Monday, October 15, 2012
Interview: Sirius XM
Transcription by Kris Elgstrand
MA: Welcome everybody to this Paul Thomas Anderson Q and A on Sirius XM 104. I am Matt Achity, editor in chief of Rotten Tomatoes here with my co-host from Rotten Tomatoes Radio, Grae Drake.
MA: And we want to introduce to you the man of the hour PTA. Director of The Master and Boogie Nights-
GD: Sydney slash Hard Eight.
MA: Right. Hard Eight and There Will Be Blood-
GD: Basically everything.
MA: And Magnolia. Some of the greatest movies made in the last ten, twelve years. Fantastic movies.
GD: Academy Award-nominated. The Berlin Film Festival loves you also.
PTA: Yeah. Big in Germany.
MA: We're really excited you came in because we've got questions ready from an audience that we're really excited to kind of throw at you. But I have to ask, how does it feel that everyone seems to love The Master? Audiences, critics alike. It's doing really well on Rotten Tomatoes, our plug for our website.
PTA: What's our [rotten tomatoes rating]?
PTA: That's pretty good.
MA: Certified Fresh.
PTA: But that means that everybody doesn't love it.
MA: That means, yeah, some people may not like it. I don't know who those people are.
PTA: I've heard of them. I think they're out there and that's okay. No really, we've had great reviews and some that are just kind of baffled. They're almost, they're good to read those, they put you back in your place.
MA: So do you read bad reviews?
MA: Because a lot of people won't.
PTA: No I don't mind it. I like to hear what they say.
GD: Have you ever had someone approach you and give you an interpretation that they had of your film that changes your mind?
PTA: No. I don't think so. I mean, some people will come up with things that perhaps you hadn't thought of that are legitimately great kind of ideas and they're certainly not wrong. And, no, for sure that happens. Definitely.
GD: That's one of the things that I love about looking at your filmography chronologically is that the films seem to open up so much in the way of interpretation. As we got all the way to The Master, they become those movies that you have to discuss afterward or else your head is going to explode.
GD: And it's so much fun. What's your screenwriting process? How has it changed? Have you had to spend more time sitting down and kind of crossing things out, taking it out, less dialogue?
PTA: Well, I don't know about you but the greatest invention in the world is cut and paste. You know? It's really an addicting tool. Kind of a way to mess around with editing before you even have any footage. It can be addicting and it can be exciting and it can be a time sucker as well. But the kind of thrill of messing around with stuff that you've been writing or that you've had pieces of for a number of years. To just kind of cut and paste. And sometimes for me, you know, getting something out of the computer and actually literally cutting and pasting is really helpful just because…sometimes you get things in your computer. For me, you just need to hold them in your hand a little bit more. I don't know. And I remember just-
MA: It feels more permanent.
PTA: It does, yeah. It feels like you can, yeah, you can hold it in your hand. It's three dimensional. I remember with [The Master], kind of at a certain point getting real frustrated and having to print and literally cut with scissors and paste. And it felt good. It was really fun to do that. I remember doing that while I was writing, yeah.
MA: Very cool. Well, I don't want to take up too much time with our questions because we brought an audience here to ask questions. So we've got quite a few teed up so let's jump in with the first one from Doogal, here.
DOOGAL: Do you have any problem knowing most theatres wouldn't be able to project in 70MM?
PTA: Well, it's a drag to me but, you know, you can't… It would be like sticking with some kind of hippy dream where everything could be exactly like how you wanted it to be. We were just happy on this film where enough theatres showed it in the main cities, brought out some old 70MM projectors. Some people had them, some people brought them in special. Ultimately you want to put that out there and it's really great people can see it that way but hopefully it doesn't matter if they…eventually they're going to see it on their phone or see it on their computer or on a black and white TV somewhere. You know, in wherever. Hopefully just people are seeing it in any way they can get to it. Just being able to have that opportunity for people to see it in 70MM like we did, I'm just thrilled we had one bite at the apple for people to see it that way.
MA: You know this will get a little inside baseball for the film business but I know that, at least in Los Angeles, critics screenings were only shown in 70MM. Were you part of that decision, or part of that directive?
PTA: Yeah, well, you know, the truth was, and this kind of worked in our favour, we only had 70MM prints to start with and we had to kind of catch up but it was a good way to put your best foot forward with your film and just say this is as good as we can do. Everything else after that was not as great but still fine. It was a good way to do it.
MA: Very cool. Okay so next question from Nicholas.
