Saturday, January 22, 2000

Interview: Toronto Sun

The Toronto Sun, Written By Bruce Kirkland
January 22, 2000

Art for Commerce's Sake

Magnolia director Paul Thomas Anderson likes honours

Fast forward to Feb. 15, Oscar nomination day. That's a big day for filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, a day for hope and maybe more pain.

Emotionally battered by the rough ride his extraordinary film Magnolia has received so far from many American critics, Anderson is hoping that Oscar nominations will rescue it, especially at the U.S. box office, where Magnolia has not performed as well as it has in Canada.

"It's a big day," Anderson said yesterday on a two-day Toronto visit. "It's very important."

One reason is the guaranteed box office boost. Another is ego gratification.

"It's not that I think I've written the best movie of the year," the 29-year-old Anderson told The Sun.

"I would want to win an Oscar because it's a piece of movie memorabilia. It's just like I would want Rosebud, the sled (from Citizen Kane). I want a f---ing gold statue to put in my house so I could go: 'Look at that! I got one!' ... My house is decorated with movie stuff. I want one of those gold things too, with my name on it."

The affable and often hilarious Anderson arrived in Toronto this week with his girlfriend, sublime singer Fiona Apple, at his side and his head swimming with mixed-up emotions.

On Thursday night, he and Apple attended the third annual Toronto Film Critics Association dinner, where he was presented with certificates honouring Magnolia as the best film of 1999 and him as best director and as best screenwriter.

"I had a great time, I really did," Anderson enthused yesterday about the awards night.

"And it is encouraging. Awards are encouraging. Maybe there are directors who pretend and say: 'Hey, that's great but it doesn't really matter.' It does matter to me.

"It means you guys (the 18 Toronto critics who voted for the awards) get the film. When everyone does not get it, it is painful, it hurts. When somebody does get it and says: 'We want to give you an award because we got it so much,' then I say thank you, that's why I did it."

Anderson has discovered that all three of his films -- Hard Eight, Boogie Nights and now Magnolia -- have been better received in Canada.

"Canadians are different. Obviously, that's true. I see Atom Egoyan's stuff and I start to put the pieces together. The cross-pollination of the art film and the commercial film works better here. There is more of an indulgence here, and I mean that in the best way. In America, it's: 'Just give me some gawdamn entertainment!' "

Magnolia is a three-hour, eight-minute episodic drama about searingly painful relationships between various people in the Los Angeles area. Some of the stories interconnect.

With dark humour and surreal touches such as the now famous frog sequence, the film features an ensemble that includes some Anderson regulars, including Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly and Philip Baker Hall. Star newcomers to Anderson's films include Jason Robards and Tom Cruise (whom both Anderson and Apple said they adore and respect).

Despite Magnolia's length and challenging subject matter, Anderson said:

"I'm under the delusion that this movie is going to make $100 million. I thought the same about Boogie Nights and even Hard Eight. But I have to think that or I would not do this job. So I just have to decipher if I'm on a path for that kind of disappointment over and over, or whether I'm not yet successfully doing my job, which is to communicate.

"The question is: Can I be a truthful filmmaker and do difficult and challenging things, and then also pull a Spielberg and make $300 million?"

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