actors and sleazy agents. ("They're just guys who sleep with hookers--it's disgusting," one said about a particular agency.) And then they sat down for the interview.

James Brooks, who directed the highly nominatable "As Good As It Gets," couldn't make it to Hotel Bel-Air, but he called in from Australia to say that one of the highlights of awards season is finally meeting some of his fellow directors. "You're herded into the same parties, you go to the same events," he said. "You get to know each other for the first time." He missed quite an afternoon in L.A. Excerpts:

Does "Titanic" change anything in Hollywood? It cost $200 million, and it's a huge hit.

Monday, January 19, 1998

Interview: "Sight And Sound Q&A"

Sight & Sound Magazine, Written By Gavin Smith
January ??, 1998

Paul Thomas Anderson talks to Gavin Smith about porno fandom and the road to redemption.

One of the things that's interesting about Boogie Nights is its tone shifts, for instance between dramatic and comic/parodic.

There are two answers to that. First, two of my favorite movies are F.W. Murnau's Sunrise and Jonathan Demme's Something Wild, what I call gearshift movies, that can change tones [snaps fingers] like that. I like to see that in movies because that's what real life is like, and it's also good storytelling. And second, this relates to how I came to this story. The first version was a short film I made called The Dirk Diggler Story, when I was 17. That has some of the same textures, but it's much funnier. It's my point of view as a 17-year-old, and what was funny to me then was the titles. As a mass audience, we're amused and turned on by porn titles - Ordinary Peepholes, The Sperminator, Edward Penishands - but then this is quickly not funny. There was something in that short film that was darkly comic, but there were a lot of smartass moments. Over the course of ten years, just by getting older and slightly sick of it all, that's where more of the sadness and drama comes into it. I just sat there and lived with and it was just not fucking funny anymore.

But isn't the coda a fantasy redemptive happy ending?

Sunday, January 11, 1998

Interview: "A Natural Porn Director"

Independent On Sunday, Written By Paul Mungo
January 11th, 1998

When Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights was shown at the Toronto film festival last year, it was perhaps inevitable that the young American director would be hailed as the "new Quentin Tarantino". New Quentin

Tarantinos have been popping up fairly regularly in the past few years: the qualifications are a childhood spent in darkened cinemas, youth, and at least one ambitious, quirky film. If the movie features a faded Seventies star on the way back up, so much the better.

Anderson's faded Seventies star is Burt Reynolds, who plays sleaze king Jack Horner in Boogie Nights. And the film, set in the subculture of the hard-porn industry in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was described by one American critic as "the most sensational act of moviemaking so far this year". It was directed by Anderson when he was just 26.

Anderson is 27 now. Despite the light straggle of beard on his chin, he seems younger. He is dressed mall-style, his shirt hanging out over his trousers, and is prone to American teenage expressions like "jeez". He cheerfully describes himself as "a standard-template film geek" who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles, with three sisters, his mom and dad. It was, he says, "normal suburbia - except that it's the capital of film production". His only real connection with the entertainment business was through his father, who did voiceovers for TV.

Friday, January 09, 1998

Interview: The Guardian

PTA Interview: The Guardian
January ??, 1998

With all its razzle-dazzle and surface kitsch, Anderson's multi-stranded story of the fuck-film subculture and its murky, neo-Runyon denizens - names like Dirk Diggler, Jack Horner, Amber Waves - could have been pure cartoon. But Anderson knows their world too well for that, having been raised in the San Fernando Valley, LA's capital of porn production.

"It was always there," he remembers. "Bunker-type warehouses with no sign on them near my high school. You'd see people coming in and out and you knew there was something going on. I guess that speaks to anyone's effort to get back to their childhood - what was that shit I was witnessing when I was 11 years old?" The young Anderson knew perfectly well what was going on: he had his first taste of porn aged nine, when he sneaked a look at his father's video of a popular item called The Opening Of Misty Beethoven. He admits he is too fascinated with the genre to have much journalistic detachment. "I've been into it as a consumer, but not as some freak who's masturbating his life away. Probably more of a fascination with the film-making of it than anything else." Boogie Nights has been criticised for romanticising its subject matter - the Modern Review has already attacked it as "Porn Kitsch" - but the film derives its considerable ambivalence from its portrayal of a lost hedonist utopia that crumbles in an apocalyptic final act. Anderson's take on porn is, he admits, equivocal.

Saturday, January 03, 1998

Interview: "Blame It On The Boogie Man"

Telegraph Magazine, Written By Ben Thompson
January 3rd, 1998

Can a film about a well-endowed porn star seriously be a hymn to the idea of family ? Paul Thomas Anderson thinks so. Ben Thompson talks to the director.

The cinema has created some unlikely heroes in its time, but few more unlikely than Eddie Adams. Adams, aka 'Dirk Diggler', the imaginary Seventies porn-star whose rise and fall is the focus of Boogie Nights, is a suburban cowboy blessed by nature with a mighty penile appendage. Rejected by his mother, he is plucked from obscurity by benevolent pornographer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds, who apparently disliked the film so much that he fired his agent for ever signing him up to appear in it) and forms a new and strange set of family attachments within a colourful company of 'adult' film-makers.

As well as the marathon feats of sexual endurance which become his bread and butter, and the copious drug consumption which is the closest the porn world gets to jam, Eddie's odyssey carries him through a dimly remembered Seventies netherworld of great music and terrible fashion. This Day-glo backdrop sustains Boogie Nights through its marathon two-and-quarter-hour running time, and much innocent retrospective fun is had at the expense of such indulgences as the eight-track cartridge player. But the film is no mere kitsch-fest - it's the foreground that commands the real attention.

Although many commentators will doubtless see Boogie Nights as another staging post in the cinema's long descent into terminal decadence, it is actually a rather heart-warming piece of work. People always say that about films that allow us a voyeuristic glimpse into a world normally deemed to be forbidden, but in this case it's true. The film's writer-director, 26-year-old wunderkind Paul Thomas Anderson, happily admits to the influence of seamy porn films such as The Opening of Misty Beethoven on his adolescent development, and yet Boogie Nights, which is proving a surprise hit in America, is no laddish celebration. In fact, it's an elegiac history of considerable moral complexity, upon which Anderson turns the observant and playful eye of the child he still was when the Seventies ended.

Thursday, January 01, 1998

Interview: "From Here To Houdini's House"

Sundance Online, Written By Saida Shepard
Date Unknown

The Emerging Filmmaker Conversations with Sundance Lab Fellows Paul Thomas Anderson

In January of 1993, Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film, a short called Cigarettes and Coffee, screened at the Sundance Film Festival. To make the film, Anderson pooled friends, acquaintances, and resources from his years as a production assistant. Cigarettes and Coffee inspired Anderson’s feature film script, Sydney, which he brought to the 1993 Filmmakers Lab. At the Lab, Anderson took portions of Sydney through a dress-rehearsal process, working with actors, workshopping his script, and learning about film industry politics. Sydney, later renamed Hard Eight, initiated Anderson into the challenge of retaining directorial control amid the promises and pitfalls of The Business.

Anderson’s second feature, Boogie Nights, documents the makeshift family of a porn production empire from the excesses of the 1970s into the changing climate of the 1980s. At twenty-seven, Paul Thomas Anderson has been compared to Robert Altman for his ensemble work, and to Martin Scorsese for his anthropological detail. In this interview, part of a series with Lab alumni, Anderson talks about his start as a director, the lessons he’s learned from making two features, and his plans to make many more: “Either like thirty, if I continue to smoke; maybe forty if I quit.”