NICHOLAS: Mr. Anderson, I'd like to know a little more about how the use of 70MM cameras affected your style. Your previous films have been marked by a constantly moving camera however in The Master the camera hardly moves. Was that a conscious decision or was that something that simply was the outcome of cameras that couldn't…
PTA: Yeah, well, a little bit of both. Didn't really go in with a real plan of saying something like "okay, we're not going to move the camera" but did feel that with this story it was good idea to keep something really simple and kind of straight forward. Just 'cause there was so much… the scenes are kind of small, they're like dialogue driven, they sit in rooms and stuff like that , there wasn't an opportunity to do too much moving around. And, believe me, when there was an opportunity we jumped at it. We were so excited to get the dolly tracks out and do something like that but the opportunities weren't there as much. I think if they were we would have figured a way to get that camera moving the way we wanted it to. You know they're big and bulky but, you know… sort of a long time ago I used to be so precious around cameras. It was so delicate, you know. You were scared to touch it. Like it was going to bite your hand or you were going to break it. And at a certain point just felt so, I just felt more confident around cameras and just sort of bang them up and work with them. And, you know, like grab onto them and throw them around. They're not going to break, they're sturdy, you know. And if you do, you fix 'em. Don't be so precious with them.
MA: Don't be afraid of them.
PTA: Don't be afraid of them, yeah. It's your friend.
MA: Very cool. Okay. Next question from Alex, here.
ALEX: The Master is your first film without Robert Elswit as your DP. How did you go about finding a replacement, what's the vetting process for that? And how was your relationship with him different than working with Robert?
PTA: Well, yeah, the cinematographer I came across was a young guy name Mihai Malamaire who had shot… I don't know if you saw Coppola's films, he's made three real interesting films…excuse me, on the radio I just burped.
MA: Won't be the last time somebody burps on Sirius.
PTA: And I liked his work a lot and I met him and we talked. And it was just a kind of… I felt a little bit nervous for him only because a lot of us had worked together before and you're sort of bringing someone into like a den of wolves, a dirty little family who poop and piss around each other. We're not that bad. And he really did great and blended in with everybody and we had a terrific time messing around with these cameras. He's terrific. He did great. But I also loved Robert and look forward to working with him again. But t was a very encouraging thing for me to work with somebody and grow up with somebody and to sort of get into a situation where you're not going to have them by your side. It actually gave me a lot more… I was terrified, really terrified to work without a real main partner in crime but I did it and it made me feel, by the time I got through it, it made me feel good. I can do it. I can do it on my own. In a good way, I don't have to have Robert. But that said, I can't wait to get back to work with him again.
MA: Did not having him push you in a different direction artistically?
PTA: Yeah, for sure. I mean, you're working with somebody new so you have to find new ways of discussing things and talking. And there's a kind of, initially, you have to kind of express yourself in a new way. You have to be much more polite, you know, and then sooner or later hopefully all that politeness goes away and you're just sort of working with somebody and getting on with the business of making a movie.
GD: Now, I understand that you did viewings of dailies everyday after production. I've heard you talk about the peaks and valleys of things and days that were great and days that weren't. Is that something you're going to continue to do on future films? Did you like that process?
PTA: Yeah, hopefully. That was a kind of thing that seems to me, from what I understand, to have kind of gone away. But it's just something they always did back in the old days is that you'd go at the end of the day and see your rushes. You know, you'd go to the studio, a screening room and all the department heads would get together and you'd watch that days work. And the idea was to get everybody in the same room to either be celebrating, "Hey we did a great thing," or to sort of point over at somebody and say, "Hey, what the hell were you doing, you weren't doing your job. This is terrible. We've got to do this again."
MA: "We have to fix this picture."
GD: A lot of cigarette smoke in the room.
PTA: Right. Exactly. And so then that probably turned to weed smoke in the Altman era. Altman would do dailies, you know, and there'd be this huge buffet of food and joints rolled out and red wine and anything you needed. And it became a kind of way to relax at the end of the day and kind of review your material. And that was a way… Well, I started out, we sort of did that. Yeah, it's something that we do and we keep with. Some days, you get to the end of the end of the day you're just too tired and everyone wants to go to sleep or you feel good, you don't need to reevaluate and it's better to just sort of call it off. But a nice Friday night with some booze and you watch your work and you're happy. It's great. It's great to get everybody together. I think what's happened and why this came up is that nowadays they get DVD's then people go off to their hotel rooms and they kind of splinter off and nobody… you just keep that camaraderie going on a film.
GD: Right. Which almost seems symbolic of our world in general. You know? Very kind of private. It's all, like, in our phone.
