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Monday, November 29, 2021

Paul Thomas Anderson Returns to the Valley with Licorice Pizza

Maybe Paul Thomas Anderson brought the fog with him. The 51-year-old director has just returned from a trip to London where his latest film, Phantom Thread, was set, and the skies over his native San Fernando Valley are now covered with dark, ominous clouds.

“I love it,” Anderson said as we sat outside a vegan Mexican restaurant in the Studio City area. “There will never be fog here. Take it while you can! “

Anderson is the author of the celestial rain frogs in Magnolia; In front of his camera, even the normally serene Southern California weather can be glorious. Films he filmed here, including Boogie Nights, have sprinted in interesting places, not unlike the Valley itself, and Anderson is back home for his ninth feature, Licorice Pizza, which opens Friday.

1970s movie stars Cooper Hoffman, son of Anderson’s former muse, Philip Seymour Hoffman, plays a smooth-talking high school student named Gary, who unabashedly flirts with Alana (Alana Haim), a 20-year-old girl helping photograph in class. She rejects his advances, but there is still something about this ingenuous prostitute that intrigues her, and they become friends, business partners and, ultimately, something else.

Hoffman is cute and lovable, but the revelation of Licorice Pizza is Haim, the amazingly spiky screen. Although she has never hosted a movie before, Anderson has directed several music videos in which she appeared alongside her sisters Daniel and Este, who together make up the rock band Haim. “It’s funny because she’s not the best musician in the band, but she’s the best actress,” Anderson said.

Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

How did you even get into Haim’s orbit and meet Alana Haim?

It’s a wild story. I first heard their music on the radio around 2012, the song “Forever”. Then I heard it over and over again, and I started thinking, “This song is following me everywhere.” I read a little about them, I realized that they are from Studio City. We invited them to our home for dinner, and then they told me that their mother was a woman named Donna Rose, who was my elementary school art teacher.

You had no idea?

No one. I am the father of three girls, and you can imagine and hope that your daughters will turn out to be so wonderful. But there was also something I couldn’t understand, some inexplicable feeling I had, so when they told me that their mother was my teacher, it all made sense. For example, why did I have this strange obsession with these three girls playing music?

And their mother had a huge impact on me. I went to school with gray-haired women who were rude, and there was one woman with long, beautiful, flowing brown hair, who, by the way, looked exactly like Alana. I was in love with her as a child, completely amazed. She sang songs during class and she was the complete opposite of any other teacher. So the relationship became solid cement. Our collaboration was about more than just filming their music videos – our families became close-knit.

When did you end up starring Alan in Licorice Pizza?

Music videos usually focus on [her older sister] Danielle because she is a soloist. But when I thought about this story, it suited Alana.

Why?

I saw Alana’s ferocity. She may look like a Jewish girl from the Valley, but she’s kind of like a retrospective of the 30s, talking fast, very funny, very sharp. Do not challenge her in a fight with words, because she will win.

Did the studio want you to cast a famous actress instead of Alana?

This was not a battle. I guess MGM trusted my track record. By the way, I would not want to think about convincing another actress not to wear makeup and to give up that vanity that seems to surround many young actresses. It takes a little courage to say, “You can’t justify applying makeup in the San Fernando Valley in 1973, so I won’t.” Sounds like not such a big problem, but for many it is a big problem.

You wrote a film with Alan in mind. Did you think of Cooper too when you wrote it?

No. Halfway through it appeared in my head, but I quickly dismissed the thought.

Why?

I asked myself why. This is probably because I defended me by thinking, “Wait a minute, there is a traditional way of doing this, and there are many young actors.” But I did not find anyone who seemed to have the soulfulness that I knew he was. Everyone seemed to be developed beyond their years, perhaps too trained at a too young age.

It was strange how things started to take shape. It was a very homegrown film in which I choose from a variety of actors that I tried. How am I going to get into this if the lead actor is someone I don’t know personally and intimately? But I didn’t really tell him what I was thinking. I said, “Just look at this script and maybe you can help me read it out loud so I can hear something.”

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You secretly wiretap people in your life all the time, don’t you?

Exactly. Of course, nothing came of it. He saw right through it.

When you pick someone like Cooper Hoffman, who has never done a movie before, what do you think of how fame will change his life?

You think about locking the door, throwing away the key and protecting them. Or, more realistically, holding their hand and guiding them through a creative endeavor, showing them that the reason you do it is collaboration and experience. But that’s a good question. Another way to formulate the question is, “Have you ever wondered why you are trying to ruin this person’s life?” [Laughs.]

Are you surprised how some people react to the age difference between Alana and Gary?

There is no line to cross and there is nothing but right intentions. I would be surprised if there was some kind of confusion about this, because there isn’t that much. This is not the story we created, anyway. There is no provocative bone in the body of this film.

There is at least one provocative bone in the body of this film. I think about the scenes with the white restaurateur, played by John Michael Higgins, where he talks to his Japanese wife in such an offensive accent that my audience gasps.

Well, that’s different. I think it would be a mistake to tell a historical film through the eyes of 2021. You cannot have a crystal ball, you have to be honest with the time. By the way, it’s not like that isn’t happening right now. My mother-in-law is Japanese and my father-in-law is white, so seeing people speak to her in English with a Japanese accent happens all the time. I don’t think they even know they are doing this.

Gary and Alana are fascinated by Hollywood. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, what did Hollywood mean to you?

I made the mistake of thinking that there is some magical place above the rainbow to get to, where the movies were filmed, when in fact this is not at all the case. Hollywood is Warner Bros. Hollywood is Burbank. Bedford falls [from “It’s a Wonderful Life”] filmed not in Bedford Falls, but in Encino.

Even though your father worked in television, did you still think that Hollywood was some kind of mystical place over the hill above the valley?

Probably because let’s talk about a different time. It was a time when movies were magical and the TV was just something that you had in a box at home. Those days are long gone, do you understand? I was in the office the other day and the woman said, “I’ve seen this brilliant new movie. It’s called “Longing for Drugs with Michael Keaton.” I said, “I think this is a limited edition.” She said, “Yes, whatever.” In fact, she doesn’t think about films as much as me or you. She simply said, “What are you talking about? It’s a movie for me. “

These lines are blurring, but sometimes I watch a limited series and think, “Isn’t this a movie?”

It’s a great format when it works. It’s fun. Again, so are the TV shows. I have never touched this world, but I can imagine that it is very difficult to keep a story alive for more than two, three, four seasons.

Have you ever been persuaded to plunge into this world?

No, nobody asks. I’m just playing in my own corner of the sandbox. As a writer, I think we have fantasies when you struggle with editing material: “I have so much material, it might be a limited edition.” When not really, you just need to edit your story. I mean the movie should preferably be two hours long. That’s when they are at their best. I’ve missed this mark a few times, but that’s really the goal.

The last time I spoke to you about Phantom Thread, you said that after filming in London, your next film will probably be filmed here in the valley.

Am I really? Isn’t that interesting. I wonder how serious I was.

Any suggestions where you might want to go after Licorice Pizza?

I’ve written a few different things to solve, but I don’t know what will eventually happen. It’s like shopping after you’ve just eaten: you know you’re going to be hungry in a minute, but you’re still full. When it comes to writing, time is the most precious thing in the world. [Pause.] Well, the deadline is more important. But I also love the sound they make when they whistle right in front of my eyes.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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