Compiled by: Jack Foley
Excerpts from a syndicated interview with Paul Thomas Anderson
Q. What was the inspiration for Punch-Drunk Love?
A. These are usually nice triggers that get you going on a
path more than anything else. You get into a situation, you have
a bunch of ideas floating around, and you want to make a movie.
So what do you need?
With this, it was a story I read in Time magazine, about a guy
who finds a loophole in a frequent-flyer promotion. It was just
a piece of inspiration really. Its nice to wave that story
around too and say its true, it really did happen.
Q. What made you think of casting Adam Sandler as your leading
man, Barry Egan?
A. I thought of him when I was editing Magnolia. I
love his movies, I think hes a terrific performer, very
handsome and really funny. When I met him I found someone that
I shared a similar work ethic with. And thats always nice,
to go to work with someone you have that in common with.
Ive heard horror stories about some actors, you want to
make sure that the people you work with are right there with you.
Ive heard of actors who do three takes and then say thats
it. But meeting Adam, and hanging around with him, I thought he
would be a great person to have as a collaborator.
Q. Are you surprised that people have made so much of his
casting in the movie?
A. I would hate to think that it feels like stunt casting.
Youre aware of his place in the world, that hes supposed
to make this kind of movie and Im supposed to make another
kind. Thats bull really, but I can understand how there
can be some confusion.
I think now that the movie is out there and that people are seeing
him doing what he does, its not very confusing. Its
very clear that hes really terrific.
Q. Was he surprised at all to be asked?
A. I think he was at first. Maybe he was surprised, having
seen my movies, but sitting in the same room as me I dont
think he was. Were really similar guys, we live very similar
lives outside of Los Angeles. We have this established group of
people that we work with and we both love making movies. Were
really in similar situations really. I think that he was happy
and excited to be an actor, especially in not having to generate
the whole movie from scratch. And, also, Im a good director,
so he knew it would be a good movie.
Q. Your work has attracted such a loyal audience, and has
proved so diverse, that there must be a lot of pressure on whatever
you choose to do next, isnt there?
A. That doesnt seem like pressure, that seems wonderful
to have. Thats great. I feel pressure on myself to do good
work, but I dont feel it in a bad way at all. It would be
silly if I was always comparing what I was doing to what Ive
done. People will like one movie more than they like another,
the audience is always going to have their preferences but I have
no control over that.
Q. Do you not have any fear of failure though?
A. I think everybody does. I know when Im honest with
myself and I know when Im proud of my work and I know when
its going good and when I done what I set out to do. I know
if I stop doing that, itll be pretty bad. But I love what
I do, and I love to make movies. I think as long as Im writing
stories that are personal to me and an accurate reflection of
who I am, then Im doing my job.
You do different things, and maybe something will be more successful
than something else, but I think I know enough about myself to
know what my standard is. Just the level of quality I attain.
Did I do it how I wanted to do it? Yeah, I did. And after that,
you see if people go for it. But, of course, you have movies that
are going to be more successful than others financially, or critically.
Q. Was Punch-Drunk Love made in reaction to the darkness of
A. I did want to make a lighter movie. Its a bit like if
youve been in your house all day, you just want to go outside.
Its like that kind of feeling. Wherever you were last, you
generally want to go somewhere else next. And there are so many
stories to tell, I wanted to try to make a real love story, a
romantic picture. I certainly dont want to repeat myself.
I have so many interests and so many genres that I would like
to do, and stories to tell. Its nice to make movies that
are funny. I wish this movie was funnier, that there were more
laughs, but it was fun to make.
Q. Will this film you have answered critics who were not keen
on the ambitious, multi-strand storyline of your previous two
films, Magnolia and Boogie Nights.
A. Well, let me tell you, its harder to do a stripped-down,
straightforward story like this. Thats what I found, anyway.
Youve got to stay in the boat, you cant really go
anywhere else. It is nice to see what you can do away with, wonder
what economy you can work with, but on the other hand how much
can I cram into 90 minutes to tell the story effectively to make
it entertaining for an audience?
What it does is help focus in on what you really want to say,
on what your real point is. Ive brought the audience to
this point, so what am I trying to say? That can get a bit muddled
in three hours. I wish I could take 10 or 15 minutes out of Magnolia.
I dont know where from, but it might help pinpoint what
it was saying a bit better. But in 90 minutes you have to get
to it, say what youve got to say and get the hell out of
Q. Have you experienced punch-drunk love yourself?
A. I certainly remember the experience of punch-drunk love. So
many of the emotions in this movie are personal. I come from a
large family, too, so I know very well the insanity and craziness
that goes on there. Theyre not all sisters in my family,
though, thank God. That would be a nightmare, to have that situation
that Barry has in the film. The smack you and kiss you thing would
really screw you up. But a lot of big families are like that,
that tendency that siblings have on each other to have that push
and pull thing going on all the time. Being completely aggressive
toward each other but then completely protective from any outsiders.
Its a crazy dynamic.
Q. Years ago you dropped out of film school. Any regrets?
A. I think its worked out pretty well for me, all things
considered. It might have worked out differently if Id stayed
there, sure. The problem is, when I was growing up, people like
George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese went to film
school and they preached in its favour.
It made a lot of kids think that the only way you could make a
movie was if you went to film school. But thats nonsense,
really, you basically get a lot of kids who love movies going
to watch more movies.
Thats the last thing that they should be doing, because
theyre going to be watching movies anyway. I dont
know if it would be different if there are great teachers there.
My experience with the teachers I had was not so good, so thats
what turned me off of it.
But I also think that its silly to make someone think that
they have to go to school to do this job. It should be a little
bit of a broader base of abilities to get it done, it shouldnt
be school related.
Q. You have developed a terrific repertory of actors over
the years, some of whom appear in this movie. Is that part of
the fun of the whole process for you?
A. It is like working with a family, its a great way
to go. But theyre also great actors. Its not nepotism
in the family, theyre great. Its nice, too, because
in the movie business, the big drag is that you spend time with
these people and then they go off to work. Youre always
separated. You talk over the phone all the time, but thats
it. Its great to come back together and hang out for a couple
of months, because it is a bit of a circus life really.