MA: Music has been such a great part of your movies. When you're creating something, when you're working on a script are you already thinking about music that will be playing in certain parts?
PTA: Yeah, sure. For sure. And sometimes it doesn't turn out the way that I thought it would. Just, um, like, um. God, you now, I mean I can't tell you how many, a few things, I had a pretty good collection going of stuff just from 40's on 4. I stole a lot of good things that come across that station. You know, write it down real fast and store it away somewhere. There's a song in the film that I'd never heard before, it'll come to me in a second, that I heard on 40's on 4. But I'll put together a little list of things that you use when you're writing, hopefully they'll make it into the film. Get Thee Behind Me Satan is in The Master and I always kind of knew that would go where it goes. There's a great Jo Stafford song called No Other Love that's in the film. I always knew that would go in there. But to that end, I probably had 16 or 17 more that just never kind of fit into the film. But they were good things to have on this film to give over to Jonny Greenwood and say, hey, this is stuff I've been listening to and to see how he feels about it, to see if anything inspires him. Yeah, it's good stuff, too, just to play for everybody on the set. It just kind of gets you a little bit into the zone. But mixed in with weirder stuff, too. Somehow just like the things you're listening to that's not just songs you like of the period but… God, it's like a Kate Bush song I was listening to a lot. At a certain point when I was writing this movie, there's a great song that Thom York wrote a couple years ago called Harry Patch. I don't know if you heard it. It was just an orchestra and his voice singing about a WW1 and WW2 vet who lived to be a hundred years old and it just kind of came along at the right moment, right when I was writing this film. It's not in the film or anything like that. But it's got a good spooky spirit and I told Jonny how much I liked that. For whatever it was worth, it probably affected me more in the writing than anything like that.
MA: You've got some interestingly cacophonous type sounds going on musically in The Master especially.
MA: Which I think is different than what we've seen in Boogie Nights or Magnolia, the stuff with Aimee Mann in Magnolia. Were you planning to use songs? For instance going back to Magnolia, I've read a story where the kissing scene in Magnolia between Melora Walters and John C. Reilly is inspired by a line from one of Aimee Mann's songs.
PTA: Yeah. All that stuff in Magnolia, that's fun, too. That was all sort of based on Aimee's stuff and that was all pretty clear what we were going to try to do there. But this is a different way of working now. Like working with Jonny's a little bit more… I don't really know what he's going to do but I have such confidence that he's going to do something nice. And he has some pieces and things that I have that have never gone anywhere so I can kind of use that and write to that kind of stuff and tell him that I liked it and he'll say, "no, this is terrible, we're not going to use that, we'll do something better."
GD: So you play stuff on the set. What is it like behind the scenes on a movie like The Master. Is everybody really serious when the camera isn't rolling? Is it just kind of like a normal day?
PTA: I don't know. It depends on what's going on. It depends what the scene is.
GD: What about that big old dancing scene with all the naked people?
PTA: Okay. That day was strange for sure. Yeah, I mean, basically you've got a room full of ladies and at a certain point you have to say "take it off", you know. And, you know, just sort of say to the gentlemen, "You know, alright, have polite eyes, don't just start staring but everybody have a good time." But honestly, yeah, at first it was just kind of everybody running around with robes and putting them on and off and then by hour five or six the ladies were like, "just keep the fucking robe off, it doesn't matter. Let's just get this over with." It was really good. You can't help it. Your eyes, you don't know where to look. I mean, we did two or three takes and I didn't know what I was looking at. Finally, I kind of sobered up, shook my head and said, now I remember what I've got to do.
GD: That actually translates into the movie too. That's how I felt watching it. I thought, wow, wait, whoa.
PTA: Yeah, It's nice, too… I just like seeing women naked in films. I like that anytime. I like seeing girls naked in movies. But I really like seeing all different shapes and sizes. Not just super hot girls. Which I do like, too, but I also like, I like them all. It's nice to get a variety.
MA: On that note, we're going back to more questions from the audience.
PTA: What am I talking about here?
MA: Next up is Philip here.
PHILIP: On the film versus digital front, I'm curious what your thoughts are on the proliferation of digital filmmaking, the sort of rising wave of digital production and projection.
PTA: Oh boy. Well, you know, I feel like… I've said this before, I feel like there's amazing stuff that's happening and I don't want to get into that bag of being kind of like an old fart who's like, "This is the way it's got to be and this is the way it was better," because that's not my bag at all. I have seen so many great things that have been shot digitally. So many interesting things. There's no denying what Michael Mann does with his stuff. What gets me and what bothers me is when something is shoved to the side and when something is excluded because of something new that's coming in. You know, when we were getting ready to do this 70 MM stuff, we'd call around to theatres that we'd been informed had 70mm projectors and they said, "No, we don't have them anymore." And we said, "What did you do with them?" And they said, "Well, we sold them for scrap metal." It makes your heart sink when you think, well, it could have just stayed there. It could have just stayed where it was and you could slide a digital projector right in. And like anything, any digital projector needs to be cared for and taken care of. I don't know. I'm a kind of horrible collector of things. I've got a garage full of crap and gear because I like it. And I just get sad when things get thrown away. So that's kind of where I stand. I love new things and I love what's coming and coming out of it. I just hope everything sticks around so we can reach for whatever we need when we need it. Yeah. That's how I look at it, yeah.
GD: What would somebody find if they were going through your garage? What do you collect?
PTA: You'd find, at the moment, there's two 70mm projectors sitting in there that need to be cleaned up and put together. There's an old 35mm one sitting there. Probably a lot of old camera parts and gear. Mainly that. Even just camera. What else? A lot of kids clothes right now in the garage.
MA: Alright you know we talked about music a little bit. Our next question is from Mike here and specifically about the music in The Master.
MIKE: How much of an impact does a score like Jonny Greenwood's have on your original vision for a project especially when it comes to editing?
PTA: Big time. Really big time. I'm trying to sort of figure out how to say. I mean, I remember, like, it's funny being in the city right now because I remember being in the city about a year ago, a little bit more than a year ago and showing the first 45 minutes that we'd put together of the movie to Jonny and getting his impressions on it. Which was really important to me. Just his impressions of the film in general, not just what the music would be. Then having him go away and write some material and send it off to us. It's just a rush to kind of put it in there and see how it fits. And it never quite fits with Jonny in a way you'd anticipated or expected and that's really exciting. You know, you imagined maybe a cue might start here, maybe it'll end here but ultimately he'll come up with something that's like, "no you're going to start it over here and it'll end here". And it's just nice to work that way and to edit things to that and just constantly go back and forth over the course of about a year and get it to the place where everybody's feeling good about it and happy. Yeah, I just love the sounds that he has figured out how to make with orchestras or even quartets and things like that. Just getting people to use their instruments to make sounds that maybe they shouldn't make or that you've never really heard them make. The way that kind of fits into the film is thrilling to be around and work with.
MA: Next question is here from Patrick.
PATRICK: I'd like to know more about your writing process. I've read that you had been writing bits and pieces of The Master for several years. Were you writing every day to see where the story was taking you or were you simply writing the film as scenes came to you? Is that the case for most of your films or was this one different?
PTA: They're all different. But I think what I have to… I feel kind of like a faker as a writer. I feel like I have to really sit down in the morning, you know, and work really hard at it and just by showing up to my desk every day is how it'll happen. I'm just not one of those people…
MA: That it just flows out of.
PTA: Well, sometimes it does flow out of you but only as a result of sitting there for days and just looking at the material or just chaining yourself to the desk even if you're not writing and you're just kind of looking at another book or whatever you're doing. I just kind of have to be present and sit there as much as possible. I know people who can write in the back of a car or, you know, I wish I could do that. I always thought that was so cool. Or they write late at night, you know, and they come up with all this great stuff.
MA: Are you one of those writers that will clean the house and do the dishes before you can chain yourself to the desk?
PTA: No, I have to do the exact opposite. I have to try to wake up very early and go straight there. I have to get into a kind of routine for it to go well. Everybody's got… In other words, whatever works for you. It's like you come up with some sort of hocus locus crazy system on how to do it and that's what it is. Whether it's superstition or whatever, you just kind of get into a groove for how seems to work. That's how I feel about it.
GD: How do you think things have changed, if at all, since you've had kids. Because that was about, what, seven-ish years ago, right?
PTA: Seven years ago, yeah.
GD: Yeah, so has that changed things at all?
PTA: Yeah, for sure. For sure. That time in the morning that I'm talking about, that used to be about three hours. Now it's about an hour and then everybody has to get lunches made and to school and things like that. Yeah, your life completely changes when you have kids. That's nothing new. But it gets so much better. It gets so much better. That's my point of view, at least. I can't imagine my life before having children.
GD: Do you think it's changed your movies, like what you have to say or how you say it?
PTA: No, I don't think so. Maybe. Not yet. I don't know. Perhaps. Fuck. What did I just say? I said, yeah, I covered every base. I don't know. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I don't, I don't…my daughter's around in post-production and just being nearby and she's so bored with the material she was seeing on screen. There was no appeal to it at all.
MA: There's not talking animals running around.
PTA: Right, right.
MA: Does she have a sense of what you do? Does she kind of have a grasp of-
PTA: Yeah, she does now. She does. She walked up to a parent at her school and said, "Have you seen my dad's film?" And they said, "No, I haven't seen it yet." And she said, "Well, you better get to the theatre." I thought, "atta girl".
GD: She's earning her keep.
PTA: I know. She did like the scene with the naked girls, though. She liked that one.
MA: Everybody likes to see that on screen.
GD: Hey, it's fun. Dancing.
PTA: Why are they naked, she said. Good question.
GD: Ask Joaquin Phoenix.
MA: Alright, our next question is here from Amos.
AMOS: Are you in contact with your future collaborators, cast and crew, while writing a script? Or do you prefer to work in solitude and then reach out?
PTA: Great question. Yeah, well, you know, yeah. I'm in contact with everybody. It depends if everybody's working they're kind of harder to reach, you're not talking so much. Jack knows what's going on. Jack Fisk, who's the production designer I work with. I talk to him and kind of keep in touch with him. Mark Bridges. Yeah, but there can be a time when you don't want to talk to anybody, there's nothing to talk about and you just want to shut that out for a few weeks and kind of dig down. Right now, for us, getting the film going is actually less about writing. It's just about getting everybody together at the same time, getting everybody's schedules to match up. Which can be hard because everyone's working a lot and really in demand and stuff. So, it's about sort of being in touch enough to say, "okay, listen, next March or whatever, next August be ready because that's when we'll all meet again." It's hard sometimes in a film life, you're really planning things a year or so in advance. It's just kind of the nature of the work that we do. So, yeah, great question.
MA: So you'll hold stuff up if you're wanting to work with Philip Seymour Hoffman.
PTA: Sure, absolutely, sure. And to get everybody. And usually holding up, that's fine with me, it gives me more time to mess around with the script or to research something or to get ready. You know, the more time everybody has the better. You know, I can talk to Mark Bridges about an idea that I might have. He can sort of work on ideas and costume stuff. Nobody ever got mad at having more time to work on something.
MA: I have to ask because I was so impressed with Joaquin Phoenix's performance in The Master. I think it's a different side of him than we'e ever seen before. His physicality in that movie. Was that a collaboration or something that he just brought and embodied in Freddie.
PTA: That's just him. That's a hundred percent something that he did and I loved it.
MA: Yeah, I gotta tell you I thought at some points in the movie, "God, what's wrong with Joaquin Phoenix. What happened to him?"
PTA: That's great, right?
GD: He's so volatile. You never know… I found myself watching the movie and being frightened watching him because I just never knew what he was going to do. I never knew where he was going to go. And it seems like being on set with someone that's so deep in ta character, that almost they're whole body is changed, that just seems like it would be mind-blowing all the time. How does that guy go to craft services, you know?
PTA: Yeah, exactly. How does he…? He doesn't. Really, that's exactly…he doesn't.
MA: Is he one of those guys who's able to just turn it off when the camera stops or is he kind of still in that.
PTA: No, he didn't know how to turn it off. He doesn't really have an off switch. Fortunately for me it's just kind of on and simmers. He's one of those actors that, kind of like Freddie, you're sort of getting everything ready with lights and cameras and things like that and you're kind of aware of what's going on with everybody and then suddenly somehow he just appears, right there. He's just standing right there quietly. Normally on a film set, there's kind of a lot of awareness of where the actors are, they're coming from their trailers, they're doing this, all their movements are kind of choreographed, they don't want to lose anybody. He just slipped through everyone's cracks. No one would know where he is and then suddenly there he is like a little shadow. Like a rat moving around.
GD: And that's a little bit similar to how Daniel Day Lewis works, too, right?
PTA: Yeah, yeah. Very similar. Very kind of similar level of concentration and dedication to what they're doing. Very similar. But have you seen a picture of Joaquin lately? He doesn't look like Freddie. He looks like a normal person, right?
GD: Yeah, there's video footage of him from Cannes and he's just a normal dude sitting there drinking water.
PTA: Yeah. That's right. Yeah, yeah.
GD: He was acting, it turns out.
PTA: He was acting. I don't know how they do it. I don't. It's hocus pocus to me to be able to do that job and do it so well. It's crazy. But I love watching it.
MA: Is there anyone out there right now when you're watching movies or TV shows that you're like, "I want to work with that person."
PTA: Oh, god, sure. That's a long list. So many people.
MA: Who'd be at the top of the list? Starting tomorrow. You get the perfect project. Who would you call up?
PTA: Oh, god, let me just think. You know, De Niro. Robert De Niro would be amazing to work with. Jim Carrey would be amazing to work with. I'm thinking of… Charlize Theron I think is dynamite. She's so great. I'm trying to think of some other names. Jennifer Jason Leigh's one of our great actresses. I haven't had a chance to work with her. Michael Shannon, do you guys know him? He's dynamite, too.
GD: Oh, I lost my mind. He's in a Broadway play with Paul Rudd.
PTA: Is he?
MA: Right over here right across the street.
PTA: Oh boy. that's great. I'm going to have to… That's such a long list, honestly. I could keep going forever, yeah.
MA: Alright, now over the break you were talking about your idea for a TV show that your friend wanted to do.
PTA: Yeah, my friend had a… uh... (laughs)
MA: Now you're like, "Oh, I can't believe he's making me talk about this."
PTA: No, I mean this was years ago, maybe someone's come up with this idea. It was basically just to take a very large piano and find two guys on the street that needed work. And say, "You want some work? Okay, you've got to get this piano up these stairs." And, you know, hilarity would ensue. You'd watch these guys who really needed work try to get a grand piano up the steepest set of stairs in Santa Monica.
MA: Which one gets to be Laurel and which one gets to be Hardy?
PTA: That's exactly right. That was the idea. And watch them fail and pianos fall, and you know. You could stretch that out into a half an hour, right? Sure.
GD: And a whole season.
PTA: Exactly. There's no end to the amount of shows I would watch where people hurt themselves. I like America's Funniest Home Videos. Come on. It just gets better. It never gets old, that show.
GD: That's like one of the longest running things.
PTA: And long may they wave, you know. I love it.
GD: In this complicated, crazy mixed up world how nice is it to know that people falling is always going to be awesome. Awesome.
PTA: Right. Yeah.
MA: How mind blowing would it be to have the next Jackass movie be directed by Paul Thomas Anderson?
PTA: Oh y God. I'd relish the opportunity. That would be great.
MA: You heard it here first. Alright we're going to get into more questions from the audience. John, you're up next.
SEAN: First of all, it's my friend Kyle's birthday and it would just make his day if you just said Happy Birthday Kyle.
PTA: Happy Birthday Kyle.
SEAN: What's your favourite on camera Philip Seymour Hoffman moment from the films that you've worked on thus far.
PTA: Uhh… That's a great question. Let's say in this movie, what comes to mind, I like Phil when he says, "Very, very, very serious." He does a line where he's talking in the movie and he's giving a big speech about what the secret of life is and I just love what he does in that scene. I also like him, you know, I love it whenever Phil gets mad. And I love Phil when he's moaning when he's getting jerked off by Amy in the bathroom there. Those are some of my favourites from this film. I think on another film that we made, Magnolia, he does some real nice scenes with Jason Robards. They're just kind of delicate scenes, tthey're real nice and simple, very emotional scenes. I think of those as really nice ones that we did that I'm proud of.
GD: He's really amazing in this movie. Like with "very, very, very serious" thing, he becomes a cult leader. Just with a snap of a finger. Up until that point, it's a little ambiguous. You want to give the guy the benefit of the doubt but then just instantly you're like, "wait a minute, this guy has the power to make people do whatever he says".
GD: He's stunning in that way.
PTA: Yeah, yeah. Well, Phil's, you know… That's what Phil's good at and just making it be kind of messy. And what I mean by that is just not so clear, you know. Everybody's got their thing and Phil finds it. Phil won't do something just to be an idiot or a dick or, you know, to be a clear character. He'll always find a way to make it messy and confusing in the best way.
MA: We've got a great follow up question on the same subject of Philip Seymour Hoffman from Dan, here.
DAN: How does working with Philip Seymour Hoffman now compare to your experiences with him on your first few movies? And, do you ever go back and rewatch those early movies?
PTA: Well…this movie was like an opportunity. I can remember consciously thinking that I want to have something to do with Phil that's ours because maybe in the other films he was a supporting actor but this was something that we could do, we could get together on to get the script to the place we wanted it to, we could work every day together. So that should tell you just how much I like working with him and watching him and seeing what he does. And, yeah, just more on that note, on these other films we'd make, I've always been frustrated. "How many days does Phil have? Oh, he's only got ten days or twelve days." And that wasn't enough. And do I watch the early movies? If something's on cable you often stop and watch it and be either proud or kind of ignore it, you know what I mean? Boogie Nights has been on a lot lately and I watched about five minutes of that the other night and thought, "This is really good, I like that."
GD: Did you know him before? Sydney was his first movie with you, right?
PTA: That's right. I didn't know him personally but we had a mutual friend in common and I knew his work. And I just wanted to get my hands on him. I was talking about this the other day, the idea how I ended up working with and collaborating with Phil on these films. Like never in my wildest dreams, when I imagined as a kid making films, you kind of see imaginary figures on the set and doing all these. And Phil was never in that fantasy. This kind of large, red headed kind of pale-skinned person was never there and yet here we are five films later. But thank God, I found him. I love him.
MA: So when you were writing The Master, presumably writing that with him in mind for Lancaster Dodd, did you consult with him during the writing process?
PTA: Uh-huh. Yeah, yeah.
MA: And what was his input? What was his take on the character and kind of where the script was going?
PTA: Just probably trying to figure it out along the way. Like, what's someone like this's bag? How can they get into this kind of thing? You know, what are they thinking? Where are they coming from? Phil said something, just kind of whispered something, we were just talking about it, and he said "God, I wonder, it's like you're trying to master your own particular madness". In other words, you know, Lancaster Dodd, he's not just putting out there that he's got the ideas on how to fix everybody but really he's kind of done so much investigation of his own problems. And he's just trying to sort himself out, you know, desperately trying to hold it together and hold on. Stand up straight, you know. So that was helpful when we talked about it like that kind of idea. Maybe I had written it, maybe I hadn't but to hear somebody say it out loud helps you realize what's going on with stuff that you've been writing… Writing's a lonely gig and when you can have somebody to come out of it and share stuff with it's really very helpful helpful. On the other hand, too, sometimes you can share something with somebody and they might plant something in your mind or say something that you didn't need and it will either kind of distract you or give you less confidence than you should have had to follow something through, so for me it's very tricky to get into that thing.
GD: Delicate balance.
PTA: Yeah, it is.
MA: Alright, our next question is from Brendan.
BRENDAN: Have your movie watching habits changed since the beginning of your career? And are there are new films or young directors you're particularly excited about?
PTA: Yeah, I think they have changed. Not being able to see as much as I used to. I used to be able to, you know, when I was 21 years old, I'd wake up and put a movie on at 9:00 in the morning then watch another one in the afternoon and then watch another one at night. Maybe three or four movies a day. So as I've said before, the way I kind of manage it now is I'll just kind of keep something on, like Turner Classic Movies or something like that. That way, in the course of just being busy with your day, being busy with your family or your kids you can get the feed of that to keep things alive. And also, too, I know that the frustrations that I have, you go into a video store, you get sadder, that there's not enough time that I'll get to all this and that I'll get to it the way that it really should be gotten to. So the way I deal with that is just kind of having Turner Classics. You might not be able to see everything all the way through but at least you can kind of get a taste of it. New stuff I like: I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild which I thought was a nice film, really terrific. A guy I've spoken about, this Thai guy, he goes by the name Joe. I can't pronounce his name.
GD: Uncle Boonmee?
PTA: Uncle Boonmee Who Recalls His Past Lives, yeah I can't pronounce it either. It's out there. Syndrome and a Century is a movie that he made that's just dynamite, if you get a chance to see it. And Uncle Boonmee. A Tropical Malady. He's great, he's the business. I just love his stuff.
MA: Is there an old classic that you think is essential viewing?
PTA: That's a long list, too. Something that may be off the beaten track. I don't know if this is a classic or essential but I was thinking of a film yesterday that just popped into my head that I haven't seen in a few. Breaking Away. Does anyone remember that film ?
MA: Paul Dooley.
PTA: That's right. Paul Dooley. And Dennis Quaid. Jackie Earle Hailey. I think Peter Yates made that film. And, God, what a great film. What a terrific film. That popped into my mind for whatever reason the other day. Yeah, I was thinking about it because the son comes out and the Italians have just made him crash. And he comes and he's crying and Paul Dooley says, "What's the matter? Did you lose your wallet?" And it made me laugh out loud walking down the street.
MA: Great movie.
GD: Do you do the 3D thing with your kids?
PTA: No. They don't like it. They don't like putting on the glasses. It gives them a headache. They don't like it. What about you?
GD: We, you know, I gotta go. But it's interesting. 3D's interesting. And kids movies aren't for kids anymore.
MA: Alright. I want to get through our last few questions before we run out of time today. Next question is from Nick.
NICK: What do you think of the "American Master" status that many people have placed you in after There Will Be Blood and going up to, and through, The Master?
PTA: Great. You know? That's very nice. Very flattering. You know, yeah, we've gotten so much…after There Will Be Blood. They went for that movie in such an amazing way, I can't tell you. That was so exciting. Because we hadn't made a film in five years and the last one had a weird kind of reception. Punch Drunk Love had this kind of weird, weird… we were so proud of that film and it was just sort of odd the way people who took to it really took to it and other people didn't. And then with There Will Be Blood they seemed to just gobble it up. It was so exciting to go through all that. Yeah. It's great. People are responding to it.
Are you looking forward to Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln?
PTA: Fuck yeah. Oh, yeah. Who isn't? You know? I'll be first in line for that.
MA: Our last question of the day is from Cory.
CORY: I know you're working on an Inherent Vice adaptation and if you could talk about adapting Pynchon and being more true to the novel than the last one?
PTA: That's a good question, Cory, thank you. The hardest thing is just trying to find how to take 400 great pages and turn it into ideally 110, maybe 120 script pages. And it's just difficult to do. There's no shortage of great things in every paragraph on every page. That's a very uptown problem to have. It's not like you sort of have, you know, "God, what am I going to do with this turd?" It's just not that at all. It's like somebody dumped bags of gold in front of me and I can only take so much. What do I do? It's that simple.
MA: How did you settle on that? Assuming you have settled on that. What brought that to your attention.
PTA: Well I've always loved his work. His books are just dynamite to me. Was always a big influence on me, just filled with so much humour and craziness and thoughtfulness. You know. Somewhere between fart jokes and kinky sex, so much humanity and delicateness. I just gobbled up his books. And this is one, I don't know, we'll try. We'll see.
GD: Are you adapting it with anyone in mind?
PTA: Yeah, but I can't quite put my finger on it and I wouldn't want to say it out loud or name names and sort of jinx that but they're such well drawn characters that's going to be such fun to go and do that at some point hopefully soon.
MA: Have you had an experience where you've seen someone do an adaptation of a beloved piece for you that you say, "God, I wish I had done that, I wish I had the chance to do that."
PTA: Mmm. Well, you know, I've never been able to get through Moby Dick which is a great book that I love. It seems kind of unfilmable in such a weird way even though it should be filmable but it just seems impossible to get right. Does that answer your question? That's the first thing that just popped into my mind.
MA: Yes, it does.
PTA: I mean, listen, East of Eden's a great book. And that movie, I can never figure out what they were doing with that film. And there's a Jane Seymour TV movie version. I've never see it. I've seen the album cover. It doesn't look right to me. Maybe it's great. I don't know.
GD: Do you have a favourite movie of your own? I mean, your movie that you've done? What's your favourite? Is there one that kind of stands out, that's close to your heart?
PTA: No. This one, obviously this one we've just finished. I'm still feeling very emotionally attached to it. And definitely look at Punch Drunk Love with a real kind of delicate sweetness and great memories in making that. You sort of look back at them not as what's your favourite, just to look back, memories of making it, what it was like to be there with everybody and going through making it and it coming out, all that stuff. You just think of them that way.
MA: How did you approach Sander for that one? It's such a different bent on what he does.
PTA: Yeah, but not really. He's an actor in movies and he says lines. It's not that crazy. He's just great. It was as simple as calling him up and asking him if he wanted to work together and he said yes. It's not that, you know… There's a camera and lights, and you stand there and say stuff and he says stuff.
MA: I guess it's just a different treatment because it's so different, some of the other movies are so… You see a character kind of like what you see in Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison but you put it in a more realistic world, I guess.
PTA: Right. Could be. Although that seems… I don't know if it's realistic.
MA: Maybe not realistic.
PTA: But I know what you mean.
GD: It seems to be a gift of yours to see actors in a different light than they've been seen.
PTA: Right, I see, yeah.
GD: Because I feel that way about Mark Wahlberg, too. Because it was early on in his career and you go, "Wow, he can do that thing."
PTA: Yeah. That's so long ago. That was a time when people call him Marky-Mark, you know? And now they call him Mark Wahlberg.
GD: I just said that because we're on Sirius radio and I was trying to be classy.
PTA: At that time, when we were making that film with Mark Wahlberg, I asked Joaquin to be in that, I asked Leo DiCaprio to be in that. No one wanted to do it. And Mark really had a lot to prove. But also a lot to lose, too. So thank God it worked out. It worked out great.
MA: Well, we could sit here and talk all day about your movies.